Two Diaries of Two Young Girls: Anne Frank and Barbara Ann Hess, 1942-1943

Everyone knows the story of Anne Frank, (1929-1945) the young Jewish girl who kept a diary while hiding from the Nazis in Amsterdam from her thirteenth birthday (June 12, 1942) until August 4, 1944, shortly after her 15th birthday, when she and her family were betrayed, discovered, and sent to concentration camps. Anne Frank died of a typhus epidemic that spread through Bergen-Belsen.  The camp was liberated April 12, 1945. If she had lived until her 16th birthday, she might still be living today. The Anne Frank Museum, created at the Frank family’s war-time hiding  location in Amsterdam, has an award-winning website in which you can visit the annex where Anne lived and learn much more about her life and times.

My own mother, Barbara Ann Hess Hershey Becker, was born February 27, 1927, on a farm near Lancaster, PA. She iliving today! She too kept a diary during WWII. Though she was two years older than Anne Frank, her teenage diary overlaps with Anne’s because it was begun when Mother was “14 years, 3 months, 13 days” old. It ends on her sixteenth birthday, the birthday Anne never reached.

As I read the two journals, Anne’s and Barbara Ann’s, together, several amazing coincidences jump out at me. First, both diarists begin their journals on the same day–June 12–just one year apart. Anne starts her diary in 1942 Barbara Ann in 1941.

Between June 12, 1942 (when Anne begins) and Feb. 27, 1943 (when Barbara Ann’s diary ends) there are 47 entries in Anne’s diary. Some of these entries are written on the same day!

But two significant differences stand out (in addition to the slight difference in age). One is obvious–Anne is a Jew living during the Holocaust. Mother is living safely in the arms of her Mennonite family in America, but she nevertheless experiences fear about the war.

Another is less obvious. Anne hopes to reach the rest of the world with her journal. Barbara Ann warns any potential readers that her diary is her “personal property and private journal” (see warning on the cover below).

Anne Frank, sometime in 1944, hears an underground broadcast from London saying that letters and diaries will be collected and possibly published after the war. She goes back, amends her private journal and begins new entries with the intent of contributing them to the cause described on the radio. She therefore finds in her diary more than ordinary teenage solace for angst; she is also trying on the vocation of writer. Writing keeps her spirit alive.

Today it’s time for my weekly call to my mother. Her voice will seem even more precious to me after studying these two journals.

If she gives me permission to quote from her “personal property and private journal,” would you like to read some excerpts here? Would you like to see them side-by-side with Anne’s?

About Shirley Hershey Showalter

Author of memoir Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World. Blogging about Magical Memoir Moments and Jubilación -- vocation in the second half of life.
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15 Responses to Two Diaries of Two Young Girls: Anne Frank and Barbara Ann Hess, 1942-1943

  1. Shirley says:


    If Barbara Ann caught the love in your essay “My Mother’s Pulpit,” surely she’ll allow you free rein with her diary.

    I have your blog bookmarked and frequently turn to it. People who blog AND toil away on their book AND live fruitfully in the real world quite boggle me.

    • shirleyhs says:

      Well, in that case you must boggle yourself, Shirley Kurtz! Great to have your comment here.Yes, I’m hopeful about gaining permission. My dear mother is quite tolerant of my making her a character in my strories. She made me a character in hers a long time ago.

      BTW, were you named after Shirley Temple also?

      • Shirley says:

        Horrors no. Or anyhow, not that I know of! Emulate the entertainment world? Your parents, I think, took a merrier view. Mine laughed reading Growing Up Plain, but maybe cried, too. Harking back to the misery and contention saddened them.

  2. Linda says:

    Yes! It would be fasinating given that their worlds seemed so different, but were their worries/joys similar?

  3. doradueck says:

    A yes from me too; this kind of juxtaposition would be fascinating to read.

  4. Shirley, that would be so neat. And this reminds me I have been meaning to read Anne’s diary in it entirety. Still on the list, alas.

  5. I love seeing the cover of Grandma’s (Barbara Anne’s) diary. Her handwriting is still exactly the same!

    • shirleyhs says:

      Isn’t it amazing? Love seeing your comment here. One reason to write a memoir, of course, is to expose the hidden sides of self and to notice the threads that have woven themselves without notice into the generations. Perhaps these findings will eventually be of use to the next generation–to those I love most. The rest is a bonus.

  6. shirleyhs says:

    Yes, Richard. Keep this book on your list. And check out the website where you can read about the controversies surrounding the various versions (A, B, and C). It will remind you of biblical scholarship!

    The diary is a treasure. It, along with Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning should be required reading for all students. As I hold a baby in my arms, wondering what kind of world he will live in, the gift I would like to give him is resilience. Love, of course. That’s a given. But no amount of grandparent or even parental love can guarantee security. Only a hothouse does that.

    Stories of how people find love, humor, zest for life, and use their imaginations in the worst of circumstances–these are the gifts children need. Adults, too.

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