One of the greatest books that changed the world, The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank (1947), was perhaps the most brilliant literary reply to Mein Kampf. Although it was not written to do just that, it\’s impact on a worldwide readership sure did. The diary has now been published in more than 60 different languages and is deemed one of the most powerful books of the 20th century, with more than twenty-five million copies having been printed.
The journal was given to Anne on her 13th birthday and she wrote the many passages while in hiding for two years with her family during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. The family was apprehended in 1944 and Anne Frank ultimately died of typhus in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. After the war, the diary was retrieved by Anne’s father, Otto Frank, the only survivor of the family.
But were you aware that according to Amazon and the American Library Association, it\’s one of the most commonly banned and challenged books?
After the diary became widely known in the late 1950s, various allegations against the diary were published, with the earliest published criticisms occurring in Sweden and Norway. The allegations in the Swedish Nazi magazine Fria Ord (free words) in 1957 came from the Danish author and critic Harald Nielsen, who had claimed that the diary had been written by Meyer Levin, and that Anne Frank never existed.
In 1958, Simon Wiesenthal was challenged by a group of protesters at a performance of The Diary of Anne Frank in Vienna, who challenged Wiesenthal to prove her existence by finding the man who had arrested her. He began searching for Karl Silberbauer and finally found him in 1963. When interviewed, Silberbauer readily admitted his role, and identified Anne Frank from a photograph as one of the people arrested. He provided a full account of events and recalled emptying a briefcase full of papers onto the floor. His statement corroborated the version of events that had previously been presented by witnesses such as Otto Frank.
Opponents of the diary continued to express the view that it was not written by a child, but had been created as pro-Jewish propaganda, with Otto Frank accused of fraud. In 1976, Otto Frank took action against Heinz Roth of Frankfurt, who published pamphlets stating that the diary was a forgery. The judge ruled that if he published further statements he would be subjected to a fine of 500,000 German marks and a six-month jail sentence. Roth appealed against the court\’s decision and died in 1978, a year before his appeal was rejected.
This book has been banned in several schools in the United States over the years. Mostly in regards to passages that were considered \”sexually offensive,\” as well as for the tragic nature of the book, which some felt might be \”depressing\” for young readers.
In 1982 it was challenged in Wise County, Virginia due to protests of several parents who complained of the book being sexually offensive. In 1983 four members of the Alabama State Textbook Committee called for the rejection of this title because it is quote, \”a real downer\”. The ALA has documentation regarding six challenges to \”The Diary of Anne Frank\” since it began monitoring formal written complaints to remove or restrict books in 1990. Most of the concerns were about sexually explicit material such as mentioning the vagina and the experience of the changes related to puberty.
In 1998 it was removed for two months from the Baker Middle School in Corpus Christi, Texas after two parents charged that the book was pornographic. The book was returned after students waged a letter-writing campaign to keep it, and the review committee recommended the book’s retention.
Most recently, in January of 2010 officials for Culpeper County Public Schools in Virginia stopped assigning Anne Frank\’s diary after a lone parent complained that the book includes sexually explicit material and homosexual themes.
The version of the diary in question includes passages previously excluded from the widely read original edition. Some of the extra passages detail her emerging sexual desires; others include unflattering descriptions of her mother and other people living together.
\”The Diary of a Young Girl: the Definitive Edition,\” which was published on the 50th anniversary of Frank\’s death in a concentration camp, \”will not be used in the future\”, said James Allen, director of instruction for the 7,600-student system. The school system did not follow its own policy for handling complaints about instructional materials, Allen said.
Culpeper\’s policy on \”public complaints about learning resources\” calls for complaints to be submitted in writing and for a review committee to research the materials and deliberate. In this case, the policy was not followed. Allen said the parent registered the complaint orally, no review committee was created and a decision was made that day by at least one school administrator. He said he is uncertain about the details because he was \”out of town\”.
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Sources: American Library Association, Amazon.com, Wikipedia, Washington Post
© 2011 R. Wolf Baldassarro/Deep Forest Productions