Many Americans have read the book or seen the movie version, and have been deeply moved by the real life drama it claims to present. But have we been misled in the belief that Anne Frank actually wrote this diary? And if so. should an author be permitted to produce a work of fiction and sell it to the world as fact, particularly one of such tremendous emotional appeal?
The Swedish journal Frio Ord published two articles commenting on The Diary of Anne Frank. A condensation of these articles appeared in the April 15, 1959 issue of Economic Council Letter, as follows:
“History has many examples of myths that live a longer and richer life than truth. and may become more effective than truth.
The Western world has for some years hem made aware of a young Jewish girl through the medium of what purports to he her personally written story, “Anne Frank’s Diary.” Any informed literary inspection of this book has shown it to have been impossible as the work of a teenager.
A noteworthy decision of the New York Supreme Court confirms this point of view, in that the well known American writer, Meyer Levin, has been awarded $50.000 to be paid him by the father of Anne Frank as an honorarium for Levin’s work on the “Anne Frank Diary.”
Mr. Frank, in Switzerland, had promised to pay to prominent Jewish author, Meyer Levin. not less than $50,000 because he had used the literary creation of author Levin in toto, and represented it to his publisher and the public as his late daughter’s original work.
Inquiry of the County Clerk. New York County. as to the facts of the case referred to in the Swedish press, brought a reply on April 23, 1962, giving the name of a New York firm of lawyers as “attorneys .far the respondent.” Reference was to ”The Dairy of Anne Frank 2203-58.”
A letter to this firm brought a response on May 4, 1962 that “Although we represent Mr. Levin in other matters, we had nothing to do with the Anne Frank case.”
On May 7, 1962, came the following reply from a member of a firm of New York lawyers to whom the original inquiry had been forwarded:
“I was the attorney for Meyer Levin in his action against Otto Frank and others. It is true that a jury awarded Mr. Levin $50,000 in damages, as indicated in your letter. That award was later set aside by the trial justice. Hon. Samuel C. Coleman. on the ground that the damages had not been proved in the manner required by law. The action was subsequently settled between the litigating parties, while an appeal from Judge Coleman’s decision was pending.
I am afraid that the case itself is not officially reported, so far as the trial itself, or even Judge Coleman’s decision, is concerned. Certain procedural matters were reported. both in 141 New York Supplement. Second Series 170. and in 5 Second Series 181. The correct file number in the New York County Clerk‘s office is 2241-1956 and the file is probably a large and full one which must include Judge Coleman’s decision. Unfortunately, our file is in storage and 1 cannot locate a copy of that decision as it appeared in the New York Law Journal early in the year 1960.”
The Diary Of Anne Frank was first published in 1952 and immediately became a bestseller. It has been republished in paperback, 40 printings. It is impossible to estimate how many people have been touched and aroused by the movie production.
Why has the trial involving the father of Anne Frank, bearing directly on the authenticity of this book, never been “officially reported”? In royalties alone, Otto Frank has profited richly from the sale of this book, purporting to depict the tragic life of his daughter. But is it fact, or is it fiction? Is it truth or is it propaganda? Or is it a combination of all of these? And to what degree does it wrongfully appeal to the emotions through a misrepresentation as to its origin?
School publications for years have recommended this book for young people, presenting it as the work of Anne Frank. Advertising in advance of the movie showing has played up the “factual” nature of the drama being presented. Do not writers of such editorials and promoters of such advertising, “fan the flames of hate” they rightly profess to deplore?
Many American Jews were shocked at the handling of the Eichmann case, the distortions contained in the book Exodus and its movie counterpart, but their protests have had little publicity outside of their own organ, Issues, by the American Council for Judaism. Others who have expressed the same convictions have been charged with anti-Semitism. Yet it is to be noted that both Otto Frank and his accuser Meyer Levin, were Jewish, so a similar charge would hardly be applicable in pursuing this subject to an honest conclusion..
File number 2241-1956 in the New York County Clerk’s office should be opened to the public view and its content thoroughly publicized. Misrepresentation, exaggeration, and falsification has too often colored the judgment of good citizens. If Mr. Frank used the work of Meyer Levin to present to the world what we have been led to believe is the literary work of his daughter, wholly or in part, then the truth should be exposed.
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