Anne Frank’s diary is one of the most widely read pieces of literature in the world. At the time of publication, certain passages of her diary were removed. Had they not been removed, the diaries wouldn’t have been widely published and translated into 70 languages— And Anne Frank’s Diary wouldn’t have been on the required reading list in so many schools. Because of the omissions, most people don’t know that every time Anne Frank would see a a nude female body she’d “go into ecstasy.” Such ecstasy, in fact, that she would struggle to hold back tears.
In the summer of 1942, Anne Frank was forced into hiding during the Nazi regime and lived in Amsterdam with her father Otto, her mother Edith, and her sister Margot, in the house behind her father’s office on the second floor. The Achterhuis (“back house”) was shared with Fritz Pfeffer, as well as the van Pels family, Hermann and Auguste and their son Peter, who lived on the third floor. The house was hidden from view by houses on all four sides. A movable bookcase blocked the entryway where four of Otto’s employees risked their lives to bring the families food and supplies. In 1944, the families were reported to Nazi authorities and transported to concentration camps. Only Otto Frank survived.
For all the horrors Anne Frank saw, it would have been a greater honor to her legacy to leave her story as she intended it to be published (without omission or possible additions). One of the passages omitted from her story sounds much like that of any young lesbian coming of age.
On January 6th, 1944, Anne Frank writes, “Yesterday I read an article on blushing by Sister Heyster. It was as if she’s addressed it directly to me… I’d just turned thirteen when I came here, so I started thinking about myself and realized that I’ve become an ‘independent person’ sooner than most girls. Sometimes when I lie in bed at night I feel a terrible urge to touch my breasts and listen to the quiet, steady beating of my heart. Unconsciously, I had these feelings even before I came here. Once when I was spending the night at Jacque’s, I could no longer restrain my curiosity about her body, which she’d always hidden from me and which I’d never seen. I asked her whether, as proof of our friendship, we could touch each other’s breasts. Jacque refused. I also had a terrible desire to kiss her, which I did. Every time I see a female nude, such as the Venus in my art history book, I go into ecstasy. Sometimes I find them so exquisite, I have to struggle to hold back my tears. If only I had a girlfriend!”
On Anne Frank’s website, Jacque (Jacqueline van Maarsen) recalls, “We had a close relationship and I liked being with her; but she laid a claim on me and I didn’t know how to handle that. I always had to prove to her that we were ‘best friends’. Her passionate declarations of friendship were too much for me sometimes. Then I met up with other friends and she was jealous and unhappy. Years later I read that she had written about this in her diary. But before she went into hiding I had been able to tell her where the limits were. She accepted this…”
Thousands of gay men and lesbians were sent to concentration camps during the Holocaust. Germany’s Nazi-amended criminal code, which made homosexuality a felony, wasn’t officially changed until 1994. At the concentration camps, gay men had to wear pink triangles on their uniform. Lesbians were categorized “Asocial” and had to wear black triangles. Lesbian history is often downplayed or erased in the retelling. “The Nazis used the brothels to ‘convert’ lesbians back to heterosexuality – but the women’s lives came with a ‘use by’ date, after which most of them were killed.”(Gay StarNews)
Henny Schermann, Jewish and a lesbian, deported to a concentration camp and killed in 1942.
In a second separate entry, also made on January 6, 1944, the diary reads, “My longing for someone to talk to has become so unbearable that I somehow took it into my head to select Peter for this role. You mustn’t think I’m in love with Peter because I’m not. If the van Daan’s had had a daughter instead of a son, I’d have tried to make friends with her.” (van Daan was her pseudonym van Pels—Since she was hoping her diaries would someday be published).
On March 6, 1944, the diary passage about Peter van Pels reads as a conquest born of boredom— “I’m glad after all that the Van Daan’s have a son and not a daughter; my conquest could never have been so difficult, so beautiful, so good, if I had not happened to hit on someone of the opposite sex.” So does hitting on someone of the opposite sex present a challenge that satisfies boredom while in confinement, whereas hitting on someone of the same sex would’ve come easy, but been ugly and bad?
The passages about Peter might feel familiar to any lesbian recalling her younger years. The love that lesbians have for our male friends runs deep. Those relationships are— seven hours on the phone, best man at his wedding, tattooed on your forearm— deep. But Anne Frank went into ecstasy at the sight of female nudes… and her attraction to the female form left her holding back tears. So while people might point to other passages and insist she was going through a phase, Anne Frank’s words are much too telling for any lesbian to chalk it up to “This too shall pass.”
Anne was fifteen when she died of typhus at Bergen-Belsen camp in Germany, where she was sent with her sister, Margot, to work as slave labor. Margot died of typhus before her. The camp was liberated only weeks after they died. Anne Frank’s peer, Nannette Blitz, recalls the terrible condition of her dying friend— “Anne never gave up hope. She was absolutely convinced she would survive.” Her diary is still one of the most widely read books in the world. It was always her story to tell, and after her death, it shouldn’t have been anyone else’s story to alter.