Book History, podcast, Quirky Books

A Girl Named Anne Gets a Diary

Hello Book Nerds,

Seventy-eight years ago, a girl had her 13th birthday. And on that birthday she was given a book. The pages of that book were completely blank until she quickly jotted down a single sentence expressing her hope that the book would be a great support to her. 

Her writing career was cut brutally short two years later.

The girl was Anne Frank. The book in question would become her diary and a record of life trying to be normal under a very abnormal circumstances. And unfortunately, hate and utter cruelty would put an end to that life.

And it’s the story of how her diary turned into a book that would resonate and inspire hope in people across the world that I’m covering in this latest episode of The Book Owl Podcast.

Behind the Scenes

So when I was digging into a podcast topic for The Book Owl Podcast a couple weeks ago, I discovered that Anne Frank had been given her infamous diary on 12 June, which matched up well with my next release date of 11 June.

At the time, I was only thinking of how well Anne’s life in the attic could provide some perspective into everyone whining about Stay Home orders.

At the time, a man named George Floyd was still alive.

At the time, protesters against hatred and racism weren’t raising their voices across the country.

By the time I’d finished recording and editing, well…you know….

I really hadn’t intended the podcast episode to be a reflection on where hatred leads, but it’s hard not to tell the story of a young girl who died for no other reason than hatred and cruelty spurred on by the people in power without thinking about what’s going on today.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this more somber and timely episode. Clicking the image will take you to the episode’s web page where you can listen, or you can use the links just under the image to find plenty of other listening options.

Be Kind and Be Safe!!

Listening links…

Links mentioned…

Rough Transcript

Hey everyone, this is Tammie Painter and you’re listening to the Book Owl Podcast, the podcast where I entertain your inner book nerd with tales of quirky books and literary lore.

And while I usually try to keep things light and fun on this show, today we’re going to get a little somber with a story of a very special, very inspiring book written by a young girl who had great hopes for her future.

Now, because this is a more serious show, I’m not going to sully it with any sponsorship stuff. But I do want to say thanks to everyone who has been listening to the show! I love delving into these stories about books and libraries and stuff and it’s really humbling that you’re listening to them. 

And I want to give a ginormous amount of thank yous to Helen Crawford who mentioned the show on her blog a couple weeks ago. Helen, well, Helen makes monsters and I’m going to put a link in the show notes because you have to check her creations out. Each one of her hand knit Beasties – of which I have three – is unique, made of high-quality materials, and the amount of work and detail she puts into each one blows my mind. So do check out her site, but be warned…once you invite a Beastie into your life, things will never be the same!

Also I know a few of you over on Twitter have been sharing the podcast with others and that’s really brought a big grin to my face as have the very unexpected comments about my speaking voice. I’m going to be honest I HATE my voice and that really held me back from starting a podcast. So these compliments hav felt really weird and really unexpected and have really given me a huge boost in this endeavor. Anyway, as ever, if you like the show, I’d love it if you told just one other person about it. 

Alright enough babbling. It’s time to put a somber expression on The Book Owl’s beak. 

So, I’m releasing this episode on 11 June, but it’s actually in honor of a certain book that was given on 12 June 1942 to a girl on her 13th birthday. The pages of that book were completely blank until she quickly jotted down a single sentence expressing her hope that the book would be a great support to her. 

Her writing career was cut brutally short two years later, but her words of hope still touch readers today.

The girl was Anne Frank. The book in question would become her diary and a record of life trying to be normal under a very abnormal circumstances. And unfortunately, hate and utter cruelty would put an end to that life.

So Anne Frank was Jewish and she was born in 1929 in Frankfurt, Germany. This is right around the period when Germany was reeling from their defeat in World War I, their economy had tanked, and the Nazi’s were rising to power under the leadership of a rabble rousing, racist rogue named Adolf Hitler. So, basically Anne was born in both a really bad time and a really bad place to be Jewish. 

Because they didn’t like the vibe in Germany and because the German economy was doing so poorly, Anne’s parents, Otto and Edith, decide to move to Amsterdam. Good plan, Amsterdam’s a great city. Unfortunately, Hitler’s army shows up there in 1940 and starts throwing its weight around, including severe restrictions on Jews.

Then in early 1942, Anne’s older sister Margot gets a letter telling her she’s been recruited for work at a special camp. Yeah, just like a phishing spam email today, Otto and Edith weren’t buying this ruse. Trouble is they can’t leave the Netherlands due to those restrictions I just mentioned. 

So, Otto, again seeing what’s about to happen, begins remodeling the attic of his business on Prinsengracht. And one June day his daughter Anne picks out a journal which she is given as her birthday gift. About a month later, Otto’s family – which were himself, Edith, Margot, and Anne – and four other people enter the small attic that would be their their home for the next two years.

And during this time, Anne Frank writes in her journal. And boy does she write. She ends up filling most of the diary, then continues on filling up notebooks given to her by Margot.

At first Anne writes her diary to a range of imaginary friends, but by September she starts writing to one person who she names Kitty. Well, apparently Kitty was the cat’s meow because it’s not long after that Anne is writing solely to Kitty and dreaming of hanging out with her in Switzerland, which was neutral at the time, where they would go skating, star in a film, and probably giggle a lot over boys. 

So anyone who has been a teenage girl knows you have thoughts and feelings that you just HAVE to get out or you’ll burst. And of course you can’t tell anyone those feelings. I mean THEY wouldn’t understand, so you commit them to paper. Anne was no different and this seems to be the primary reason she started her diary. 

But we don’t really remember Anne as being full of teenage angst. We mainly remember her account of her daily life in the attic. So, what inspired this secondary work? Well, On 28 March 1944, keep in mind this is nearly two years since they entered the attic, the Dutch minister asked his people to keep a record of what was happening to them so they would be able to document what had happened during the German occupation. Anne got word of this request and set to work poring over her journals and rewriting portions of it into a new text that would be called The Secret Annex. 

During this rewrite she did plenty of self-editing and since she was the ripe old age of fifteen, gave a critical eye to that 13 year old Anne had written. She worked in missed details and left out a few details that had made it into her diary such as her crush on Peter and some very teenage comments about her mom such as, ‘my mother is in most things an example to me, but then an example of precisely how I shouldn’t do things.’ Ooh, snap.

I’m not sure exactly when Anne completed her rewrite, but in August 1944, Anne, her family, the four others in the attic, and the people who helped them were arrested during a Nazi raid of the premises.

Anne and 100s of others were crammed into train cars for the three-day journey to Auschwitz. And I know it doesn’t get all that hot in the Netherlands, but this was August and that’s a lot of bodies crammed together. It was likely incredibly hot and miserable as well as terrifying because by this point they knew exactly what happened to Jews who entered Auschwitz. 

Of the 100s of people on that train, 350 were immediately sent to the gas chamber. 

Anne and her family were strong and healthy enough not put be to death, and were instead selected for labor. Her dad went to the mens’ camp, she and her mom and sister went to the women’s camp. Sadly, even mom and daughters wouldn’t be allowed to stay together. Edith was kept at Auschwitz while Margot and Anne were sent off to Bergen Belsen in October 1944. Edith would die at Auschwitz only weeks before the camp was liberated.

At Bergen-Belsen, the cold, wet, cramped conditions of winter, and the severe lack of food left the girls susceptible to disease. The both died of typhus in February 1945. 

Of the eight people in the attic, Otto would be the only one to survive. When the camp was liberated, he weighed only 52 kilo, 114 pounds, and could barely walk.

But wait, remember those helpers who wee also arrested at the same time as the Franks? Well, they eventually were freed and two of them, Miep Gies and Bep Voskuil found Anne’s diaries. Miep held onto them hoping that one day she would be able to give them back to Anne. Instead, she gave them to Otto.

As you can imagine, Otto was torn. He wanted to read Anne’s words to bring his daughter back to life in some way, but it was also painfully hard for him to read those words. It took a while, but he did eventually read the diaries and couldn’t believe how strong her writing was. He’s quoted as saying

 ‘The Anne that appeared before me was very different from the daughter I had lost. I had had no idea of the depth of her thoughts and feelings.’

Like any proud papa, Otto showed his daughter’s work to a few family members who ended up showing a few friends who then encouraged Otto to compile them into a formal book and publish them because these were important words that needed to be read by others.

In 1947, The Secret Annex was published. Anne would have been eighteen. Upon its publication Otto said, ‘How proud Anne would have been if she had lived to see this.” Because Apparently in March 1944, she had written “Imagine how interesting it would be if I published a novel about the Secret Annex.”

Imagine.  Because of hatred, Anne’s life ends painfully early, but because of a few brave people she was able to live long enough to tell an amazing story that would impact thousands upon thousands of lives for years to come. 

And so while this episode is about Anne Frank and her diary, I also think it’s important to remember the people who helped her and her family. I mean these people stuck their necks out to help knowing full well that they risked being arrested and sent to the concentration camps for doing so. 

So while Anne Frank’s name is famous, it’s important to remember those who did their best to keep her and her family alive. They include…

Mies Gies  Her husband Jan Gies  Victor Kugler

Johannes Kleiman  Johan Voskuijl   And his mom Bep Voskuijl

Yeah, I don’t know where to go from here. Stop hating, stop giving voice to people who spread hate and incite violence, and do your best to be tolerant and compassionate. 

As Anne said…

“What is done cannot be undone, but one can prevent it happening again.”

Thanks for so much for listening and I promise more fun and giggles with the next episode. Since this is a longer episode than normal I’ll skip the personal update. However, I do want to say that I’d love to hear from you. If you have a favorite book or book-related topic you’d love me to explore, don’t be shy about suggesting it for a future show. The best way to get in touch is at thebookowlpodcast.com/contact.

And as ever, If you like what you’ve heard, please do subscribe to the show, and if you want to get more out of every episode, be sure to join the flock by signing up for the book owl podcast newsletter. All the links you need are in the show notes. The book owl podcast is a production fo daisy dog media, copyright 2020, all rights reserved. The theme music was composed by Kevin Macleod.

Quirky Books

Value Your Life? Then Don’t Read This Book.

It’s the premier episode of The Book Owl Podcast!!!

We’re being bombarded with news of scary things going on throughout the world, which means I know you’re eager to find out about something else that will kill you.

Although reading and books seem like safe pastimes, there is one book out there that will kill you.

In this premier episode of The Book Owl Podcast we’ll discover the story behind the woman who wrote this troublesome tome and the danger it still poses today.

But first, a little about this podcast launch….

Now, I had planned on waiting until May to launch this new endeavor, but that timing mainly was due to a vacation I had planned for late April. Then a pesky little virus reared its spiky head and threw everyone’s plans in the bin, but also meant there was no reason to delay the launch.

Except for all the other podcasts launching right now…

You can’t blink without a new coronavirus-related podcast coming out, schools are podcasting to keep their students engaged, and bored celebrities are begging for audio attention.

So, yeah, this is possibly the worst of times to launch a podcast. Or, maybe it’s the best of times because it will give me a chance to sort out any wonky bits before too many people discover the show.

Either way, I’m THRILLED you’re here and if you want to help The Book Owl Podcast get off to its best start possible, please do subscribe to the show wherever you listen to podcasts (links can be found HERE or below).

And, if you want to get even more out of every episode (I’m talking bonus tidbits!) please join flock by signing up for The Book Owl Podcast newsletter.

Thanks for listening everyone, and enjoy the episode!!!

Note: There is a sound quality issue (low volume) that couldn’t be resolved in editing. It’s not too terrible, but just remember to turn down your earbuds once you finish listening.

For the show transcript, please visit this post.

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This episode was sponsored by Indigo Books & Movies where you can take 30% Off Bingeworthy True Stories (Ends April 19)

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The Book Owl Podcast is a production of Daisy Dog Media, Copyright 2020, All Rights Reserved