My Attempt to Free Anne Frank’s Diary

Anne Frank sitting behind a desk

School photo of Anne Frank. Anonymous photographer (Public Domain)

This year marked the 70th anniversary of Anne Frank’s untimely death. Under Dutch law, works by an author are in the public domain on 1 January following the 70th anniversary of the author’s death. This means that Anne Frank’s diary should be in the public domain as of 1 January 2016.

However, the Anne Frank Fonds claims that her father, Otto Frank, had significant input as editor of her diary, and that Anne and Otto share the copyright. Since Otto Frank died in 1980, that would extend the copyright by another 36 years. Otto Frank left all his copyrights to the Anne Frank Fonds, so they have a vested interest in keeping the copyright alive.1

I am not a lawyer, but the joint authorship argument doesn’t sit right with me. The power of the diary has always been that it was written by a young girl. I feel that to suddenly claim that her father had such a major influence that he deserves to share copyright undermines Anne’s legacy.

Anne’s diary has been recognized as UNESCO World Heritage and I feel strongly that her words should be freely accessible to everyone in the world. I would love to read her original words, without the edits of her father. He is known to have left out some of the more personal aspects, so the original manuscript may give us more insights into the thoughts of Anne as she was in hiding. Also, I think scholars would enjoy the opportunity to study the unedited manuscript and compare it to the published version.

Freedom of Information Request to obtain Anne Frank’s manuscript

As of July 2015, we have a law in the Netherlands, the Wet Hergebruik van Overheidsinformatie [Law Reuse of Government Information], that requires the government to allow the public to reuse government information. This means that anyone can request a copy of any information that is already available to the government, with some exceptions.

The original manuscript of Anne Frank’s diary is owned by the Country of the Netherlands. It is kept by the Nederlands Instituut voor Oorlogsdocumentatie en Genocidestudies [Dutch Institute for War Documentation and Genocide Studies], NIOD.2

With an appeal to this new law, I submitted a request to the NIOD for a copy of Anne Frank’s diary, to be received after 1 January 2016. In my request, I indicated that I feel that the copyright to the original manuscript will expire on 1 January 2016, since Otto Frank had no share in creating the original manuscript.

Unfortunately, the NIOD rejected my request on the following grounds [abstracted]:3

  1. The reuse of government information law is limited to information that is produced by the government as part of their public tasks. Although her diary belongs to the government, Anne Frank herself was not a government agency.
  2. Information in education and research institutes like the NIOD is outside the scope of the reuse of government information law.
  3. The archive law states that records that have been transferred to an “archiefbewaarplaats” [archive] fall outside the scope of the Wet Hergebruik van Overheidsinformatie. The NIOD acts as an archive for the diary of Anne Frank.
  4. There is no consensus about the copyright status of the diary.

My appeal

I have appealed the decision by the NIOD, on the following grounds:

  1. The reuse of information law is not limited to information produced by the government, but to information kept by the government. Cultural works are within the scope of the law, as explained in the “Memorie van Toelichting” [Memorandum of Explanation] that accompanies the law.4
  2. I’m not requesting research data, I’m requesting a copy of a cultural work, that happens to be kept by a research facility. As the NIOD’s reply indicates, they act as an archive in this case, not as a research institute.
  3. Archives are definitely within the scope of the law, as explained in the Archive law itself, that states that the archive law defines how the reuse law applies to archives.5 The “Memorie van Toelichting” of the reuse of information law also makes it clear that archives are within the scope of the law.6
  4. Even the Anne Frank Fonds websites states that “it goes without saying that copyrights to Anne Frank’s original texts originally belonged to the author, Anne Frank herself,”7 so I don’t think there is discussion about the copyright status of the original manuscript.

My goal: Making the Diary available to all

I hope that the NIOD will reconsider their position and work with me on this. If my request is successful, I intend to make the images freely available for everyone by uploading the scans to Wikisource and the Internet Archive. That way, anybody can study the words of Anne Frank in their original form for whatever purpose.

What do you think?

So what do you think about my request? Do you feel as I do that Anne Frank’s diary should be freely accessible for everyone? Do you think my request has any chance of succeeding or do you think I’m just wasting my time?

If you are familiar with these laws, I would welcome your input, so please leave a comment.


I received an initial reply by the NIOD to my appeal. Because of the complexity of my request, they will take longer than usual to respond. I totally understand this and am glad they will investigate this thoroughly. It is in my own interest as well to have clarity about the copyright status of the document.


  1. Q&A about the copyrights to Anne Frank’s Diary,” Anne Frank Fonds ( : accessed 8 December 2015).
  2. Nederlands Instituut voor Oorlogsdocumentatie en Genocidestudies, “212c Frank, Anne,” finding aid, ( : accessed 8 December 2015), call number 1a, archival description of diary of Anne Frank
  3. [Name of NIOD employee withheld for privacy reasons] to Yvette Hoitink, email, “Reactie op uw verzoek” [Reaction to your request], 8 December 2015.
  4. Tweede Kamer der Staten-Generaal [House of Commons], “Regels over het hergebruik van overheidsinformatie (Wet hergebruik van overheidsinformatie): Memorie van Toelichting” [Rules regarding the reuse of government information (Law reuse of government information]: Memorandum of Explanation], PDF, Eerste Kamer ( : accessed 8 December 2015).
  5. Archiefwet 1995,” ( : accessed 8 December 2015).
  6. Tweede Kamer, “Wet Hergebruik van Overheidsinformatie: Memorie van Toelichting,” Eerste Kamer. 
  7. Q&A about the copyrights to Anne Frank’s Diary,” Anne Frank Fonds ( : accessed 8 December 2015).
About Yvette Hoitink

Yvette Hoitink, CG®, QG™ is a professional genealogist in the Netherlands. She holds the Certified Genealogist credential from the Board for Certification of Genealogists and has a post-graduate diploma in Family and Local History from the University of Dundee. She has been doing genealogy for over 30 years and helps people from across the world find their ancestors in the Netherlands. Read about Yvette's professional genealogy services.


  1. WOW! That is so amazing! I have always wanted to read the diary in its entirety without the edits as well. I can’t wait to hear what happens. Good Luck!

  2. Wesley Johnston says

    “The Diary of Anne Frank: The Revised Critical Edition” by the Netherlands Institute for War Documentation (2001 – original Critical Edition 1986) may already have what you seek. The blurb on the back jacket of the English version says that it includes “three of the extant versions of the diary: Anne’s original journal, her manuscript as she edited it, and the popular story with her father’s revisions.” Most of it is transcription of the various sources, but there are some images of original pages.

  3. You are right Yvette. This is just a way of the “owners” to keep a historical very important document for themselves. To what cause? I guess it is just money. It’s pathetic. No, it is wrong to use the heritage of this young girl for money purposes. Set the diary free.
    I hope you will find the legal assistance that is needed here.

  4. The diary itself is amazing, cant wait to see if the request is acknowledged.

  5. Carol Johnson says

    Thank you for doing this. I live in the US, and now more than ever we need to be reminded how hatred and xenophobia affect real people. I imagine once the diary is released, there will be a surge in news stories about it, about Anne Frank, and a much-needed fresh reminder of how easily a holocaust can begin. WWII has become ‘ancient history’ in America, in part because (other than Pearl Harbor) the war did not touch our soil I was struck by the fact that Anne could still be alive in her mid-80’s now – younger than my own mother… I, too, need a reminder of how recent this hell was, and my country seems to be becoming more pro-violence and anti-equality than ever before in its history.

  6. Barbara Berg says

    My personal believes are that “anything” having to do with WWII and the Nazis should be open and free to all people in the world!. How else are we to truly learn of “all” of the atrocities committed by all nations (This includes the United States and the UK among others) involved? Only when “all” is revealed can we truly hope to stop such inhumane actions from happening again! When it comes to WWII and it’s atrocities, there should be “NO” copyright. It is my opinion that some entity–or entities–are trying to hide something. At the least, they are making money from those that suffered! (Something in and of itself, in my opinion, is a crime!

  7. Katelyn Owens says

    They are claiming copyright to the diary since Otto Frank edited it, but you are requesting the version in which he didn’t edit it, so you want the version that isn’t covered by copyright anymore. Just because he edited it, doesn’t mean he can claim the version written by Anne Frank, without any editing done by him.

Leave comment