Anne Frank Translator Speaks

B.M. Mooyart-Doubleday, who translated The Diary of Anne Frank from the Dutch, gets some recognition via a profile in the Journal Gazette.

For many readers of the diary of the teen hidden in an attic in her father’s office building in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam, Mooyart-Doubleday and Frank became one and the same – even though the former was hardly an experienced translator of Dutch.

Instead, she was a 31-year-old mother of two who had married a pilot in the Dutch equivalent of the Air Force and moved to Holland, teaching herself the language in the process.

Shortly after the war ended, she recalls, she received a letter from an old friend in London who worked at a small publishing house.

“He said, ‘We have had a man called Otto Frank come to our office telling us about his daughter’s diary, and we think it’s an interesting document, but we have no one in this office who reads Dutch,’ ” she recalls.

“So I jumped on my bicycle and bought the book and read it in one breath, and I was very moved, and I wrote back telling him I thought it was a very good book indeed.”

The book had been published in Dutch as “The Secret Annex” in 1947.

Mooyart-Doubleday received only 60 pounds for the translation, which she had to complete in a little over two months. French and German translations of the book, she says, did not sell initially, but the English translation did well.

The Anne Frank Museum has exhaustive information about her, and you can even take a virtual tour of the house and watch rare footage. By far the most moving moment of my trip to Amsterdam a few years ago was standing on the second floor of the building at 263 Prinsengracht and peeking out at the secret annex where the Frank family hid for two years.