Diary of Anne Frank not written by American novelist after WW2

7 March 2024
What was claimed

“Significant” portions of Anne Frank’s diary were found to be written in fine ballpoint pen, and none of it matched her handwriting.

Our verdict

This isn’t right. A comprehensive scientific study in the 1980s in the Netherlands found that the diary was written in fountain pen ink and pencil by Anne Frank. Ballpoint notes were added by a graphologist in an examination of the diary after the Second World War.

What was claimed

The true author of Anne Frank’s diary was an American man called Meyer Levin who wrote it after World War Two.

Our verdict

This claim has no basis in fact. The novelist Meyer Levin wrote a stage adaptation of the diary after reading it in 1950.

What was claimed

The true author of Anne Frank’s diary, Meyer Levin, sued Anne’s father, Otto Frank, and was awarded $50,000.

Our verdict

Meyer Levin did sue Otto Frank, but as a result of his backing an alternative play based on the diary which went to Broadway, rather than Mr Levin’s own, claiming it had plagiarised his version. In this case Mr Levin was awarded $50,000.

A post being shared on Facebook falsely claims that the “true author” of Anne Frank’s diary was a man, and “significant” portions of it were written with ballpoint pen—proving it was written after the Second World War. However, none of these claims are true.

‘Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl’ is a compilation of diaries written by Anne Frank, a German-born Jewish girl who hid from Nazi occupation in the Netherlands, during World War Two. 

She and her family spent two years hiding in a secret apartment behind her father’s former office in Amsterdam. After their discovery by the authorities in 1944, the family was arrested. Then aged 15, Anne died of typhus in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945.

The graphic circulating online claims that in 1980 a lawsuit prompted the “German State Forensic bureau” (BKA) to “forensically” examine the manuscript.

It says that “the analysis determined that ‘significant’ portions of the work was written with a fine ballpoint pen. Fine ballpoint pens were not available before 1951; portions of the work was added well after the war (Anne died in March 1945) [sic]” it says.

“The BKA also determined that NONE of the ‘diary’ handwriting matched known examples of Anne’s handwriting. Earlier handwriting experts had already determined ALL of the writing in the ‘diary’ was the same hand. Hence, the ‘diary’ was a postwar construct.

“The true author of the diary was a man, Meyer Levin. He demanded payment for his work in a court action against Anne’s father, Otto Frank. Meyer Levin was awarded $50,000 and the matter was resolved quietly.”

However, the claims in this post—that Anne Frank was not the author of the diary, it was written by Meyer Levin after the war, and large portions were written in fine ballpoint pen—are not true.

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Was the diary written using a ballpoint pen?

The NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies  carried out a detailed review of the original manuscript using scientific methods to determine its authenticity in the 1980s.

Experts analysed Miss Frank’s handwriting, using specimens of her writing and those of her classmates which supported their conclusion that she was author of the book.

The paper, ink and glue in the diary and some of the accompanying loose sheets also all existed in the early 1940s.

Using infrared spectrometry, it was found that the glue and fibres in the binding of the diaries were in common use when it was written, and were not a different kind of glue often used after 1950. X-ray fluorescence found the paper to have been manufactured between 1939 and 1942.

Anne Frank mostly wrote her diary using grey-blue ink for fountain pens, with some parts, such as notes, written in pencil.

The Anne Frank House (a not for profit organisation that runs a museum in the house where she went into hiding) says that in 1959, the diary had also been examined for its authenticity and during that process, a graphologist, or handwriting analyst, left a “few notes” among the original pages of the diary. 

These were what was discovered by the German Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) in 1980, which gave the impression in its report that “ballpoint corrections were made” in the diary itself. 

The fact that the ballpoint pen was not widely in use until the 1950s, implied that parts of the diary were written after the war—the argument made in the lawsuit referenced in the social media post. 

However, the conclusion of the NIOD was that: “The report of the Netherlands Forensic Institute has convincingly demonstrated that both versions of the diary of Anne Frank were written by her in the years 1942 to 1944. The allegations that the diary was the work of someone else (after the war or otherwise) are thus conclusively refuted.”

Who was Meyer Levin?

Meyer Levin was an American novelist and war correspondent. He read a French translation of Anne Frank’s diary in 1950, and, inspired by her work, contacted Otto Frank, Anne’s father who had survived the Holocaust. 

Mr Frank had compiled Anne’s diaries into one volume (leaving some sections out relating to Anne’s writing on sexuality, her Jewish faith, and criticism of her mother) which was first published in 1947. After his death a definitive edition, with these omitted parts restored, was published in 1991.

In his letters to Mr Frank, Mr Levin discussed dramatising the diary himself for stage or screen productions in the United States. He entered into an informal agreement with Mr Frank, who entered into a formal contract in America with the publisher Doubleday.

The social media post claims that Mr Levin was the “true author” of the diary, and he sued Mr Frank to get payment for his work. But this is not the case.

Mr Levin wrote a draft script for a theatrical version of the diary, but the publishing company and producers opted for a different version which Mr Levin argued downplayed how Judaism and the persecution of Jews by the Nazis was depicted in the diary.

This decision led Mr Levin to sue Mr Frank, charging “fraud, breach of contract, and wrongful appropriation of ideas”. Mr Levin was awarded $50,000 dollars as a result of this lawsuit, specifically on the terms of plagiarism.

The other play (not written by Mr Levin) premiered on Broadway in 1955, while his version was adapted into a 35-minute radio play, and was performed in Hebrew in Israel in 1966. 

Posts such as these can mislead people about historical events and figures. Full Fact has previously fact checked false claims around the Second World War and the Holocaust, including that a photo of American WW2 prisoners was of British soldiers, and a false post that Red Cross documents undermined the official Holocaust death toll.

Image courtesy of Heather Cowper

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