About the project

The diaries of Anne Frank. ResearchTranslationsCritical Edition

A project of the Lichtenberg-Kolleg at the Georg August Universität Göttingen and the Fritz Bauer Institute, Frankfurt.

Seventy years after the end of the Second World War our knowledge about the war and the Holocaust is based upon a wide variety of sources and a rich range of historiographies. Amongst the first sources to be published, and quickly acquiring a rather unique status, were the diary notes of Anne Frank. Around the world, many children and teenagers have read and are still reading editions of Anne´s diaries—either at school or in private. In the biography of many readers, as well as in national commemorative cultures, the engagement with the war and the Holocaust began with the diary of Anne Frank. It became a symbol.

Several translations of the diary of Anne Frank. Photo © Anne Frank Fonds, Basel.

Several translations of the diary of Anne Frank. Photo © Anne Frank Fonds, Basel.

Meanwhile Anne Frank’s notes have been aligned with a wide range of moral debates—on refugees, on asylum, on human rights. From a historian’s perspective this is not without problems. Historical dimensions such as the particular political circumstances of the persecution of Jews in the Netherlands, Anne Frank’s family history in Germany, her emigration which she shared with many German Jews, the situation of other teenagers persecuted by the National Socialists—to mention only a few dimensions—have played a somewhat secondary role in the worldwide reception of the diaries. Moreover, over the decades countless publications, oral histories and autobiographies relating to the Holocaust have become available, enabling us to read and study Anne Frank’s diaries in the context of these sources.

So far, much research has focused on important issues such as the authenticity of the diaries—a key topic of the debates of the 1970s and 1980s, on aspects of Anne Frank’s family history and on the issue of who was responsible for the betrayal of the inhabitants of the Secret Annex.

Our new project aims to open up a range of additional and new perspectives, exploring the history of Anne Frank and her diaries within the framework of more comparative European, if not global cultural, intellectual, literary and political history.

The project consists of two parts:

  1. publication of a critical edition with new translations into English and German: in this new edition particular attention will be paid to presenting the language that 14 year old Anne Frank used in her texts in a historically suitable way. Both the German translator Rolf Erdorf and the English translator Diane Webb will aim to convey Anne’s speech in her own literary quality instead of providing a literary translation. The main aim of the new edition here is to make the 14 year old girl Anne recognizable again.
  2. publication of an accompanying research monograph: the monograph consists of various chapters that will focus on three themes: contextualisation, reception and representation of Anne Frank’s diaries.

Our international collaborative project thus aims to provide a detailed contextualization of the texts of the diaries and analyse their reception in its various forms, as book, theatre play, film, musical composition or otherwise.