By Dene Bebbington
Anne Frank is undoubtedly an icon of the Holocaust; her diary has been published in many languages, and millions of people are familiar with her story. Perhaps it is because of this that some Holocaust deniers have sought to cast doubt on the diary's authenticity.
Robert Faurisson is a professor of literature in France, and a prominent figure in Holocaust denial circles. He claims that The Diary of Anne Frank is a literary fraud perpetrated by her father Otto Frank - see http://www.ihr.org/jhr/v03/v03p147_Faurisson.html. The analysis that leads him to this conclusion rests on the following areas of investigation: criticism of the diary's contents, study of the premises, interview with witnesses, a bibliographical examination, comparison of Dutch and German versions of the diary, and issues surrounding the "betrayer".
In describing the diary as a literary fraud Faurisson is arguing that it is a work of fiction created by Otto Frank, and therefore it is not a factual account written by Anne Frank of time spent in hiding. I will examine his claims based on the contents of the diary, using the Penguin Definitive Edition as a reference.
First, a few words about the diary. Anne wrote two versions, the second being an edited version of the first. For the Dutch edition that Faurisson refers to Otto Frank took material from both versions and edited it down due to space constraints and other matters - such as to remove some material dealing with Anne's sexuality.
Before examining the internal criticism of the diary it is worth saying a little about some of the other areas of his investigation, which time and knowledge does not permit me to tackle in detail - the piece I'm responding to runs to tens of pages. The man who arrested the Franks was called Silberbauer; Faurisson reports favourably on his testimony and views, and also uses information given by an anonymous source. This particular arrest was but one duty among many for Silberbauer, so we must weigh that against the memory of people who had more involvement with the premises.
Differences between the Dutch and German versions of the diary are going to tell us more about translation and editing rather than whether the diary is a fraud. Editing is common practice in publishing, and so one must be careful about drawing conclusions of authenticity from it, especially when translation is also involved.
In this essay I will demonstrate that in the internal criticism of the diary Faurisson relies principally on the following bogus methods to support the claim of fraud:
Quotes from Faurisson are commonly indicated by text enclosed in a single quote following his name in italics. All other paragraphs are my commentary unless quoting.
Arguments from personal incredulity
Faurisson: 'The first step in the investigation is to determine
if the text is consistent within itself. The Diary contains an extraordinary
number of inconsistencies.
Let us take the example of the noises. Those in hiding, we are told, must not make the least sound. This is so much so that, if they cough, they quickly take codeine. The "enemies" could hear them. The walls are that "thin" (25 March 1943). Those "enemies" are very numerous: Lewin, who "knows the whole building well" (1 October 1942), the men from the store, the customers, the deliverymen, the agent, the cleaning woman, the night watchman Slagter, the plumbers, the "health service," the accountant, the police who conduct their searches of the premises, the neighbors both near and far, the owner, etc. It is therefore unlikely and inconceivable that Mrs. Van Daan had the habit of using the vacuum cleaner each day at 12:30 pm (5 August 1943). The vacuum cleaners of that era were, moreover, particularly noisy. I ask: "How is that conceivable?" My question is not purely formal. It is not rhetorical. Its purpose is not to show astonishment. My question is a question. It is necessary to respond to it.'
The context of the 5th of August 1943 entry answers this question:
It's twelve-thirty. The whole gang breathes a sigh
of relief: Mr van Maaren, the man with the shady past, and Mr de Kok have
gone home for lunch.
Upstairs you can hear the thud of the vacuum cleaner on Mrs van D.'s beautiful and only rug "
The vacuum cleaner is used after the people who work in their building -- who are not aware of their presence -- have gone home for lunch. Also, there is no mention that Mrs Van Daan had "the habit of using the vacuum cleaner each day at 12:30 pm" [my emphasis].
Faurisson: 'That question could be followed with forty other questions concerning noises. It is necessary to explain, for example, the use of an alarm clock (4 August 1943). It is necessary to explain the noisy carpentry work: the removal of a wooden step, the transformation of a door into a swinging cupboard (21 August 1942), the making of a wooden candlestick (7 December 1942). Peter splits wood in the attic in front of the open window (23 February 1944). It involved building with the wood from the attic "a few little cupboards and other odds and ends" (11 July 1942). It even involved constructing in the attic "a little compartment" for working (13 July 1943).'
In the entry for 4th of August 1943 Anne remarks that the alarm clock goes off at any hour of the day or night whether one wants it to or not. As the people in hiding needed to be quiet at certain times this does seem curious, but maybe it was an exaggeration (for humorous effect?).
Of course there was noise in transforming a door into a bookcase. However, the building was a business premise and so there would be noises from activity of the occupants. Mr Van Daan did make a candlestick -- a menorah -- according to the 7th of December 1942 entry. We do not know how much noise might have arisen from making this (and the other things mentioned above), but as the people in hiding did not have to be quiet 24 hours a day then this is not necessarily problematic.
Faurisson: 'There is a nearly constant noise from the radio, from the slammed doors, from the "resounding peal" (6 December 1943), the arguments, the shouts, the yelling, a "noise that was enough to awaken the dead." (9 November 1942). "A great din and disturbance followed I was doubled up with laughter" (10 May 1944). The episode reported on 2 September 1942 is irreconcilable with the necessity of being silent and cautious.'
The edition I have does not mention a "resounding peal" in the 6th of December 1943 entry. Again the issue of noise isn't necessarily a problem when one remembers that the people in hiding did not need to be quiet every hour of the day.
At this point it is worth considering something important about the issue of noise. When one lives in an environment where noise must be kept to a minimum it is quite possible that sounds may be interpreted as being louder than actually they are to others in the building. This may be reflected in Anne's descriptions.
Faurisson: 'The remarks that I am making here in regard to noises I could repeat in regard to all of the realities of physical and mental life. The Diary even presents the peculiarity that not one aspect of the life that is lived there avoids being either unlikely, incoherent, or absurd. At the time of their arrival in their hiding place, the Franks install some curtains to hide their presence. But, to install curtains at windows which did not have them up until then, is that not the best means of drawing attention to one's arrival? Is that not particularly the case if those curtains are made of pieces of "all different shapes, quality and pattern" (11 July 1942)?'
This could have been for blackout due to allied bombing. Anyway, putting curtains up to hide their presence is merely commonsense. It was an occupied building and so some changes might happen over a period of time. Faurisson seems to assume that people getting on with their everyday lives are likely to take much notice of such things, and even if they did to read into it that people must be hiding there. If someone did become suspicious about how the premises were being used, that doesn't mean they would automatically inform the authorities.
Faurisson: 'In order not to betray their presence, the Franks
burn their refuse. But in doing this they call attention to their presence
by the smoke that escapes from the roof of a building that is
supposed to be uninhabited! They make a fire for the first time on 30 October 1942, although they arrived in that place on 6 July. One asks oneself what they could have done with their refuse for the 116
days of the summer. I recall, on the other hand, that the deliveries of food are enormous. In normal
conditions, the persons in hiding and their guests each day consume eight breakfasts, eight to twelve
lunches and eight dinners. In nine passages of the book they allude to bad or mediocre or insufficient
food. Otherwise the food is abundant and "delicious." Mr.Van Daan "takes a lot of everything" and Dussel takes "enormous helpings" of food (9 August 1943).'
If Anne didn't mention how refuse was disposed of prior to the end of October then one would assume that some arrangement was made to get rid of it. Even though provisions for several people are necessary, there may not have been large amounts of refuse in comparison to the modern day where food often has a lot of packaging.
Faurisson's use of the word "allude" in regard to the food situation is curious and understates the situation, take this example from the diary:
"Contrary to my usual practice, I'm going to write you a detailed description of the food situation, since it's become a matter of some difficulty and importance, not only here in the Annexe, but in all of Holland, all of Europe and even beyond." (3 April 1944)
Anne then goes on to describe the current and previous food situations. This is hardly an allusion, it's a straightforward and detailed reference to food.
Faurisson: 'On the spot they make wet and dry sausages, strawberry jam, and preserves in jars. Brandy or alcohol, cognac, wines, and cigarettes do not seem to be lacking either. Coffee is so common that one does not understand why the author, enumerating (23 July 1943) what each would wish to do on the day when they would be able to leave that hiding place, says that Mrs. Frank's fondest wish would be to have a cup of coffee.'
A cup of "real coffee" is what she'd like, and that's because they'd had to make do with ersatz coffee.
Faurisson: 'On the other hand, on 3 February 1944 -- during the terrible winter of '43/'44 -- here is the inventory of the supplies available for those in hiding alone, to the exclusion of any cohabiting friend or "enemy:" 60 pounds of corn, nearly 60 pounds of beans and 10 pounds of peas, 50 cans of vegetables, 10 cans of fish, 40 cans of milk, 10 kilos of powdered milk, 3 bottles of salad oil, 4 preserving jars of butter, 4 jars of meat, 2 bottles of strawberries, 2 bottles of raspberries, 20 bottles of tomatoes, 10 pounds of rolled oats, and 8 pounds of rice.'
Actually, the supplies listed are not just for those hiding:
"Our supplies are holding out fairly well. All the same, we have to feed the office staff, which means dipping into our reserves every week, so it's not as much as it seems."
Indeed the winter of 43/44 may have been terrible thus and affected supplies of food, but that doesn't mean the stocks listed weren't hoarded in advance.
Faurisson: 'When one has a whole year to choose a hiding place (see 5 July 1942), does one choose his office? Does one bring his family there? And a colleague? And the colleague's family? Do you choose a place full of "enemies" where the police and the Germans would come automatically to search for you if they do not find you at your home?'
Implicit in these questions is the notion that people should be infallible and make perfect decisions. Otto Frank was faced with the stressful decision of how best to protect his family from the lethal clutches of the Nazis. What Faurisson fails to mention is that a false trail was left to suggest the Frank's had gone to Switzerland. Maybe Otto Frank was unable to think of or find another suitable hiding place, and besides, steps were taken to try and prevent their actual hiding place from being discovered. Unfortunately a chosen hiding place can be discovered, but that doesn't mean it wasn't used.
Faurisson: 'Those Germans, it is true, are not very inquisitive. On 5 July 1942 (a Sunday) father Frank (unless it is Margot?!) received a summons from the SS (see the letter of 8 July 1942). That summons would not have any follow-up. Margot, sought by the SS, makes her way to the hiding place by bicycle, and on 6 June, when, according to the first of two letters dated 20 June, the Jews had had their bicycles confiscated for some time.'
The summons -- for Margot -- was received on the 5th of July and so the Franks left the following morning. It is not clear that there wasn't a follow-up to the summons. Margot using a bicycle leads one to the obvious conclusion that the Frank's did not give it up for confiscation - there is nothing new about people defying authority. In a later diary entry it is remarked that the Germans are searching for hidden bicycles, which leads one to conclude the Germans were better acquainted with human nature than Faurisson.
Faurisson: 'One ought not to attribute to the imagination of the
author or to the richness of her personality some things that are, in
reality, inconceivable. The inconceivable is "that of which the mind
cannot form any likeness because the terms which designate it involve an impossibility or a contradiction": for example, a squared circle. The one who says that he has seen one squared circle, ten squared circles, one hundred squared circles does not give evidence either of a fertile imagination or of a rich personality. For, in fact, what he says means exactly nothing. He proves his poverty of imagination. That is all. The absurdities of the Diary are those of a poor imagination that develops outside of a lived experience. They are worthy of a poor novel or of a poor lie. Every personality, however poor it may be, contains what it is proper to call psychological, mental, or moral contradictions. I will refrain from demonstrating here that Anne's personality contains nothing like that.'
This is a verbose cop out, and I suggest it is actually Faurisson who has demonstrated a "poverty of imagination" with his simplistic view of human nature. No substantiation is given for the claim that Anne's personality shown in the diary is fabricated; this is a subjective opinion, and not one that everyone shares. From his own admission he has not substantiated his assertion; one is entitled to suspect it's because he can't.
Faurisson: 'Her personality is invented and is as hard to believe as the experience that the Diary is supposed to relate. From a historical point of view, I would not be surprised if a study of the Dutch newspapers, the English radio and Dutch radio from June 1942 to August 1944 would prove fraud on the part of the real author of the diary. On 9 October 1942, Anne speaks already of Jews "being gassed" (Dutch text: "Vergassing")!'
Whether or not Faurisson would be surprised is irrelevant, and he offers no support for his speculation that studying newspapers and radio broadcasts would prove fraud on the part of the diary. It could be that the gassings in question were reports of portable gas chambers used in Eastern Europe by the Einsatzgruppen.
Faurisson: 'I have no competence in the matter of handwriting analysis and therefore I cannot express an opinion on that matter. I can only give here my impressions. My impressions were that the "Scotch notebook" contained some photos, pictures and drawings as well as a variety of very juvenile writing styles, the confusion and fantasy of which appeared authentic. It would be necessary to look closely at the handwriting of the texts which were used by Mr. Frank in order to form the basis of the Diary.'
Yet later on he contradicts this reasonable appeal to the original manuscript:
"The Diary cannot be in any way authentic. Consultation with allegedly authentic manuscripts is unnecessary. As a matter of fact, no manuscript in the world could certify that Anne Frank succeeded in the miraculous feat of writing two words at the same time and -- what is more -- two words with incompatible meanings, and -- even more -- two complete texts at the same time, which are most of the time totally contradictory."
If it could be shown that the published versions of the diary are not a rendering of the original manuscript then this criticism might have some force. However, Anne's manuscripts have been examined and declared authentic by the Netherlands Institute for War Documentation - their analysis is published in the Critical Edition of the diary. At least Faurisson admits his limitations in researching the diary, but doesn't let them stand in the way of his bold conclusion.
Faurisson: 'The other notebooks and the whole of the 338 loose leaf sheets are in what I would call an adult handwriting. As regards the manuscript of the Stories, it very much surprised me. One would say that it was the work of an experienced accountant and not the work of a 14-year-old child. The table of contents is presented as a list of the Stories with the date of composition, the title and the page number for each piece!'
Not everyone would share this view of the inability of a 14 year old to produce a simple table of contents. Let's not forget that Anne had an older sister and several adults to seek help from if she required it. It is merely silly to suggest that an experienced accountant is needed to produce a table of contents for a collection of stories.
Faurisson: 'Internal criticism bearing on the coherence of a text allows us to detect some anomalies which are revealed to be true anomalies; A reader of the Diary, having come to that episode of 8 July 1944, would be right to declare absurd a book in which the hero ("the nice greengrocer on the corner") leaps back out of the depths of the abyss as one would rise up from the dead. '
This comment would only make sense if there was only one greengrocer in Amsterdam. There are also other sources of food as that diary entry makes apparent:
"Mr Broks was in Beverwijk and managed to get hold of strawberries at the produce auction."
Besides, that diary entry doesn't refer specifically to "the nice greengrocer on the corner".
Faurisson: 'The answer to these questions could be the following: the Franks and, perhaps, some other Jews did actually live in the annex of 263 Prinsengracht. But they lived there quite differently than the Diary relates. For example, they lived a life there that was no doubt cautious, but not like in a prison. They were able to live there as did so many other Jews who hid themselves either in the city, or in the countryside. They "hid themselves without hiding."'
Notice that he doesn't explain what is meant by "hid themselves without hiding." In those times one would have been foolish if a Jew not to hide. Indeed, many did hide but nevertheless the Dutch Jewish population suffered more deaths thanks to the Nazis than in any other country - over 70% of Dutch Jews were killed.
Of course, it is typical Faurisson to make bold claims which he then fails to substantiate.
I have only commented on some of Faurisson's internal criticism of the diary. This should not be taken to mean that the parts I excluded are unanswerable, there is simply too much material to respond to every point. It is clear that the absurdities are not in the diary, rather the issue of absurdity should be laid squarely at Faurisson's door. His criticism of the diary is without merit and merely serves to undermine his credibility about his other investigations.
The published versions of Anne's diary are not completely true to the original manuscripts. Issues of translation and editing are to blame, not an attempt to produce a fraudulent diary that does not reflect what happened to the Franks and others.
Another telling quote from Faurisson which he reports uncritically:
"In the opinion of Silberbauer, nothing would have happened to the Franks if they had not kept themselves hidden."
Why then did over 70% of Dutch Jews die because of the Nazis?
Many years after his original treatment of the Anne Frank diary Faurisson wrote another piece - see http://www.ihr.org/jhr/v19/v19n6p-2_Faurisson.html. In this article he covers several subjects, and responds to some parts of the Critical Edition. Curiously, he bemoans the lack of handwriting analysis in this edition on some samples of Anne's and Isa Cauvern's -- Otto Frank's secretary, whose involvement he had "voiced suspicions" about -- writing, contradicting his previously held view that "Consultation with allegedly authentic manuscripts is unnecessary." He also brings up the issue of different writing styles that Anne used, some appearing adult in comparison to previous styles. That is obviously explained as a teenager experimenting with writing style, I recall doing it myself at school.
Not content with his original investigation into the diary Faurisson now throws whatever he can dredge up into the argument. Seemingly to besmirch Otto Frank even further he refers -- using the phrase "A Financial Swindler?" -- to a court case against a bank that Otto Frank and others set up in 1923. The court records are missing but its known that "the principal" (to use Faurisson's words) fled the country.
Despite Faurisson's efforts to find anything -- no matter how irrelevant -- to cast doubt on the diary the simple fact remains that the original manuscripts which Anne wrote have been authenticated. Even though the published versions have their faults, Faurisson has failed to present a coherent case that they are fraudulent and that the Franks and others did not spend time in hiding as described in the diary. What we learn most from this affair is the lengths that some Holocaust deniers will go to in order to further their cause, no matter how weak, desperate, and preposterous their arguments become.