“I want to be useful or give pleasure to people around me who yet don’t really know me. I want to go on living even after my death!” – Anne Frank
The Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl, which was posthumously published in 1947, is one of the most widely read book in the world. It was a personal diary of Annalies Marie “Anne” Frank that was written between the years 1942 and 1944 during the time of the Holocaust. The diary she kept made her one of the most memorable figure to emerge from World War II.
Anne Frank began writing in her diary on her thirteenth birthday, June 12, 1942, three weeks before her entire family went into hiding together with the Van Pels family in the secret upstairs the annex of her father’ office building in Amsterdam. They remain hidden for two years and one month until their betrayal in August 1944, when the Nazis found them that resulted to their deportation to concentration camps. Anne died of typhus in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in April 1945.
Of the eight people who went into hiding in the upper room, only Otto Frank survived the war and when he returned to Amsterdam, Miep Gies gaved him the diary of Anne. When he first read the diary of Anne he was quite astonished and said “”I never knew my little Anne was so deep”. Originally published in Dutch in 1947 with the title Het Acterhuis: Dagboekbrieven van 12 Juni 1942 – 1 Augustus 1944 (The Backhouse: Diary notes from 12 June 1942 – 1 August 1944), it was eventually translated into many languages and was widely read around the world.
The Diary of Anne Frank is a chronicle of the details about the Secret Annexe and its eight occupants: Anne, her mother, her father, her sister Margot, the Van Daan – Hermann, Auguste and their 16-year old son, Peter, and a dentist and family friend, Fritz Pfeffer.
It tells about the thoughts and feelings of a young teenager who deals with the turmoil of growing up and her fears about the war.
Anne received an autograph book from her father on her thirteenth birthday and she decided to turn it into a diary and named it “Kitty”. The first entries in the diary recount the normal exciting life of a young Jewish girl who has just turned thirteen in Amsterdam, Holland. During the last few weeks of freedom, Anne wrote about her life, her school, her crushes, the presents she received during her birthday, and the diary which she specially loved and which she considered as a substitute for a real friend to make her feel less lonely.
In 1941, Hitler had occupied Holland and in one of her entries dated June 20, 1942, Anne mentioned the worsening condition of the Jews and the restrictions put on Jewish people including the yellow star which they must wear to identify them from others. Also, included in the long list of restrictions are that the Jews were not allowed to drive and should instead take trains to travel and must shop only in Jewish shop from 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm. In spite of the restricted conditions which make life for the Frank family difficult, Anne claims in her entries that it is still bearable and they make do with what they have.
On July 6, 1942, the family went into hiding when Anne’s sister, Margot, was summoned to work in a concentration camp. Anne’s entries from July 9 up to November 9, 1942 were mainly description of the Secret Annexe and its occupants, their connection to the outside world, her concern on the concentration camp and gas chambers, and the confusion that she experiences as an adolescent. A detailed sketch of the hiding place and her family’s as well as her own struggle in adjusting in the confined quarters. Anne wrote, “I can’t tell you how oppressive it is never to be able to go outdoors; also I’m very afraid that we shall be discovered and be shot.”
The Frank family was assisted by Mien Gieps and her family, their Dutch protectors, who openly leaves at the warehouse. In her diary Anne also talks about her Dutch protectors, the men who work downstairs in the office building. After a month they were joined by the Van Daan family with their 16 year-old son, Peter, who at first Anne has taken a dislike. Later on, they developed a close and loving friendship. Anne also point out in her accounts that Mrs. Van Daan is a difficult and picky woman, and resents her for openly criticizing her and saying “”I wouldn’t put up with it if she were my daughter.” As life in the small and damp hiding place became tense, Anne begins to find her mother and sister difficult to bear as they always correct her and tell her that she must be quiet. She writes, “Nothing, I repeat, nothing about me is right; my general appearance, my character, my manners are discussed from A to Z. . . .I am not going to take all these insults lying down. I’ll show them that Anne Frank wasn’t born yesterday…I have my faults, just like everyone else, I know that, but they thoroughly exaggerate everything.” This is reflective of her adolescent struggles at this period in her life which was made more challenging given the situation of being confined in a small space with an anxious mother and sister.
In spite of their situation, Anne tries to make the best of it recognizing that their condition does not matter as long as they survive. She slso wrote about good things, like the special bond that she shares with her father, Mrs. Van Daan’s birthday and she and her sister’s sack-like skirts.
The occupants of the hiding place were later on joined by a dentist named Dussel, whom Anne shares her room with. For the months that they were in hiding, their connection to the world is the small radio set that their Dutch protector provided to them. They constantly listen to it and dream of hearing Hitler’s defeat and the end of war. Anne writes that “the radio with its marvelous voice helps us to keep up our morale . . . [hoping] better times will come.” However, the frequent air raids and bombings make them all nervous and fearful. Despite of the misery, Anne tries to be optimistic in her entries. She wrote about their preparations for Chanukah (a Jewish celebration) and Saint Nicholas’ Day (a Dutch celebration). Intersperse with the entries on the war details like how many Dutch provinces purged of Jews, Anne wrote about the light and funny moments at the hiding place like Dussel insisting to give Mrs. Van Daan a dental check up. Accounts of the miserable living conditions were made bearable when Anne thinks about the concentration camps. Anne also tells about the celebration in honor of her fourteenth birthday. She received new gifts a poem from her father. Anne also recounted that the occupants in the annex entertain themselves by talking about what they will do once they are free.
The entries from August 4, 1943 until January 6, 1944 were filled with pictures of miseries and difficulties that the occupants awere experiencing. The conditions for them had turned from bad to worse. For some time, their Dutch protectors were ill and could not therefore attend to their needs. As the tension escalates, arguments and quarrels were becoming frequent among the occupants. Anne in her entries had also become critical of the behavior and habits of the other people in the annex. Anne was so upset and feels miserable than ever that she began to take sedatives to calm her nerves. She said, “A good hearty laugh would help more than ten Valerian pills, but we’ve almost forgotten how to laugh.” Although Anne seldom complains in the diary, she had begun to express her longing to go outside and return to normal life. “I am simply a young girl badly in need of some rollicking fun.”, she said. Her entry on January 2, 1944 is the only one different from others. It appears that Anne has reread the pages of her diary and realized the anger and hatred especially against her mother. Ashamed of her past bitterness, she resolved that she would try harder with her mother. She tells Kitty that she understands how her mother was nervous and irritable with worries and difficulties that’s why she snapped at her. She further writes, “The period when I caused Mummy to shed tears is over. I have grown wise.”
The unfolding of a maturing Anne is reflective of her entries from January 7, 1974 until her last on August 1, 1944. By this time, Anne is trying harder to get along with the rest of the occupants. She began to mature, both physically and emotionally, learning how to control her outbursts and emotions. She reveals her interest in the opposite sex and finds herself happy in the company of Peter Van Daan. She received her first kiss from Peter on April 16 and an exciting account of the event was recorded in her diary. Basking in the happiness she felt in her first love radiates as her entries became more cheerful. “I am young and strong and am living a great adventure . . . I have been given a lot, a happy nature, a great deal of cheerfulness and strength. Every day I feel that I am developing inwardly, that the liberation is drawing nearer. . . how interesting this adventure is! Why, then should I be in despair?” she writes. Her maturity was also shown in how she stood up to her father about her relationship with Peter by writing him a letter. Anne had also time to reflect and analyze herself and the situation as reflected in her last entry in her diary three days before the Nazi raided the hideout. She realized that her rude behavior has always been a front to cover her inner fears and her misery in their miserable condition and that she longs to emerge so that she can be herself.
In Anne Frank’s diary she not only showed what a great person she was but how important it is to come to terms with ourselves in the context of what life has given us. In a world that was bent on destroying her, she managed to live eternal in clarity and vividness of everyday situations and the enduring reflections of the human spirit.
“I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness; I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too; I can feel the sufferings of millions; and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty will end, and that peace and tranquillity will return again … I must uphold my ideals, for perhaps the time will come when I shall be able to carry them out.” From Anne Frank
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank, Eleanor Roosevelt (Introduction) and B.M. Mooyaart (translation). Bantam, 1993. ISBN 0-553-29698-1 (paperback). (original 1952 edition)