Anne Frank’s “The Diary of a Young Girl”: A Book Review

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Annelies Marie Frank, a German-Jewish girl, was born on June 12, 1929, in Frankfurt Germany. Her father was Otto Frank, a respectable businessman; her mother, a loving housewife. Anne was the youngest sibling in the family, of which her sister, Margot, was the eldest. She had often enjoyed her being the youngest, and had written in her diary that she was often spoiled by friends and relatives during her birthdays (Frank, 1). Many were the times when, despite the economic situation of he country and family at the time (not to mention the increasing discrimination against Jews by the Germans), she would leap in joy at the things given her—sweets, chocolates, biscuits, some money, a few bric-a-bracs, some board games, and, most of all, books. The young girl was a voracious reader of books which were diverse in topic and level of literacy. Her reading was to form the foundation of her writing later on.

Always the exuberant type who talked a lot, Anne would have enjoyed a worry-free childhood in the Franks’ flat on Ganghoferstrasse. But even the five-room flat couldn’t keep the dark clouds of hostility at bay. With the increasing hostility of Germans towards Jews at the time, Anne couldn’t stay long, nor was it her decision to make. She and her family had to flee immediately. The year was 1933. While Mrs. Frank and the two girls rendezvoused in Aachen, near the Belgian Border (Frank, 275), Otto Frank went to Holland where he found employment as the Managing Director of Travies N.V, a company engaged in the food products business.

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The Franks was reunited the following year, 1934, they having adjusted to the new environment in Amsterdam. Meanwhile, Anne started her formal education at the Montessori Kindergarten, until the end of the school year. The new neighborhood provided the young Anne pleasant diversions with which to occupy her mind and lock up the otherwise harrowing escape of her family. And as she grew up here she also gained many friends and discovered that the boys liked her, much to her giggling inside.

But even before Anne and her family found a semblance of peace in their new homeland, the Nazis had already risen to power. In fact, the Nazis had already incorporated Anti-Semitism and racism into their regime’s machinations (Bankier). First, the German government under Hitler stripped all Jews of their civil rights and their basic access vital to survival. It then limited the number of Jewish students that could be admitted in German universities, until Jews were banned altogether from having education, except in Jewish-centric schools. These cruel laws, designed to forcibly make Jews into emigrating from Germany and taking over their possessions (Bankier), had been written on September, 15, 1935, as part of the Nürnberg Laws. It came as no surprise, then, that Anne and Margot transferred to the Jewish Secondary School. That year was 1941.

For the first time Anne, then 12 years old, witnessed the extent of German oppression. She watched Jews as they went out with a band of yellow six-pointed star, displayed prominently on their clothes[1]; as they handed in their bicycles, were banned from using public means of transportation and driving vehicles of their own…(Frank, 4) Her view of humanity was slowly taking shape, all in her mind at first, then in her heart.

On July 8, 1942 (Frank, 13), The Franks had to flee again for the second time. Germans were making roundup calls of Jews who would be sent to labor camps, where Jews were dying by the thousands. Margot got the roundup call. Fearing for the safety of the entire family, the Franks left at five the next morning. It would be the start of their life made much smaller and dangerous, as they moved in to the secret annex.

            Anne started writing her diary the moment her family moved in to the secret annex, part of the building where her father, Otto, worked at the time. A writer once said that reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man (Bacon, 34). Anne loved reading, and so it was unsurprising that she discovered her love for writing, too. By an exact man—or, in Anne’s case, an exact woman—I believe Sir Francis Bacon was referring to the mind’s ability to gather all thoughts into a single coherent unit so focused that it can pierce the mind, much as what the laser does. Anne herself was perhaps aiming for the same goal when she wrote her diary. After all, her yet immature emotional and intellectual responses to what was happening around her were constantly being tested at the time. She was, figuratively speaking, being torn apart by the failings of society—the World War, Anti-Semitism, racism, domestic problems, and many others. Therefore, by pouring out her thoughts and emotions into her diary, she collected the shattered fragments of her vital youth, for the same reason that a patient recalls the past to discover the cause of psycho-emotional discomfort. Writing a diary became Anne’s therapy to her ailing persona, at the surface of which showed a smiling-laughing-exuberant Anne.

            Her ailment owed a great deal to her lack of a true friend, as she herself had admitted in her diary. She wrote, “And now I come to the root of the matter, the reason for my starting a diary: it is that I have no real friend (Frank, 3)”. Oh, she might enjoy the company of her family, relatives, friends, and the boys who liked her. But she thought nobody understood her completely, and she couldn’t bare her soul to others, even to her own family. She couldn’t bring herself to do it, in part because she was afraid to try, in part because she always had to live up to her family’s expectations while her own expectations weren’t met. For instance, whenever a family quarrel erupted in which she was involved or blamed for, she was expected by command to simply swallow all the insults and harsh words (Frank, 32). Meanwhile, her expectations that she be allowed to express herself and that her family would act as adults weren’t always met. Instead, she had always found herself wanting to grow up—and be treated in proportion to her age—amidst the company of adults who more concerned with disciplining her than with valuing her individuality.

            Eventually she found a phantom friend, whom she named Kitty. Anne confided a lot of things to Kitty—her fears, angers, hopes, resentments, as well as large doses of humor and wit. More important, Anne disclosed to Kitty why, it often seemed, she felt alienated even in her family. She had often witnessed the bond between her mother and Margot, a bond of which she wasn’t part (Frank, 44). Long used to her alienation, she had often turned to her father for support; but unfortunately even Otto chose not to talk about his wife’s failings as a mother (Frank, 45). A more emotionally crippled child might have turned bitter towards his/her own family or society. But not Anne. She chose to be her own parent nurturing her own growth (Frank, 45), healing her own hurts, both of which she did through writing. And where the problems in her family and the war raging outside had confined her, her mind was set loose from its bounds, making her mature with each entry she put in her diary.

            But perhaps Anne’s greatest reason for writing her diary was to be immortalized in the hearts of those people whom she had influenced with her radiant personality. “I want to go on living even after my death,” she once wrote. Out of the sufferings she had endured came the better Anne, the finer side of herself that she had discovered every time she was alone (Frank, 267). And this she gave as a gift to humanity, whom she believed was capable of showing kindness, love, and compassion, despite the many instances on the contrary (Frank, 263). Such an optimist she was, and she couldn’t think otherwise. She would never have written her diary were it not to encourage us to always use our finer and better side in whatever we do, so that we could end the cycle of hatred and bigotry she had witnessed and is still happening right now.

            The last entry on the diary was dated Tuesday, August 1, 1944. It ended there, but not her trials. According to the book’s afterword, three days after Anne’s last entry, the Gestapo used a Dutch informer’s knowledge of the secret annex to make a swift raid of the house. All the occupants—The Franks, Van Daans, Mr. Koophuis, and Mr. Kraler, and Mr. Dussel—were arrested. In 1945, while sick in a Bergen-Belsen labor camp, Anne Frank died just days before the Allies came. Anne no longer wrote in her diary after her family’s discovery and capture by the Nazis; yet the book’s afterword maintained that her story is complete in itself. More important that she be remembered how she lived rather than how she died.

Anne Frank’s “The Diary of a Young Girl” is a fine example of an autobiography, a form of writing that tackles the richness of character personality and experience (Kaplan). Despite her young age when she wrote the diary, Anne had effectively and realistically written about her life amidst a family that had often fought over simple things. The diversity of the characters’ attitude and morale in that time of World War 2, the generation gap, the psycho-emotional interaction between characters, the harrowing suspense in some scenes—all these and more Anne had combined to great effect.

            Another facet in autobiography is not only the kind of life the author had lived but also the various stages from which the life had progressed (Kaplan). It could start from childhood to up to adulthood, each subsequent stage more complex than the first. Anne, of course, did not start her diary with the story of her birth, but rather with the description of her 13th birthday, the day she received many gifts, including the diary which formed her book. She couldn’t have chosen a better date in her life with which to start her story: her birth as a full-fledged writer literally began on the same day she celebrated her birth. Style. Anne Frank, even then, had known what a good writing style is. She had even used the first entry to introduce herself to her would-be readers. From there she had proceeded to confessing her reasons for writing a diary, an act she found awkward at first mainly because of her inexperience as a diarist (Frank, 2). Yet one can see that, throughout her diary, Anne had used a style that was creative as it was true to her life, mixing factual information with her sound insights.

            Years after the successful publication of Anne Frank’s book, many had considered her work among the finest examples of Dutch literature to have emerged after the war. One may even compare her type of literature with that of Hendrik Marsman, a Dutch poet. Indeed, Anne’s form of self-expression somewhat parallels that of Marsman’s championing of ‘vitalism’, a form of expression based on the notion that the poet is the voice of the masses (Microsoft Encarta). In Anne’s case, however, she became the voice of the oppressed and the persecuted—Jews, Romanians, Slavs, and other so-called ethnic minorities—the guiding light to those groping in the darkened world at the time. Yet even now Anne’s words, so delivered honestly amidst tears and laughter, so humbly given as gift, still echo throughout the world, an inspiration to millions. The book’s afterword summoned it perfectly: “It has outlasted the shouts of the murderers and has soared above the voices of time (Frank, 283).” Anne’s dream of becoming a journalist someday has come true at last. Ironically, though, only then did she become fully embraced by strangers regardless of her ethnicity and creed.

            Of all the parts in the book, three are the most important. The first one consists of Anne’s second entry, dated Saturday, June 20, 1942 (Frank, 2). Here she admits to having no real friend to whom she could confide completely, to whom she could confide anything outside of the common ground (Frank, 3). Such admittance gives readers a glimpse of the exuberant yet lonely and misunderstood Anne. A crying out to the reader. At one point in the entry she even attests to the veracity in the maxim that “paper is more patient than man”. This belief sustained her throughout the harrowing two years of her life in the annex. If not for the patience of paper to which she inked her emotions, perhaps Anne would have suffered from a terrible bout of depression, given her young age and the kind of on-the-edge environment her family and friends had to live in.

            The second most important part is the part where Anne’s sister, Margot, received a roundup call-up notice, the reason being to perhaps work in a labor camp. Time for the Franks to flee again, this time into hiding. And unlike the first one, this time Anne was old enough to understand the implications of such an action, plus the reasons behind it. She was shocked, her vivid mind conjuring terrible images of concentration camps and lonely cells (Frank, 13). No longer was she a carefree child, shattered was her worry-free notion of being young. Her first real dose of reality.

            Finally, the third most important part of the book is the last entry in the diary. At this point in the book, she examines her own humanity, her own struggle to bring out the finer-deeper-purer side of her, the part always overthrown by the more easily accessible ‘ordinary’ side (Frank, 274). Unfortunately, however, her introspection abruptly ceased three days later, when Germans had finally discovered the secret annex.

            I can find no boring part of the story; otherwise, if there were, then the entire book would be boring. But such is not the case. The book is exciting to read for its depth and complexity, emotionally gripping for its humanity.

            The book had increased my understanding of history in that I became more understanding of other people’s creed and ethnicity. I choose to love the prophets and their followers.

  1. Bankier, David. “Holocaust”. Microsoft® Encarta® 2006 [DVD]. Redmond, WA: Microsoft Corporation, 2005.
  2. Frank, Anne. The Diary of a Young Girl. New York: Bantam Books
  3. Kaplan, Justin. “Biography”. Microsoft® Encarta® 2006 [DVD]. Redmond, WA: Microsoft Corporation, 2005.
  4. Microsoft Encarta. “Dutch Literature”. Microsoft® Encarta® 2006 [DVD]. Redmond, WA: Microsoft Corporation, 2005.
  5. Jews were required to attach a band of yellow six-pointed star on their clothing, the objective being to distinguish Jews from non-Jews.

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