Using digital technology, Dutch researchers have revealed why Anne Frank once taped over two pages in her diary with brown sticky paper
"Anyone who reads the passages that have now been discovered will be unable to suppress a smile," said Frank van Vree, director of the Netherlands Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, in reference to the jokes contained in the newly deciphered diary pages.
"The 'dirty' jokes are classics among growing children. They make it clear that Anne, with all her gifts, was above all also an ordinary girl," van Vree added.
Frank and her family hid in a cramped secret annex above a canal-side warehouse in Amsterdam from July 1942 to August 1944, along with four other Jews. They were betrayed and arrested by the Nazis in August 1944.
The pages, dated September 28, 1942, were contained in the red-and-white checkered diary Anne had received for her 13th birthday in June of that year, shortly before her family went into hiding.
Possibly fearing prying eyes or no longer liking what she had written, Frank covered over these pages with brown paper using an adhesive backing like a postage stamp. Their content remained a mystery for decades.
It turns out the pages contained four jokes about sex that Anne herself described as "dirty" and an explanation of women's sexual development, sex, contraception and prostitution.
Experts on Anne's multimillion-selling diary said the newly discovered text, when studied with the rest of her journal, reveals more about her development as a writer than it does about her interest in sex.
"They bring us even closer to the girl and the writer Anne Frank," said Ronald Leopold, executive director of the Anne Frank House museum.
Revealing long-hidden secrets
The deciphering was done by researchers from the Anne Frank museum, the Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies and the Huygens Institute of Netherlands History.
They photographed the pages, backlit by a flash, and then used image-processing software to decipher the words, which were hard to read as they were jumbled with the writing on the reverse sides of the pages.
In the passage on sex, Anne described how a young woman gets her period around age 14, saying that it is "a sign that she is ripe to have relations with a man but one doesn't do that of course before one is married."
On prostitution, she wrote: "All men, if they are normal, go with women, women like that accost them on the street and then they go together. In Paris they have big houses for that. Papa has been there."
One of her jokes also referred to war-time prostitution in her hometown: "Do you know why the German Wehrmacht girls are in Holland? As mattresses for the soldiers."
Anne frequently edited and re-wrote her diary entries during the long months in hiding, especially in 1944 after the Dutch prime minister in exile asked in a radio broadcast that people keep records about life during the occupation.
But exactly when and exactly why Anne blocked out the pages will likely never be known.
"She was probably afraid that other people she was hiding with, either her father, her mother or the other family would discover her diary and would read these things," Leopold said.
When Anne and her family were discovered on August 4, 1944, they were ultimately deported to Auschwitz. Anne and her sister died in the Bergen-Belsen camp. Anne was 15. Only her father, Otto Frank, survived the war.
After the war, Frank had his daughter's diary published, and it went on to become a symbol of hope and resilience that has been read by millions and translated into dozens of languages.
The institutions that revealed the pages said that due to copyright issues, it's unclear whether the passages will be incorporated into new editions.
sb/eg (AP, Reuters)