The Diary of a Young Girl (The Diary of Anne Frank) by author Anne Frank: A Heartbreaking Account of Hope in Dark Times


Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl is one of the most powerful and thought-provoking books I have ever read. Published in 1947, it offers a deeply personal and intimate look at the life of a young Jewish girl forced into hiding during World War II and the horrors of the Holocaust.

Through Anne’s eyes, we get a unique perspective on an incredibly challenging chapter in human history. Her diary entries are by turns heartbreaking, inspiring, philosophical, funny, and romantic—a testament to the resilience of the human spirit in even the darkest of times.

In this review, I will provide an overview of Anne’s story, reflect on key themes, analyze the diary’s literary style, and assess its significance as both a historical document and work of literature. Whether you are interested in World War II history, Holocaust studies, youth perspectives, or simply powerful stories of hope amidst despair, The Diary of Anne Frank is a must-read.

You can find The Diary of a Young Girl (The Diary of Anne Frank) by author Anne Frank on your favorite bookstore, including and Amazon UK.

If you have loved The Diary of a Young Girl, please check also our review of “Killers of the Flower Moon: Oil, Money, Murder and the Birth of the FBI” by author David Grann: A Tale of Greed, Betrayal, and Justice in 1920s Oklahoma!

Overview of Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl

Anne Frank was born in 1929 in Frankfurt, Germany. In 1933, the Nazis came to power and the Franks, a Jewish family, was de facto forced to move to Amsterdam in the Netherlands to escape growing antisemitism. Anne spent most of her childhood there, until 1940 when Germany invaded the Netherlands.

Fearing for their lives, the Franks went into hiding in a secret annex above Anne’s father Otto’s business. They were joined by another family, the Van Daans, and a dentist named Albert Dussel. Their hiding place consisted of a few sparsely furnished rooms and an attic, concealed behind a movable bookcase.

Anne received a diary for her 13th birthday in 1942, just weeks before going into hiding. She wrote extensive entries over the next two years that provide an incredible record of her thoughts, feelings, and experiences. From the confinement and boredom of the annex, to relationships with those around her, to reflections on identity and faith, Anne poured her heart out to her diary which she addressed affectionately as “Kitty.”

In August 1944, the annex was raided and its inhabitants arrested. The Franks were sent to Auschwitz concentration camp where Anne’s mother Edith died. Anne and her sister Margot were later transferred to Bergen-Belsen where both tragically died of typhus in March 1945, just weeks before the camp’s liberation.

The only member of the family that somehow managed to survive was Otto Frank. After the war, he returned to Amsterdam where Miep Gies, one of the annex helpers, gave him Anne’s diary. Recognizing its significance, Otto sought to have it published. The first English edition appeared in 1952 as The Diary of a Young Girl.

Themes of Identity, Belonging, and Hope

Anne’s diary powerfully explores fundamental human themes even as it recounts the specifics of her experience. One prominent theme is identity. Anne spent much of her time in the annex grappling with existential questions about who she was and what she wanted from life.

On June 20, 1942 at just 13 years old, she wrote:

“I finally realized that I must do my schoolwork to keep from being ignorant, to get on in life, to become a journalist, because that’s what I want! I know I can write (…) but it remains to be seen whether I really have talent (…) if I’m to be a journalist, I’ll have to know about and keep up with the minutest details of subjects.”

For a young girl robbed of education and a normal social life, Anne dwells extensively on her desire to be a writer. She honed her skills through diary writing and hours of reading time while in hiding. The ambition and self-awareness she reveals is incredibly compelling.

Equally powerful is Anne’s sense of longing for connection and belonging. Isolated from the outside world, her friendship with Peter Van Daan in the annex offers a sense of intimacy she craves. She also develops imaginary friendships in her diary with characters like Jo from Little Women.

An entry from May 11, 1944 reads:

“I get the feeling that Margot and Peter are drawn to each other, and I’d gladly leave them to their own devices. The reason I write so much about the annex is that there’s really nothing else to write about. Everything here revolves around food, politics and gossip. It’s really more a subject for Margot and Peter, since they both relish that kind of thing. I’m much more interested in myself and my surroundings.”

Her introspection reveals a maturity beyond her years, an effect of her physical and social isolation.

Despite all she endured, Anne retained a sense of hope that inspired me. On July 15, 1944, after two years in hiding, she wrote:

“It’s completely impossible for me to build my life on a foundation of chaos, suffering and death. I see the world being slowly transformed into a wilderness; I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too. I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty too shall end, that peace and tranquility will return once more.”

In perhaps the darkest moment of history, Anne incredibly maintained an optimism for the future. Her thoughtful reflections offer lessons in resilience that remain relevant today.

An Intimate Literary Voice

A major aspect of this diary’s appeal is Anne’s budding literary voice. She consciously wrote with an audience in mind. On several occasions, she edited and revised parts of the diary, hoping it would be published after the war.

Anne’s writing reveals how much she relished words. She describes events, whether mundane or profound, with colorful expressions, probing metaphors, and philosophical musings. From contemplating human nature to describing a ray of sunlight in her room, her observational skills and descriptive flair brings her world to life.

Some of her most vivid passages center around the natural world observed from her attic window. She writes on February 23, 1944:

“The two of us looked out at the blue sky, the bare chestnut tree glistening with dew, the seagulls and other birds glinting with silver as they swooped through the air, and we were so moved and entranced that we couldn’t speak.”

You can feel in the diary her longing to be free again. Small beauties like a tree outside become symbols of hope.

Anne also interjects humor that further endears the reader. On the Annex inhabitants, she writes:

“Dussell gets insulted over nothing and is always having little fits and brooding in his room, where the whole atmosphere is one of ‘please may I come in?’ (…) Mrs. van D. is always saying she’s so nervous, and then starts calmly crunching her raw carrots. She insists on lots of sympathy but doesn’t dish it out in return.”

Even in the most somber of circumstances, Anne’s wit and charm come through. Her tone feels conversational, candid, and intimate, inviting us into her confidence.

Historical and Literary Significance

The Diary of Anne Frank has rightfully earned a place among the most important historical documents of the 20th century. It offers an unparalleled first-hand account of the Holocaust and life in hiding during those years.

As a commentary on war and fascism, it will always remain relevant. Anne gives a human face to the victims of Nazi persecution. That a young girl could endure so much yet retain her spirit stands as an eternal reminder of the horrors wrought by prejudice and hatred.

On a literary level, Anne’s diary demonstrates great skill, complexity, and vision far beyond her years. Her writing accomplishes what great literature should – it elicits emotion, makes us reflect, and illuminates the human experience. Her thoughtful observations about identity, belonging, and hope reveal wisdom and maturity despite her circumstances.

As author Francine Prose reflected in an essay for The Guardian: “Anne Frank’s voice – intimate, irreverent, insightful – moves us in a way no history book can.” That Anne reached such literary heights in the diary form makes her achievement even more remarkable. She fulfills her own goal of becoming a writer in the pages that chronicle the struggle.

While the particulars of her story represent one child’s experience of the Holocaust and World War II, her writing speaks to the universality of human experience across time and place.

Ongoing Reverberations and Remembrance

Publication History

The Diary of Anne Frank has itself a remarkable history. Miraculously preserved through Anne’s internment and death, it was first published in Dutch in 1947 as Het Achterhuis. However, Otto Frank and historians recognized it needed editing before reaching a wider audience.

The version most familiar now is The Diary of a Young Girl, prepared by Otto and published in English in 1952. It removed sections dealing with adolescent sexuality and some character details. This served to place more focus on Anne’s observations about the Holocaust.

Since then, the diary has been republished in myriad editions, translations, and adaptations. There are books comparing different versions and scholarly analyses. It remains continually in print and popular around the world. Many editions feature additional content such as letters and photographs to supplement Anne’s words.

The Diary’s longevity is nearly unparalleled. It sold tens of thousands of copies within a decade of first publication and surpassed sales of 1 million by the 1980s – extremely impressive for a book of its kind. Its ongoing impact is also evident in the educational settings; it’s often taught in schools as part of WWII and Holocaust studies curricula.

Stage and Screen Adaptations

In addition to the book itself, Anne’s story resonates through numerous stage and screen adaptations. The most famous is the Oscar-winning 1959 film The Diary of Anne Frank directed by George Stevens. Though it took liberties in adaptation, it exposed the story to a much wider audience.

There have also been several plays based on the diary, including one by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett in 1955. Most notably, in 1997 Wendy Kesselman penned an adaptation that incorporated more of Anne’s original diary material omitted from earlier versions.

Some criticized these portrayals as inappropriately fictionalizing Anne’s experience. But their immense popularity speaks to the power of her story. The many remixes and reinterpretations represent a desire not just to remember Anne Frank but truly connect with the human spirit she represents.

Continuing Legacy

Today, Anne Frank remains one of the most discussed Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Her brilliance and optimism in the face of hatred will continue inspiring generations to come. Efforts have ensured her legacy continues internationally:

  • The Diary of Anne Frank House museum opened in Amsterdam in 1960, allowing visitors to step inside the actual annex. I toured it in 2019 and found it profoundly moving to see her preserved bedroom and diary pages.
  • Awards and charitable foundations carry Anne’s name, such as the Anne Frank Trust in the UK using her story to battle prejudice.
  • Exhibits of her diary toured the world, drawing huge crowds eager to engage with her journey.
  • Numerous schools bear her name from Brussels to Alberta as symbols of her youth and promise.

While some discount the diary as just one girl’s Holocaust experience, its impact is staggering when you consider young Anne merely hoped her jottings might comfort friends after the war. Her work has risen to masterpiece status and become entwined with civilization’s remembrance.

I hope we heed Anne Frank’s call to build a world of greater peace and understanding. Though hatred silenced her far too soon, her words live eternally as a light against the darkness.

Why The Diary of Anne Frank Stands the Test of Time

Seventy-five years after initial publication, Anne Frank’s diary still connects powerfully with readers. What qualities make it not just an important historical document, but a timeless work of literature that remains relevant today?

Universal Themes

While Anne’s diary chronicles her specific experience as a Jew in WWII Europe, her exploration of universal themes – identity, belonging, morality, human nature – speak profoundly to the human condition. She gave a young person’s perspective on profound philosophical questions. Her thoughts on hope, resilience and morality offer timeless wisdom.

Honest Emotion

The diary format allowed Anne to pen utterly candid thoughts and emotions. Her joy, sorrow, anxiety, indignation and humor leap off the page. She embraced the freedom of writing from the heart. Readers intrinsically respond to such honest emotion even when separated by culture and time period.

Youth Appeal

Anne’s young voice provides incredible insight often beyond her years. We relish the openness and innocence of youth. Emerging literary promise cut short compounds the tragedy. Schools continue introducing her diary because students relate to Anne’s adolescent struggles for identity and purpose.


The sense of intimacy created through Anne’s direct address to her imagined friend Kitty invites readers into her confidence. We become companions accompanying her years in hiding. This makes her daily experience relatable. The immediacy of the diary form makes it more gripping than a straightforward history text.

Symbol of Remembrance

As a memoir of a Holocaust victim, Anne’s diary serves a greater purpose as well. It puts a recognizable face and voice to Nazi atrocities. Anne has become a global symbol of the lives lost. Her writing reminds future generations of the horrors of prejudice so we may avoid repeating history.

The Diary of Anne Frank manages to speak both to Anne’s specific circumstances and towards universal aspects of human experience. It captures raw emotion and profound wisdom with literary force. No wonder it continues to resonate powerfully with global audiences. Anne’s words confirm that even in the darkest times, the human spirit finds ways to endure.

Having explored Anne Frank’s seminal work, I’d like to recommend two other influential diaries from young women that speak to similar themes of identity, adversity, and the human experience:

I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai

Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai penned this memoir describing her childhood in Taliban-controlled Pakistan and advocating for girls’ education. After being shot by the Taliban at 15, she reflects on pursuing activism. Malala shares Anne Frank’s spirit of hope despite living through conflict as a young woman. Her powerful story is also suitable for young adult readers.

The Freedom Writers Diary by The Freedom Writers and Erin Gruwell

This collection of diaries from at-risk youths in Long Beach, California sheds light on struggles with crime, drugs, and poverty. Teacher Erin Gruwell helped them use writing to find their voices. Their journey from disengaged to empowered echoes Anne’s growth through self-expression. Anne would relate to their quests to define themselves.

Final Thoughts

In its raw emotion, candor, and introspection, Anne Frank’s diary provides a compelling first-hand account of a harrowing history. Her writing talent, optimism, and insightful musings make the book relatable far beyond WWII. Published in 1947, it remains a deeply significant historical document and piece of literature today. For any reader, The Diary of a Young Girl offers inspiration to find light in even the darkest of times. Anne’s courage, hope, and belief in human connection will continue impacting generations to come.


Why Did Anne Frank and Her Family Go Into Hiding?

The Franks were Jewish and lived in Amsterdam when the Netherlands came under Nazi occupation during World War II. As Jews faced increasing persecution by the Nazis, the Franks went into hiding in a secret annex above Otto Frank’s business in July 1942 to escape detection. They were later joined by another Jewish family, the Van Daans, and a dentist named Fritz Pfeffer. Their hiding place was concealed behind a movable bookcase.

What Is the History of Anne Frank’s Diary Publication?

Anne received her diary for her 13th birthday in June 1942 shortly before going into hiding. She made extensive entries over the next two years. The family was discovered in August 1944 and sent to concentration camps, where Anne died at age 15. Otto Frank was the only family member to survive. After the war, Miep Gies, one of the annex helpers, gave him Anne’s diary that she had saved. Recognizing its worth, Otto sought publication. The first Dutch edition appeared in 1947. An English edition edited by Otto was published in 1952 as The Diary of a Young Girl.

Why Is Anne Frank Such a Discussed Figure from the Holocaust?

As a teen girl aspiring to be a writer, Anne Frank left behind an intimate first-hand account of her years in hiding during the Holocaust. Her diaries reveal resilience and optimism despite the horrific circumstances. Anne has become one of the most iconic Jewish victims and voices from WWII due to this extraordinary legacy. Her diary offers powerful perspective from a young person on the horrors of prejudice and antisemitism.

What Were Anne’s Relationships Like in the Annex?

Anne formed a close connection with Peter van Daan, the teenage son of the other family in hiding. She describes peculiarities and sources of annoyance about the other annex inhabitants like Mrs. van Daan and Mr. Dussel. Overall, Anne felt isolated in the confined space and longed for deeper intellectual and social connections with those around her. Her diary became an outlet for these feelings.

Why Does Anne Frank Discuss Her Identity So Much?

Forced into isolation as a teen girl during pivotal years, Anne spent a lot of time contemplating her self-identity and aspirations for the future. She discusses feeling misunderstood and expresses desire to be a writer. As opportunities for school and social development were denied to her, writing helped Anne cultivate her intellect and talents. The diary was also a space for her to process complex emotions.

How Does Anne View the Outside World While in Hiding?

Anne expresses longing to be free and reconnect with the outside world she is shut off from while in hiding. She cherishes small glimpses of nature from the annex windows like views of the sky and a chestnut tree. The diary describes her despair at living confined while sensing the destruction of war. However, Anne also retains optimism that the best of human nature will triumph in the end.

What Were Anne’s Hopes for the Diary?

Anne consciously wrote with future readers in mind, addressing entries to her imaginary friend Kitty. She desired for the diary to be published after the war so people could learn about this period in history from her perspective. Tragically, Anne did not survive to realize this ambition. But the diary’s publication allows us to remember the Holocaust through her unique voice.

How Does the Diary Depict Anne’s Emotions and State of Mind?

The diary reveals the range of Anne’s thoughts and moods as she copes with her challenging circumstances. She expresses despair and frustration over the confinement but also joy from the slightest pleasures like observing nature. Anne dwells sensitively on identity, morality, and human nature while also recounting amusing anecdotes about those sharing the annex. The diary provides rare insight into how she persevered.

What Were the Challenges Anne Faced in the Annex?

Anne describes the boredom, loneliness, and isolation of confinement with few resources for months on end. She recounts arguments with others and petty grievances over living in tight quarters. Food scarcity and the threat of illness also weighed heavily. Anne profoundly missed milestones like school, friendships, and exploring outdoors. Overall, the diary conveys how patience and positivity helped her through the extreme adversity.

Why Does the Diary Resonate With Such a Wide Audience?

Though describing a specific WWII experience, Anne’s writing appeals universally through its emotional honesty, moral complexity, and philosophical depth. Her struggles to define herself resonate, as do relatable emotions like hope, despair, and defiance. Anne’s ambition and literary promise cut short add to the tragedy. The diary puts a recognizable, inspiring face on Holocaust victims to serve remembrance.

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