Publication Date: October 30, 2020
The Diary of Anne Frank is a seminal piece of twentieth-century literature. It recounts the tragic and moving story of a young Jewish teenager faced with the horrors of Nazism. In it, Anne establishes a bond with her readers that transcends both time and space, making them her friends and confidants. Readers feel a connection with each dream she had, each fear she endured, and each struggle she confronted. Her diary ended, but her story did not. The Lost Diary of Anne Frank picks up where her original journal left off, taking the reader on a credible journey through the tragic final months of her life, faithfully adhering to her own, very personal, diary format in the process.
In The Lost Diary of Anne Frank, Anne receives mysterious help from many quarters. A strange lady on the other side of the fence haunts her dreams. Her mom once vilified, becomes a hero. Anne struggles with the existence of God and His presence or absence in all of her ordeals. She contrasts the depravity of man with what she sees as mankind’s evident virtues. Her longing to experience sensual pleasures is numbed by forced over-exposure. She finds that in the Nazi efforts to extinguish the humanity of their victims, a chorus of unity evolves among the captives. Anne’s vaulted dreams for fame and notice are ultimately traded in for the true longings of life, love, and peace. The Lost Diary of Anne Frank follows her story to the chilling end.
I’m going to do something I rarely do. I’m going to give a negative review. It’s harsh, and I admit it. Please bear with me while I explain my position.
I read a great deal of WWII books and many of them about the Holocaust. I do this to remind myself that our freedoms should never be taken for granted and what can happen when good people do nothing. We must actively fight fascism and all forms of racism, inequality, and authoritarianism.
I picked up The Lost Diary of Anne Frank by Johnny Teague out of curiosity. I wondered how Anne Frank would be portrayed. But honestly, I was leery as I feel Anne’s diary doesn’t need to be embellished, nor augmented—especially by a non-family member and most especially not into a fictionalized account.
My thoughts run contrary to that of the author regarding the need for this book. In the introduction, Teague states that he feels The Diary of Anne Frank ended too abruptly (because the small group living in the attic were discovered by the Gestapo and subsequently sent to Auschwitz) and compared it to recording a movie and having it end at the climax. He felt Anne’s diary should have continued until her death and made his argument for that position.
I beg to differ. I think the abruptness of the diary’s ending and its starkness speaks volumes. We know Anne, her sister, and her mother were victims of Hitler and his Nazi killing machine. We know Anne wanted to be a journalist. We know she didn’t live to fulfill that dream. We also know her father lived to see her diary printed. Through The Diary of Anne Frank, Anne fulfilled her dream posthumously, and her name and her story are known throughout the world. Many people who knew Anne while she was in Auschwitz or Bergen-Belsen have come forward with anecdotes of her, and they are readily available if people wish to learn more of Anne’s time in the death camps. A fictional book like this isn’t necessary, and it pre-supposes far too much.
When I started reading The Lost Diaries of Anne Frank, I knew nothing about the author. I had zero preconceived notions of the author’s background, education, etc. However, as I continued to read, I realized Teague’s background was indeed an issue.
What made me pause reading and find out more about the man behind the book was when Teague had Anne reciting The Lord’s Prayer. You read that right. Teague had a 15-year-old girl imprisoned at Auschwitz for no other reason than she was born a Jew—surrounded by death every single day—invocating The Lord’s Prayer because it “brought her comfort.” Not a Hebrew prayer her mother or father may have said while Anne was growing up, but a Christian prayer she had never heard before. To say I was livid doesn’t even begin to touch on how I felt reading those passages (I’m Christian, by the way). The arrogance. The audacity. What sort of man does something so utterly disrespectful to not only Anne Frank but to the six million Jews lost in the Holocaust?
If I thought Teague’s insertion of The Lord’s Prayer would be his only attempt at injecting Christianity or religiosity into his book, I was sorely mistaken. It was continuous throughout the whole book. So much so, he should classify this book under “Christian” or “Spiritual.”
Teague’s constant proselytizing wasn’t my only issue with this book; he clearly has no idea how teenage girls think or feel. His writing was inauthentic at best and ludicrous to the absurd at worst. He seemed to forget Anne, his character, was supposed to be a 15-year-old immature girl, not a middle-aged man with a wealth of experience, knowledge, and education. Also, by “writing” in Anne’s head, Teague is contriving far too much and assuming thoughts that may or may not have ever occurred to Anne and passing them off as fact.
Which leads me back to my research on Dr. Teague. The author proudly claims to have five degrees and is a middle-aged, evangelical Christian pastor. As stated in Dr. Teague’s bio, he has extensively studied the Holocaust, interviewed survivors, and went to Yad Vashem in Isreal. Yet, he wholly lacks sensitivity to his Jewish brothers and sisters.
I can appreciate Teague’s time and attention to the horrors of the Holocaust. Had he used that knowledge to write a completely fictional tale, and not tried to co-opt Anne’s diary, I would perhaps be giving a slightly different review. But that’s not what he chose to do.
Teague did a great disservice to Anne Frank’s memory in The Lost Diary of Anne Frank, and I can’t help but ask why? What was the purpose of writing this book? Again, Teague could have used his self-professed vast knowledge of the Holocaust to write a standalone book. So why did he feel the need to write about Anne? And why co-opt The Diary of Anne Frank if not to profit off of it?
I have no qualms with Teague’s writing quality. He is a fine writer, and in my opinion, he should have chosen to write a fictional novel using fictional characters to depict the horrors of Auschwitz and Bergin-Belsen or any number of death camps the Nazis operated rather than piggy-backing off the success of The Diary of Anne Frank to make a buck and proselytize.
I bumped this book up to 2-Stars instead of 1-Star primarily due to the research Dr. Teague did for this book. While I can’t read Dr. Teague’s mind nor divine his intentions, to this reader, it appears the only goal for writing this book is to profit off Anne Frank’s name and her family’s tragedy and attempt to convert souls to his faith.
Usually, I would include buy links for this title, but I will not do that for this book.
Dr. Johnny Teague is an author and historian having earned five degrees, culminating with a doctorate in exposition. History and life stories have been his passion. Through travel, interviews, and extensive study, he continues to build on his foundation. Preparation for this book has included interviews with Holocaust survivors, studies at the Holocaust museums in Houston, Washington, D.C., and at the Yad Vashem in Israel. His study has carried him around the world multiple times to research at sites including Auschwitz, Dachau, the Corrie ten Boom House, and the Anne Frank House.