Is Anne Frank’s Diary A Holocaust Work?

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The Diary of a Young Girl is part of the literary canon reserved for the educational establishment. Generation after generation of students read through the diary, reading it as a voice of optimism in the midst of one of the darkest hours in all of human history. It is common to look upon this diary as a fountain of positive energy daring to exist in spite of the menace of the Nazi machine.

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While there are elements of the book that are powerful, and while the book would not have been composed if the Holocaust had not taken place, it is problematic to define this book as a Holocaust work, at least in the terms in which it is commonly marketed. Instead, it is more appropriate to look it as a fragment, a look into the mind of one young woman who had the vast majority of her life taken from her. However, that look should not be conflated into a story, because we do not see Anne Frank in the diary after her arrest; we do not encounter her time in the camps through her diary; we do not come to the end of her days in her diary, as we do (in contrast) with Elie Wiesel’s father, who vanishes from a bunkroom on one dark night, having succumbed to dysentery.

It is true that Frank wrote about her observations as showing the comical side of life in hiding (Frank 241). However, the comedy that emerges from her writing is of the darkest sort. There are all sorts of writing at work here, except for the motivation it is touted to contain.

What does the diary tell us? There are moments of deep suspense, as one might expect when two families consisting of eight people are hiding in plain sight in a Netherlands teetering under the weight of its Nazi neighbor. However, much of the diary has very little to do with the menace of the Third Reich: at times, Anne writes about her own sexual curiosity, natural for someone of her age; there are moments when she shows idealistic tendencies to go along with her darker moments.

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