What Did Anne Frank Have Against Americans?
The book I had been reading was so interesting that I had finished it ahead of schedule, and the book I had ordered had not yet arrived. I began searching our empty nest for something to tide me over. What caught my eye in one of my sons’ vacated bedroom was the small volume, Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. Later I discovered that it had been assigned reading in the eighth grade, and the class was even shown the movie based on the book.
Perfect. It’s relatively short, I had never read even one page of it, and here was the chance for me to catch up with the millions of other people who have read it. With my interests and experiences I thought I might pick up on a thing or two that those who are reading it in school, and even those who are assigning it, might not have noticed. I think, maybe, I did.
Where Are the Americans?
Call me chauvinistic, but it struck me that Miss Frank gives us Americans extraordinarily short shrift for all that we did to liberate the people of Western Europe from the clutches of the Nazis. My sensitivity on this issue might have been heightened by the fact that this spring I had my first opportunity to visit Omaha Beach in France and hear a French guide at the huge American cemetery tell the life stories of some of our young people who were buried there.
Now I know that Frank was young and can be excused for not knowing a whole lot—her diary begins when she was 13 and ends when she was 15—but otherwise the writing in Anne’s diary seems to be that of one far advanced over a girl in her early teens, especially in matters of politics. The problem, to get right down to it, is that she gives the reader the impression that the British are doing all the fighting against the Germans and that her big hope for being liberated is with those British. One would think that after Dunkirk even the most poorly informed Dutch schoolgirl would know that any hope for their rescue from the Germans lay not with the British, but with the far more powerful Americans, but not, apparently, Miss Frank.
I have gone through the book and noted every mention of the Americans and the British in the war effort. The United States officially entered the war in December of 1941 in the wake of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, but we did not get into actual land fighting on the Western front when we landed troops in North Africa in support of the British on November 8, 1942. The diary begins on June 14, 1942. `
October 9, 1942
Just recently…a poor old crippled Jewess was sitting on her doorstep; she had been told to wait there by the Gestapo, who had gone to fetch a car to take her away. The poor old thing was terrified by the guns that were shooting at English planes overhead, and by the glaring beams of the searchlights.
November 9, 1942
The biggest surprise came from Mr. Van Daan when, at one o’clock, he announced that the British had landed in Tunis, Algiers, Casablanca, and Oran. “This is the beginning of the end,” everyone was saying, but Churchill, the British Prime Minister, who had probably heard that same thing in England said: “This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” Do you see the difference? There is certainly reason for optimism. Stalingrad, the Russian town which they’ve already been defending for three months, still hasn’t fallen into German hands…
P.S. The news has just come over the radio that Algiers has fallen. Morocco, Casablanca, and Oran have been in British hands for several days. Now we’re waiting for Tunis.
January 13, 1943
And every night thousands of planes fly over Holland and go to German towns, where the earth is so plowed up by their bombs, and every hour hundreds of thousands of people are killed in Russia and Africa. No one is able to keep out of it, the whole globe is waging war and although it is going better for the Allies, the end is not yet in sight.
April 27, 1943
The Carlton Hotel is smashed to bits. Two British planes loaded with incendiary bombs fell right on top of the “Offiziersheim” (officers’ club). The whole Vijzelstraat-Singel corner is burned down. The air raids on German towns are growing in strength every day. We don’t have a single quiet night.
May 18, 1943
I witnessed a terrific air battle between German and British planes. Unfortunately a couple of the Allies had to jump from burning machines. Our milkman, who lives in Halfweg, saw four Canadians sitting by the roadside, one of them spoke fluent Dutch. He asked the milkman to give him a light for his cigarette and told him that the crew had consisted of six men. The pilot was burned to death, and their fifth man had hidden himself somewhere. The German police came and fetched the four perfectly fit men. I wonder how they happened to have such clear brains after that terrifying parachute trip.
July 11, 1943
I am really curious to know what will come of it all, but I don’t think the plan will come off because the British have landed in Sicily now and Daddy is once again hoping for a “quick finish.”
August 3, 1943
Political news excellent. In Italy the Fascist party has been banned. The people are fighting the Fascists in many places—even the army is actually taking part in the battle. Can a country like that wage war against England?
August 18, 1943
Mrs. Van Daan searches for another subject. “I say, Putti, why aren’t there any English air raids now?”
“Because the weather is bad, Kerli.
“But it was lovely yesterday, and they didn’t fly then either.”
“Let’s not talk about it.”
September 10, 1943 (First mention of Americans)
Last Wednesday evening, 8 September, we sat around listening to the seven o’clock news and the first thing we heard was: “Here follows the best news of the whole war. Italy has capitulated!” Italy’s unconditional surrender! The Dutch program from England began at quarter past eight. “Listeners, an hour ago, I had just finished writing the chronicle of the day when the wonderful news of Italy’s capitulation came in. I can tell you that I have never deposited my notes in the wastepaper basket with such joy!” “God Save the King,” the American national anthem, and the “Internationale” were played. As always, the Dutch program was uplifting, but not too optimistic.
February 3, 1944
All the newspapers are full of the invasion and are driving people mad by saying that “In the event of the English landing in Holland, the Germans will do all they can to defend the country; if necessary they will resort to flooding.” With this, maps have been published, on which the parts of Holland that will be under water are marked. As this applies to large parts of Amsterdam, the first question was, what shall we do if the water in the streets rises to one meter? The answers given by different people vary considerably.
(Also on this date, a debate between men in the Frank “secret annex” and a contact outside the annex, Henk Van Santen):
S.A.: “We have all been through it ourselves, first in Germany, and then here. And what is going on in Russia?”
H: “You mustn’t include the Jews. I don’t think anyone knows what is going on in Russia. The English and the Russians are sure to exaggerate things for propaganda purposes, just like the Germans.”
S.A.: “Out of the question. The English have always told the truth over the wireless. And I suppose they do exaggerate the news, the facts are bad enough anyway, because you can’t deny that many millions of peace-loving people were just simply murdered or gassed in Poland and Russia.”
March 27, 1944
Just as if the German Wehrmacht news bulletins and the English B.B.C. were not enough, they have now introduced “Special Air-Raid Announcements.” In one word, magnificent; but on the other hand often disappointing, too. The British are making a non-stop business of their air attacks, with the same kind of zest as the Germans make a business of lying. The radio therefore goes on early in the morning and is listened to at all hours of the day, until nine, ten, and often eleven o’clock in the evening…
Ugh! It gets so boring, and it’s quite a job not to become a dull old stick oneself. Politics can’t do much more harm to the parents!
I must mention one shining exception—a speech by our beloved Winston Churchill is quite perfect.
March 29, 1944
How scared the ladies are during the air raids. For instance, on Sunday, when 350 British planes dropped half a million kilos of bombs on Ijmuiden, how the houses trembled like a wisp of grass in the wind, and who knows how many epidemics now rage.
May 16, 1944
Just for a change, as we haven’t talked about them for so long, I want to tell you a little discussion that went on between Mr. and Mrs. Van Daan yesterday.
Mrs. Van Daan: “The Germans are sure to have made the Atlantic Wall very strong indeed, they will certainly do all in their power to hold back the English. It’s amazing how strong the Germans are!”
Mr. Van Daan: “Oh, yes, incredibly.”
Mrs. Van Daan: “Ye-es.”
Mr. Van Daan: “The Germans are so strong they’re sure to win the war in the end, in spite of everything!”
Mrs. Van Daan: “It’s quite possible, I’m not convinced of the opposite yet.” (Why not, if you leave the Americans out of the mix? ed.)
May 22, 1944
The invasion still hasn’t come yet; it’s no exaggeration to say that all Amsterdam, all Holland, yes, the whole west coast of Europe, right down to Spain, talks about the invasion day and night, debates about it, and makes bets on it, and…hopes.
The suspense is rising to a climax. By no means everyone we regarded as “good” Dutch have stuck to their faith in the English; by no means everyone thinks the English bluff a masterly piece of strategy, oh no, the people want to see deeds at last, great, heroic deeds. Nobody sees beyond his own nose, no one thinks that the English are fighting for their own land and their own people, everyone thinks that it’s their duty to save Holland, as quickly and as well as they can.
What obligations have the English towards us? How have the Dutch earned the generous help that they seem so explicitly to expect? Oh no, the Dutch will have made a big mistake, the English, in spite of all their bluff, are certainly no more to blame than all the other countries, great and small, which are not under occupation. The English really won’t offer us their apologies, for even if we do reproach them for being asleep during the years the other countries, especially those bordering Germany, also slept. We shan’t get anywhere by following an ostrich policy. England and the whole world have seen that only too well now, and that is why, one by one, England, no less than the rest, will have to make heavy sacrifice.
No country is going to sacrifice its men for nothing and certainly not in the interests of another. England is not going to do that either. The invasion, with liberation and freedom, will come sometime, but England and America will appoint the day, not all the occupied countries put together.
June 6, 1944
“This is D-Day,” came the announcement over the English news and quite rightly, “this is the day.” The invasion has begun!
The English gave the news at eight o’clock this morning: Calais, Boulougne, Le Havre, and Cherbourg, also the Pas de Calais (as usual), were heavily bombarded. Moreover, as a safety measure for all occupied territories, all people who live within a radius of thirty-five kilometers from the coast are warned to be prepared for bombardments. If possible, the English will drop pamphlets one hour beforehand.
According to German news, English parachute troops landed on the French coast, English landing craft are in battle with the German Navy, says the B.B.C.
We discussed it over the “Annexe” breakfast at nine o’clock: Is this just a trial landing like Dieppe two years ago?
English broadcast in German, Dutch, French, and other languages at ten o’clock: “The invasion has begun!” that means the “real” invasion. English broadcast in German at eleven o’clock, speech by Supreme Commander, General Dwight Eisenhower. (An Englishman? ed.)
The English news at twelve o’clock in English: “This is D-day,” General Eisenhower said to the French people: “Stiff fighting will come now, but after this the victory. The year 1944 is the year of complete victory; good luck.”
English news in English at one o’clock (translated): 11,000 planes stand ready, and are flying to and fro non-stop, landing troops and attacking behind the lines; 4000 landing boats, plus small craft, are landing troops and materiel between Cherbourg and Le Havre incessantly. English and American troops are already engaged in hard fighting. Speeches by Gerbrandy, by the Prime Minister of Belgium, King Haakon of Norway, De Gaulle of France, the King of England, and last, but not least, Churchill.
June 9, 1944
Super news of the invasion. The Allies have taken Bayeux, a small village on the French coast, and are now fighting for Caen. It’s obvious that they intend to cut off the peninsula where Cherbourg lies. Every evening war correspondents give news from the battle front, telling us of the difficulties, courage, and enthusiasm of the army; they manage to get hold of the most incredible stories. Also some of the wounded who are already back in England again came to the microphone. The air force is up all the time in spite of the miserable weather. We heard over the B.B.C. that Churchill wanted to land with the troops on D-Day, however, Eisenhower and the other generals managed to get him out of the idea. Just think of it, what pluck he has for such an old man—he must be seventy at least.
June 13, 1944
Yesterday, Churchill, Smuts, Eisenhower, and Arnold visited French villages which have been conquered and liberated. The torpedo boat that Churchill was in shelled the coast. He appears, like so many men, not to know what fear is—makes me envious!
It’s difficult for us to judge from our secret redoubt how people outside have reacted to the news. Undoubtedly people are pleased that the idle (?) English have rolled up their sleeves and are doing something at last. Any Dutch people who still look down on the English, scoff at England and her government of old gentlemen, call the English cowards, and yet hate the Germans deserve a good shaking. Perhaps it would put some sense int their wooly brains.
Two main thoughts are likely to come to those who have read the foregoing carefully. One is that the primary source of information on the progress of the war for Anne and her family was the British Broadcasting Company. She makes numerous references to its radio broadcasts. That might explain her heavy bias towards the British, one might think.
But think about it a bit more. To be sure, if the British are good at anything, it is propaganda. They are the absolute masters of it. It would hardly have been in their interests for them to downplay the role of the Americans in the war. To the contrary, if anything it was in their interests to exaggerate what the Americans were doing. As we noted at the beginning, after Dunkirk the confidence of the occupied Western Europeans in the British would have been at low ebb, as would German fear of them. We can see it in some of the passages that show the attitude of many of Anne’s fellow Dutch toward them. The vastly stronger Americans were the big brother with the big stick. British war interests were best served by persuading both friend and foe that it was the Americans who were doing most of the fighting and because of that there was no way the Allies could lose. The British would have been very foolish not to have played that card for all that it was worth, and, as we suggested, when it comes to propaganda they are anything but foolish.
The second thought that anyone with the least bit of an open mind is certain to have had is that none of this sounds like anything we have ever heard from a person in his or her early teens. To say that she was just an extraordinarily precocious girl sounds to me a lot like rationalization. If she was so politically sharp and tuned in to what was going on with the war, how did she manage to overlook the overwhelming importance of the Americans in it?
For those who have no skepticism at all that this was the work of a young girl, I present, in its entirety, her reaction to the attempted assassination of Adolf Hitler, which occurred shortly after Anne celebrated her 15th birthday:
July 21, 1944
Now I am getting really hopeful, now things are going well at last. Yes, really, they’re going well! Super news! An attempt has been made on Hitler’s life and not even by Jewish communists or English capitalists this time, but by a proud German general, and what’s more, he’s a count, and still quite young. The Fuhrer’s life was saved by Divine Providence and, unfortunately, he managed to get off with just a few scratches and burns. A few officers and generals who were with him have been killed and wounded. The chief culprit was shot.
Anyway, it certainly shows that there are lots of officers and generals who are sick of the war and would like to see Hitler descend into a bottomless pit. When they’ve disposed of Hitler, their aim is to establish a military dictator, who will make peace with the Allies, then they intend to rearm and start another war in about twenty years’ time. Perhaps the Divine Power tarried on purpose in getting him out of the way, because it would be much easier and more advantageous to the Allies if the impeccable Germans kill each other off; it’ll make less work for the Russians and the English and they’ll be able to begin rebuilding their own towns all the sooner.
But still, we’re not that far yet, and I don’t want to anticipate the glorious events too soon. Still, you must have noticed, this is all sober reality and that I’m in quite a matter-of-fact mood today; for once, I’m not jabbering about high ideals. And what’s more, Hitler has even been so kind as to announce to his faithful, devoted people that from now on everyone in the armed forces must obey the Gestapo, and that any soldier who knows that one of his superiors was involved in this low, cowardly attempt may shoot the same on the spot, without court-martial.
What a perfect shambles it’s going to be. Little Johnnie’s feet begin hurting him during a long march, he’s snapped at by his boss, the officer. Johnnie grabs his rifle and cries out: “You wanted to murder the Fuhrer, so there’s your reward.” One bang and the proud chief who dared to tick off little Johnnie has passed into eternal life (or is it eternal death?). In the end, whenever an officer finds himself up against a soldier, or having to take the lead, he’ll be wetting his pants from anxiety, because the soldiers will dare to say more than they do. Do you gather a bit what I mean, or have I been skipping too much from one subject to another? I can’t help it; the prospect that I may be sitting on school benches next October makes me feel far too cheerful to be logical! Oh, dearie me, hadn’t I just told you that I didn’t want to be too hopeful? Forgive me, they haven’t given me the name “little bundle of contradictions” all for nothing!
I should say!
But what could this apparent inauthenticity of the diary and the overplaying of the British role in the war at the expense of the Americans have to do with one another? See the following passage from Robert Faurisson’s interview of Anne’s father, Otto Frank, the man who brought the diary forward and had it published in 1947:
I only once saw him lose his temper and show himself to be uncompromising and violent; that was in regard to the Zionist cause, which must seem sacred to him. It was in that manner that he declared to me that he no longer even sets foot on the soil of France because, in his opinion, France is no longer interested in anything except Arab oil and doesn't care about Israel.
In 1947, the fate of the Zionist cause lay completely in the hands of the British, who had been given control over Palestine by the League of Nations in the wake of World War I. To the proper fanatic Zionist, British public opinion meant everything at the end of World War II, when the diary was most likely put together. There was no obvious reason at that point to curry favor with the Americans. That currying favor was what the book was all about is also indicated by the fact that the diary sounds almost like it was written by a Christian instead of a Jew, much less a Jew who had attended a Jewish school. The Franks make a big fuss over Christmas and even Easter and Good Friday, but the only Jewish holiday we hear about is Chanukah, and that is only because it came so close to St. Nicholas Day on December 7, 1942. Important Jewish holidays like Passover, Rosh Hashanah, and Yom Kippur are never mentioned.
The first light and somewhat equivocal plug for Zionism is in the entry for June 30, 1942, before the family had gone to the secret annex. At that point the notion of establishing a state just for Jews in the already heavily populated Palestine was still a hard sell with a lot of people, not the least of whom were the Jews themselves. It is Anne’s crush of the moment named Harry speaking:
From now on I shall be free on Wednesday evenings. Officially I go to wood-carving lessons to please my grandparents, in actual fact I go to a meeting of the Zionist Movement. I’m not supposed to, because my grandparents are very much against the Zionists. I’m by no means a fanatic, but I have a leaning that way and find it interesting. But lately it has become such a mess there that I’m going to quit, so next Wednesday will be my last time.
On occasion the diary also mentions older sister Margot’s plan to immigrate to Palestine after the war, but the slyest Zionist plug is in one sentence on May 11, 1944: “Next week I have got to read Palestine at the Crossroads and the second part of [Galileo] Galilei.”
Palestine at the Crossroadsis a very pro-Zionist book written in 1937 by a Scotsman by the name of Ernest Main. * His principal argument is that Jews would bring modernization to Palestine’s agriculture, permitting the region to sustain a much larger population. It is a most unlikely choice of reading material for a 15-year-old girl. One can’t say that it was a case of that or nothing among the limited books available in their hiding place because she speaks of outsiders bringing them books from the library. One might wonder if there was even a Dutch or German translation of the book available, and it is highly doubtful that Anne would have been able to read it in English.
Britain was the battleground for the Zionist cause at the time. Jewish terrorists had assassinated anti-Zionist Secretary of State for the Colonies Lord Moyne in 1944. Jewish extremists had bombed the King David Hotel and they had sent letter bombs attempting to kill Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin in 1946.
Those, and the ongoing attacks on British soldiers and officials in Palestine, were the Zionist bullets to the British head. It looks for all the world to this writer that the Diary of a Young Girl was the soft sell aimed at the British heart.
* Zionism-advocacy book though it might be, it still has some useful insights that look quite good in retrospect, for instance:
It is the declared Zionist policy that the Jews and the Arabs should co-operate together in the development of Palestine without the domination of either by the other at any time now or in the future. Not only do the Arabs not believe this, but it is their declared policy that they must remain in the majority and that this majority must be expressed in any Legislative Council that may at any time in the future come into existence. (pp. 266-267)
It’s pretty clear which of the two groups was seeing things, or at least telling things, straight in the 1930s. See also how this passage jibes with the British documents on Palestine assembled by Doreen Ingrams.
August 11, 2015
A correspondent has informed me that the Palestine at the Crossroads mentioned in the diary was not the one written by Ernest Main but one of the same title written by the much better known writer Ladislas Farago. “It makes a difference,” he writes, “because Farago’s book is not a Zionist diatribe like Main’s. It is a journalistic account of both Arab and Jewish settlements in Palestine in 1936. It is a valuable and impartial account (perhaps as much as one could be) that was well received at the time. If one were to want to know what it was like to live in Palestine, it would be an excellent source, which may account for Anne’s interest in the book.”
In response, it appears that the reader is right in that I have the wrong book. It was the first one to come up in a Google search of the title, and it didn’t occur to me to continue searching to see if there were another book from the period with the same title. In fact, the English title of Farago’s book was Palestine on the Eve. Sylvia Patterson Iskander lists it in the appendix to her article, “Anne Frank’s Reading,” by its Dutch title, which she translates as “Palestine at the Crossroads,” although she has Farago’s first name as “Laszlo.”
Whether or not the reader has characterized the book accurately, though, is another matter. Here is the entire brief review at Kirkus:
A journalist's account of several months spent in Palestine, a growing storm center, where Jew and Arab are struggling for land which each feels to be rightfully his. The author is content to sketch briefly what he has seen without drawing conclusions or offering constructive views on conditions. He gives a better picture of the Jew than of the Moslem in that it is a fuller picture and a more intimate one. The influx of hundreds of rootless families who are as yet disintegrated in their return to the home of their forefathers. [sic] On the whole the book is flimsy. The author travels here and there -- meets this potentate and that, but seems to lack any real insight into either race or their respective problems.
One might also take issue with the claim that it is “not a Zionist diatribe.” The book can be found online here. It begins:
On April 15th, 1936, revolver shots were fired in Jaffa. Eight Jews who had unsuspectingly walked over from the neighbouring Jewish town of Tel Aviv on the way to their places of employment, returned to Tel Aviv lifeless on stretchers. The shots were not quite unexpected. For years, unrest amongst the Arab population of Palestine had been brewing; The Arabs regard the Jews as intruders and accuse England of breaking her promises to them.
On page 121 we have this passage:
Out of the low, dark houses the men now brought their wives. Hitherto I had seen only veiled Arab women, but on the land the veil is not worn, and so at last I was in a position to form an opinion of their aesthetic qualities. When I saw their unveiled faces I came to the conclusion that the veils were, after all, an improvement! Amongst the eighty women and girls I could hardly discover a single one with the least claim to beauty.
And in the chapter entitled “The Father of Zionism” we have this passage on pp. 130-131:
…In the campaign which Jews carry on for Palestine no weapons are employed; the opportunities of livelihood for the Jews are not created by ruthless might, but bought with money. Here a land is being built up in the same way that hospitals in England are maintained — by charity…With this money are obtained the requisites for a Jewish colony; lands are bought and settled.
From my admittedly cursory review of the book I can’t help but conclude that a devoted Zionist would be more than happy for someone to read the Farago book and that my mistaking the Ernest Main book for it does no real damage to my point, that is, that it might have well been thrown in gratuitously as a Zionist plug.
April 26, 2016