Anne Frank Out Of Hiding

MELISSA MULLER, AN AUSTRIAN journalist, had been working for two years on a biography of Anne Frank when one of her most important sources, Cor Suijk, invited her to his home in Aachen, Germany. "He said, "Please come visit me, I have something to show you'," says Muller. "I went there, and he had them on the table. I couldn't believe my eyes." She was looking at three sheets of paper covered on five sides with Anne's handwriting--diary pages nobody had ever seen except for Anne, her father, Otto Frank, and Suijk, to whom Otto entrusted the pages before his death in 1980. After discussing Anne frequently with Muller in the course of her research, Suijk had decided Muller's book was the right place to unveil them.

But when Muller's superb biography, Anne Frank (330 pages. Metropolitan. $23), is published this week, the new diary pages will be found only in paraphrase. A legal battle between Suijk and the Anne Frank Fonds, a foundation in Basel, Switzerland, that owns the copyright to the diary, prevented Muller from directly quoting them. (That didn't stop a Dutch newspaper from printing the entries last month and posting them on the Internet.) A documentary on the pages will air this week on A&E, and future editions of the diary will include the entries. Suijk and Muller are both disappointed not to have been able to introduce the new material in the context of Anne's life at the time. "This was my bad luck," says Muller.

Anne's diary, which she began in 1942 when she was 13, chronicles the two years her family and four friends spent in hiding from the Nazis in Amsterdam. In August 1944, the Gestapo discovered them, and all but Otto died in concentration camps. After the war, Otto published a short version of the diary, omitting much of Anne's writing about sex and many passages in which the teenager angrily criticized her mother. Even bowdlerized, the diary is a work of unparalleled emotional power. Recent editions have restored all Otto's deletions--except the newly revealed pages.

It's easy to see why the pages disturbed Otto. Anne's reflections suggest that her father never got over an early love affair and didn't love his wife, thus permanently embittering her. Muller's research shows that Anne's grasp of the situation was accurate. By the time she wrote this entry in February 1944, says Muller, she was finally beginning to feel less angry at her mother and more sympathetic.

These findings are fascinating, but it would be a shame if they overshadowed the other revelations in "Anne Frank." Muller's portrait of the Frank family in the 1930s, striving for normalcy as horror descends in increments, is almost unbearable to read. Her discussion of the years in hiding adds greatly to the diary's account, and Muller convincingly argues that the eight people in the annex were betrayed by Lena Hartog, a cleaning woman. Most important, her Anne is three-dimensional, full of vigor and purpose, and a genuine writer-in-the-making. This meticulous and gripping narrative honors in full a life we thought we knew.