"Dirty jokes" found in Anne Frank's diary

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/05/16/dirty-jokes-found-in-anne.html


Clickbait title! Where are the jokes?! Gives us the jokes!

There’s more of the actual text here:

The two jokes quoted are these:

“A man had a very ugly wife and he didn’t want to have relations with her,” wrote Anne. “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!!!”

“Do you know why the German Wehrmacht girls are in Holland? As mattresses for the soldiers.”

Can’t find the other two.


Impossible! How could a pure and perfect icon think naughty thoughts? Forgery!


On the one hand, I understand the reasoning that this text is a valuable historical artifact worth studying in all detail. I remember reading the diary in high school and though it did seem a little transgressive to read someone else’s diary, I grasped the extraordinary circumstances. And I’ll never forget how haunting the end was.

On the other hand, the author presumably taped over those passages for a reason.


I guess it would have been too much to honor her obvious desire not to share these.


It reminds me of people who go publishing the works of famous authors which those authors deliberately chose not to submit for publication in their lifetime. I guess the extreme example of this would be Emily Dickinson. I’ll admit that I’m glad the world can read her amazing poetry, but I’m not entirely comfortable with turning deceased authors into public goods.

In this case we already had the diary that Anne Frank arguably deliberately left to be found. She didn’t leave these passages to be found.


Is it 100% certain that she did? IIRC, her father bowdlerised some other parts of the text.


Possible, but speculative. AFAIK, he only edited the dairy (possibly heavily) when he initially published it in Dutch. Taping over the passages in the original manuscript he bequeathed to the Netherlands Institute for War Documentation would be a different kind of thing. Either way, as her living heir, there’s an argument to be made for respecting her father’s wishes if he did in fact do so.

I wonder if a forensic scientist could date the taping over.


There are arguments on both sides about the dead’s right to privacy. Personally, I’m glad we have works such as Mark Twain’s Letters from the Earth, and I wish Sir Richard Francis Burton’s wife hadn’t burned all his papers after he died.

To me this new information just serves to humanize her more. While she was alive, she wasn’t anyone’s symbol or icon, she was a teenager with a teenager’s concerns and curiosity. In the society of 1940s Holland, Anne Frank might have been very embarrassed to have these pages read, but in the context of the 21st century they don’t have much power to shock, if they ever did.


I agree, but those arguments rarely seem to get much consideration. It’s usually just assumed an icon posthumously loses any respect for their wishes regarding their work, and I find that troubling. Again, I’m not arguing we shouldn’t publish some of those works, but maybe when the page was taped over, using advanced technology to read it is going a bit too far?

This was something that’s troubled me since I was young because I put myself in those authors’ shoes and thought it a little unethical to disrespect their wishes simply because they were dead. I also realized that in the unlikely event that I ever produced something notable that I didn’t want to become public, I better have the strength to destroy it before I die, but of course destroying something you cherish is a tall order even when you don’t want to share it with anyone.


The English poet William Worsdworth wrote an essay in defence of the memory of Robert Burns and said, among other things, that a poet’s private life is nobody’s business, what matters is the poetry (s)he submits for publication.

He even said, that while new discoveries about Roman emperors, including their private lives, would be important historical discoveries and should be cheered, this was not so with Horace - were we to recover, magically, Horace’s private diaries never intended for publication we should respect his private life and not publish it, because it had no interest to the public.

That’s sort of an extreme example.


I suspect he underestimates the value of history that is not all about kings.


I’d make a distinction between private writings and personal interactions with other people. But of course many notables who behave problematically don’t go to great lengths to conceal it, Richard Wagner’s antisemitism for instance.

That said, if all who are party to a private interaction affecting only them (as opposed to a conspiracy) don’t want to air it, that probably ought to be respected.


Does the age of the document matter? What if we used x-rays to recover some scurrilous poetry that someone wrote on a cuneiform tablet, then scratched off and covered with something else before it was fired?

As @timstellmach says, I think if I were making that argument, I’d put it the other way round. But I say publish and be damned in either case.


Perhaps. But I still think the two things you have to balance at any age after the author is deceased is the cultural value of the work against what’s known or can be inferred of the author’s desires. I’m not saying there’s a clear answer. It’s an ethical gray area.

Again though, my main issue is that the author’s wishes don’t usually seem to be even so much as considered.


Well, yeah, that’s why we have porn buddies.

You do have a porn buddy, don’t you? :wink:


Given that he was an Amsterdamer, I don’t think her papa would have needed to travel to Paris if he wanted to visit one of these big houses.

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The wife joke I recall was found in some form on cuneiform tablets. Can’t find the article now, but it is a very old joke indeed.


I’m appalled and offended at the implication that I would partake of such tawdry obscenity! :wink:

Honestly though, I do not because while I do consider porn and masturbation to be private matters much like showering or using the toilet, I’m unashamed of what is a normal healthy human sexual behavior and nothing I enjoy is anything for which I would apologize. Were I uncomfortable with the possibility of someone knowing a sexual predilection of mine, I would work to change that predilection.

That said, I recognize that’s my privilege as a SWM with what most would consider fairly boring tastes tending toward artsy erotica. For someone who lacks that privilege, for instance someone who isn’t straight, it might not be a matter of shame but rather of iniquitous social prejudice.


I was being facetious, of course, but in a way it does go along with my own thinking. If a person states clearly that their private or unpublished work should be destroyed, or sealed for 100 years, their heirs or executors should respect their wishes. If they don’t express any preference, then the work is part of their estate and the heirs can do what they want with it.