During the two years that she spent in hiding, Anne Frank regularly re-read and made changes to her now-famous diary. At one point, she pasted brown paper over two pages of text, rendering them unreadable to scholars who would later cherish Frank’s writing as an invaluable document by a young Holocaust victim. But with the help of imaging software, researchers were recently able to decode the hidden pages, as Nina Siegal reports for the New York Times.
The Anne Frank House in Amsterdam announced this week that the pages contain “five crossed-out phrases, four ‘dirty’ jokes and 33 lines about sex education and prostitution.” Frank wrote the pages on September 28, 1942, about two months after she and her family went into hiding in the secret annex behind her father’s business, in the hopes of escaping Nazi persecution. Frank was 13 years old at the time.
“I’ll use this spoiled page to write down ‘dirty’ jokes,” Frank wrote, according to the museum.
“A man had a very ugly wife and he didn’t want to have relations with her,” one of the jokes goes, reports Mike Corder of the Associated Press. “One evening he came home and then he saw his friend in bed with his wife, then the man said: ‘He gets to and I have to!!!’”
In another joke, Frank quipped, “Do you know why the German Wehrmacht girls are in Holland? As mattresses for the soldiers.” (“Wehrmacht” was the name for the German military forces.)
She then moves on to the subject of sex education, addressing her words to a hypothetical second person. “I sometimes imagine that someone might come to me and ask me to inform him about sexual matters,” Frank wrote, according to the Times’ Siegal. “How would I go about it?”
Frank covered menstrual cycles, too. She wrote that when a young woman got her period it would be “a sign that she is ripe to have relations with a man" but added "one doesn’t do that of course before one is married," Corder of the AP reports.
On the subject of prostitution, Frank opined that “[a]ll 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,” she adds, according to Corder. “Papa has been there.”
To decipher the teenager's words, researchers took a photograph of the concealed pages during an inspection of the diary in 2016. Image-processing software was then used to reveal the words that had been hidden for more than 70 years.
The content of the newly revealed pages is not particularly unique; Frank wrote often and candidly about sexual matters in other parts of her diary. But Peter de Bruijn, a senior researcher at the Huygens Institute for the History of the Netherlands and a partner in the new research, tells Siegal of the Times that the deciphered texts show how Frank was starting to develop her literary voice.
“She starts with an imaginary person whom she is telling about sex, so she creates a kind of literary environment to write about a subject she’s maybe not comfortable with,” he explains.
As to why Frank covered up the pages, researchers think she may have been self-editing. The teenager heard on the radio that the Dutch government in exile was publishing firsthand accounts of life under German occupation, and she hoped to one day submit a book based on her diaries. But it is also possible that she simply did not want her father, or any other inhabitant of the annex, to catch a glimpse of her more explicit musings.
“Anyone who reads the passages that have now been discovered will be unable to suppress a smile,” Frank van Vree, director of the Netherlands Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, said in a statement. “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.”