Nederlands Dagboekarchief


Say ‘Dutch Diary’, and you’ll say ‘Anne Frank’. Why this diary of a young girl, written from June 1942 until the summer of 1944, became a symbol of the sufferings of the Dutch Jews during the Second World War or, indeed, of those of the non-Jewish Dutch people as well, is a matter of controversy. Certain is that Anne Frank, like a great many other diary writers, responded to the 1944 call of one of the Dutch ministers in exile in London, to hand in their diaries after the war, so that nobody would ever forget what had happened during the five years of occupation by Nazi Germany. In order to make her diary more presentable to the greater public, Anne began editing her diary entries, hoping at the same time that the edited version could someday be published as a novel as well.

We all know what happened to Anne’s diary. But what most people don’t know, is that a great many other diaries that were collected after the war are being preserved in the archives of the Dutch Institute for War Documentation (NIOD), where they are used for research about the Second World War – most, if not all of them just as interesting and valuable as Anne’s diary.

There are more specialised diary archives in The Netherlands. The International Institute of Social History (IISG) in Amsterdam collects diaries of people who have played a role in social history; the Expatriate Archive in The Hague guards the ego documents of people who work abroad and Atria, the former International Archives of the Feminist Movement, houses a collection of diaries written by women.

The Dutch Diary Archive

What did not exist in Holland until 2009 was an archive dedicated to the life writings of ‘common’ people, that is people who haven’t written about their experiences during the war, or have not played a notable part in history. Inspired by the German Diary Archive in Emmendingen, which at this point houses around 12.000 diaries, Mirjam Nieboer and Monica Soeting decided in 2009 to found the Dutch Diary Archive (Nederlands Dagboekarchief, NDA) and collect diaries that are not collected by any of the aforementioned institutes. The items they started the collection with consisted of a box filled with tiny diaries written by the grandfather of Mirjam’s husband, and the teenage diaries of Mirjam’s sister, which were housed in Mirjam’s attic.

On February 11th 2013 the collection of the NDA was moved to the archives of the Meertens Institute for research of the Dutch language and culture in Amsterdam. Not only was Mirjam’s attic an inappropriate place to store diaries and letters (which we also collect), but the attic had in fact become too small; within three years several hundred diaries, unpublished memoirs and letters were collected by NDA. IN the same year, two people were asked to join the NDA-staff, and fortunately for NDA agreed: Bertie van der Meij, who takes care of the NDA publications, the website and social media, and Nina Wijsbek, who sees to the NDA database, amongst other things. At this point, about fifty volunteers help us to read and summarise the diaries and memoirs in our collection.

The NDA is a founding member of EDAC, the European Diary and Archive Collections, which was founded in June 2015 in Amsterdam, with eight organisations from Great-Britain, Germany, Hungary, Austria, France and Belgium attending.