This is the question that centers around my novel, Stolen Secrets. I was obsessed with this very question. It was so interesting to write and explore that possibility, and it really made me consider the value of a single person’s life on a universal scale.
I share many of the thoughts of my 16-year-old protagonist, Livvy. If Anne Frank had survived, I don’t believe that her diary would have been published, at least not on such a grand scale. People are simply not as fascinated by survivors as they are by victims.
Take car accidents. Drivers will slow down to catch a glimpse of the severity of the situation. If the driver of the accident is standing around, talking to a police officer, and the car has a small dent in the left rear bumper, we pick up speed and drive on. If it’s a messy scene, replete with ambulances and firetrucks, and helpers dashing about, it can cause a backup for hours. This is human nature, as uappealing as it may be.
You can apply this fascination with the morbid to anything, including intrigue with a teenager’s diary. If Anne Frank had survived, it’s my opinion that people would not care so much what she thought. Her words would go from philosophical and touching to the angsty musings of a teen girl. Sure, on some level, people might have read it to learn more about her experience in hiding, but that’s about it. More than likely, Anne would have published it herself and her family and friends would have read the limited copies printed.
Let’s look beyond the diary for a moment. If Anne had survived, she might have become an author. Maybe. That’s not a given. She might have become an accountant. Let’s all remember that she was stuck inside a tiny space, day in and day out, with the boredom that allows one to write and think and analyze their world. Would this prolific, philosophical nature have extended into her post-war life? Who knows. But we can say that there is a possibility she would have contributed to literature in some way. Just as we can say, she might never have written another word.
If Anne had lived, we probably would never have heard the stories of those around her who served to memorialize her. Think of the interviews given by people who knew her. Her father, Otto, the people who helped the Franks and the other residents hide, and Anne’s friends from school. They told their stories, too, adding to the depth of our understanding of this tragic event.
And what about the countless artworks, plays, operas, ballets, films—all inspired by the thoughts of this young teen? If Anne had lived, would these even exist?
I am sure that Otto Frank’s life would have been infinitely happier had his daughter survived. But then he devoted much time to the promotion of her diary, so that mission might have vanished. I am betting he found some happiness in the success of keeping history alive in this poignant way.
All in all, the loss of Anne Frank’s diary is what I think would be the most dramatic downside. Anne Frank would have her life back, which is worth so much more on a personal level, but on a global scale, we would have lost the best connection we have to connect future generations to a history that must never be forgotten. Every time that diary is read, we avoid what writer George Santayana meant when he said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
I wrote my own novel in part to revive interest in Anne Frank and her diary. I know of at least a few readers who picked it up after reading my book. For that, I am proud. But I am just one person. We all need to make sure that our children, our students, our future humanity, reads this diary.
Anne Frank’s loss of life turned her into lasting symbol of the Holocaust. Now it’s up to the world to insist that the tragic sacrifice have value.
(View this answer on Quora)