Launching the Diary in America

I knew I would never be able to write the story of the Jews of Europe...
some day a teller would arise from amongst themselves.

— Meyer Levin on Anne Frank’s diary

Meyer Levin

The young editor of the American publication of Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl wrote in a letter to Otto Frank that Meyer Levin “single-handedly launched the diary in America” when it appeared in June, 1950.

Doubleday and Company had little faith that the Diary would attract readership. Without risking the cost of an ad campaign to support the Diary‘s publication, the minimum number of 5000 copies was printed with the hope libraries throughout the country would carry a copy.

Frustrated by this fact, and without declaring his interest in the outcome, Levin asked for the assignment and wrote a passionate review of the Diary in The New York Times. It was Levin’s transformative, front-page review that created an overnight sensation, topping 40,000 orders in the first week.

If not for Levin’s commitment to seeing Anne Frank’s voice reach the widest audience, American readers might not have known of Anne Frank at the time, since the Diary had been mostly rejected as a foreign book dealing with a grim, special interest topic.