Saturday, 4 September 2010

Anne Frank and her Fountain Pen

One can only imagine what life was like in the Annexe for Anne Frank. The Anne Frank Huis is now an empty shell that echoes with the footsteps of pilgrims. One tries to breathe in the past, to reconstitute it in one's mind but the past has been cremated like Anne's fountain pen - like Anne's many many compatriots.
She writes on Thursday, 11 November 1943:

Ode to My Fountain Pen In Memoriam

My fountain pen was always one of my most prized possessions; I valued it highly, especially because it had a thick nib, and I can only write neatly with thick nibs. It has led a long and interesting fountain-pen life, which I will summarize below.

When I was nine, my fountain pen (packed in cotton wool) arrived as a 'sample of no commercial value' all the way from Aachen, where my grandmother (the kindly donor) used to live. I lay in bed with flu, while the February winds howled around our flat. This splendid fountain pen came in a red leather case, and I showed it to my girlfriends the first chance I got. Me, Anne Frank, the proud owner of a fountain pen.

When I was ten, I was allowed to take the pen to school, and to my surprise, the teacher even let me write with it. When I was eleven, however, my treasure had to be tucked away again, because my sixth-form teacher allowed us to use only school pens and ink-pots. When I was twelve, I started at the Jewish Lyceum and my fountain pen was given a new case in honour of the occasion. Not only did it have room for a pencil, it also had a zip, which was much more impressive. When I was thirteen, the fountain pen went with me to the Annexe, and together we've raced through countless diaries and compositions. I'd turned fourteen and my fountain pen was enjoying the last year of its life with me when . . .

It was just after five on Friday afternoon. I came out of my room and was about to sit down at the table to write when I was roughly pushed to one side to make room for Margot and Father, who wanted to practise their Latin. The fountain pen remained unused on the table, while its owner, sighing, was forced to make do with a very tiny corner of the table, where she began rubbing beans. That's how we remove mould from the beans and restore them to their original state. At a quarter to six I swept the floor, dumped the dirt into a newspaper, along with the rotten beans, and tossed it into the stove. A giant flame shot up, and I thought it was wonderful that the stove, which had been gasping its last breath, had made such a miraculous recovery.

All was quiet again. The Latin students had left, and I sat down at the table to pick up where I'd left off. But no matter where I looked, my fountain pen was nowhere in sight. I took another look. Margot looked, Mother looked, Father looked, Dussel looked. But it had vanished.

'Maybe it fell in the stove, along with the beans!' Margot suggested.

'No, it couldn't have!' I replied.

But that evening, when my fountain pen still hadn't turned up, we all assumed it had been burned, especially because celluloid is highly inflammable. Our darkest fears were con firmed the next day when Father went to empty the stove and discovered the clip, used to fasten it to a pocket, among the ashes. Not a trace of the gold nib was left. 'It must have melted into stone,' Father conjectured.

I'm left with one consolation, small though it may be: my fountain pen was cremated, just as I would like to be some day.


  1. Wow! What a great post. Thank you.

  2. I was recently in Amsterdam visiting Anne Frank's House and as I flicked through her diary in the museum shop my eye fell on this entry where she was writing about her fountain pen!

  3. I remember a discussion in one of the fountain pen message boards which make her fountain pen might have been. I think they even contacted Montblanc to find out, but in the end there was some speculation but no definite answer.

  4. Great little story. Sometimes we forget that fountain pens have been around a long time and were treasured by those that received one as a gift, especially children, since it was the norm and many were used everyday. Tragic that her pen ended up being burned but maybe it was better off that it did otherwise it would have ended in the hands of a nazi.

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