We learn that the original diary of Anne Frank contained two mystery pages, the contents of which she had masked using brown paper and adhesive.
Applying new imaging techniques, researchers discovered that the pages which the teenage Miss Frank had concealed, presumably to avoid the embarrassment of anyone seeing what she had written, included several bawdy jokes, such as:
Do you know why the German Wehrmacht girls are in Holland? As mattresses for the soldiers.
A man had a very ugly wife and he didn’t want to have relations with her. 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!!!’
According to Frank van Vree, Director of the Netherlands Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, writing these jokes ‘makes it clear that Anne, with all her gifts, was above all an ordinary girl . . . anyone who reads the passages that have been discovered will be unable to suppress a smile’.
Perhaps: although in this hypersensitive age, when language and humour are under constant surveillance, I would not bet on it. It is easy to imagine lecturers in women’s and gender studies tutting their disappointment at Anne for repeating what they will grimly regard as sexist jokes of their time. Also, her recorded belief that once a girl menstruates she is ‘ripe to have relations with a man but one doesn’t do that of course before one is married’, betrays contented acceptance of what today’s arch-feminists view as the repression of the time.
Anne Frank would have had scant knowledge of the feminist intersectionality which underpins so many contemporary concerns. Rather than fret over the petty anxieties that are now tagged everyday sexism, she had to contend with matters which were rather more pressing, notably avoiding capture and trying to stay alive. Nevertheless, the gender historians will lament that by making women’s sexual proclivity and physical appearance the butt of her jokes, by her early teens Miss Frank was already displaying what is now denounced as internalised misogyny.
This latest research also revealed a hidden section in which Anne ponders prostitution, and includes the assertion: ‘All men, if they are normal, go with women.’ Unable to see into the future with its current spectrum of sexuality and ever-expanding menu of gender options, Miss Frank’s description of cis-gendered heterosexuality as ‘normal’ is now heresy; certainly, her opinions cannot posthumously be conscripted to the cause of LGBT rights.
Today, were similar humour and judgment to appear in a teenager’s online diary, a Twittermob would instantly hound the writer for casual racism, thoughtless sexism, misogynistic body-shaming and unenlightened homophobia. And before long, some keyboard warrior would be liable to brand her, without irony, a Nazi.
It was while facing the terror of the real thing in the early 1940s that Anne Frank wrote in a way which will dismay today’s language police. Over the past year, many statues have tumbled due to historical figures’ past words and actions nonsensically being held to contemporary standards. Despite these latest revelations, the monuments to Anne Frank will remain standing; though for doctrinaire feminists appalled by the social conventions of the past, her memory might now be slightly tarnished.