Books: Outside of the Attic

New pages from her diary and a new biography give a more complex portrait of Anne Frank's life

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In her private journal, a teenager finds fault with her mother and pronounces her parents' marriage a mere convenience. One entry reads, "If she had only one aspect of an understanding mother, either tenderness, or kindness, or patience or something else, I would keep trying to approach her." Elsewhere she complains that her father does not love his wife, that he kisses her as he kisses his daughters.

These are not the sort of disclosures that usually stop presses. But what if the diarist was Anne Frank, the most storied victim of the Holocaust, the precocious prose stylist whose single published work has sold 25 million copies in more than 50 languages and has been required classroom reading for half a century?

That, of course, is another story, one that transcends the rash jottings of a 14-year-old and creates the kind of stir that occurs when competing interests squabble over the bones of a martyr.

Late last month, the Swiss-based Anne Frank Fonds (foundation), which holds the rights to all of Frank's writings, threatened to sue the Amsterdam newspaper Het Parool after it ran previously unpublished pages from Anne's diary about the elder Franks' relationship. The paper would not divulge the source of its story. But the prime suspect is Cor Suijk, a senior official at the Anne Frank Center in New York City and a source for German journalist Melissa Muller's new and well-timed biography Anne Frank (Metropolitan Books; 330 pages; $23).

Suijk (pronounced Sowk) claims that he was given the five pages of unpublished entries by Anne's father shortly before Otto Frank died in 1980. The only member of the family to survive the war, Otto was both custodian of his daughter's legacy, and its expurgator. The first edition of the diary was published in 1947 without including embarrassing family passages.

Muller, who examined the new pages but legally could only paraphrase them, says that Suijk "got the pages because Otto didn't want to destroy them." The rest of Anne's original texts, including her revisions, are kept at the Netherlands State Institute for War Documentation. Suijk is hoping that a philanthropist will buy his fragments and donate them to the Institute so that he can use the proceeds to support his center in New York.

That Anne Frank is remembered at all can be attributed to Nazi priorities: first, round up Jews; next, confiscate their valuables. Books and personal scribblings were optional. That is what happened on Aug. 4, 1944 when, on a tip, SS Oberscharfuhrer Karl Josef Silberbauer and his men broke into the annex behind Otto Frank's foodstuffs firm at 263 Prinsengracht in Amsterdam. The raiders arrested the Franks and four others who shared their secret quarters. Furniture and salable items were removed.

Left strewn on the floor were the green-and-red book, the journals and loose blue-and-pink sheets containing Anne's account of two years in hiding. They were picked up and put in a desk drawer by Miep Gies, Otto's secretary. Gies, now 89, is an international hero for helping to hide the Franks. The identity of the tipster remains unclear. However, Muller pointedly notes that there were discrepancies in the postwar testimony of a Dutch cleaning woman that were never followed up.

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