Friday, August 17, 2018

Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

Diary of a Young Girl
Anne Frank
Published 1947
I want to go on living even after my death! And therefore I am grateful to God for giving me this gift, this possibility of developing myself and of writing, of expressing all that is in me.
This was my third read of The Diary of a Young Girl. My first time was in high school, and instantly Anne Frank became my heroine because of her courage. I read it a second time as an adult to remind myself of specifics before I had one of my teenagers read it. But this third time was because I was eagerly craving to read it. Today it remains one of the most essential books I have ever read. I love this story, which is why it is part of my Personal Canon

(This review contains some spoilers, but no major details)

Imagine how it came to be: Anne received a writing journal on her 13th birthday; but a few months later, she and her family were forced into hiding where Anne recorded life in the Secret Annex for the next two years, until discovery. Her diary was preserved and returned to her father, Otto Frank, who was the only surviving member of her family and the four other Jews living in the annex. Later Otto made the decision to share her writings, first privately, and later publicly with the world. 


Anne Frank was a spirited young girl, a German Jew living in Nazi-occupied Holland, during WWII. Her family was forced into hiding when it was apparent that time had run out and they had no other escape. They secretly moved into a hidden area of Otto's business, with the help of several Christian employees who worked there. Another couple, the Van Daans, their teenage son, Peter, and an elderly dentist, all shared the hiding place, which Anne called, "The Secret Annex."

For two years, Anne wrote honestly of her life in hiding. She shared her hopes and joys, conflicts and burdens, fears and disappointments. It was, for Anne, an accelerated journey to maturity, as she wrote about her anticipated changes as a young woman and exposed her heart's desire for affection, love, justice, and truth. 

She was a young woman before her time, and dreamed of doing so much more with her life than to just follow in the footsteps of her mother and other women. She considered becoming a writer -- maybe a journalist or an author -- and said,
I want to get on; I can't imagine that I would have to lead the same sort of life as Mummy and Mrs. Van Daan and all the women who do their work and are then forgotten. I must have something besides a husband and children, something that I can devote myself to! 
She was extremely intelligent and thirsty for knowledge. Her favorite hobbies were writing and reading, collecting information to construct family trees of royal families (which is not an easy task), all kinds of history, Greek and Roman mythology, and film stars, art, poetry, and later, a deep appreciation for nature. Considering the situation the members of the Annex lived, there was never a shortage of books to read, while Otto regularly worked with Anne, her sister, Margot, and Peter, on their studies.

She would have made a great teacher.



Anne was quick-witted and maybe a little too liberated, though extremely courageous, to take up a logical contest with the stubborn elder of the group, over sharing his writing desk. She knew her argument was fair and good, and she persisted for the right outcome, knowing she was up against his elder status. She appealed to him numerous times, and to her parents, until justice prevailed.

She would have made a great lawyer or judge.

Sadly, Anne struggled in a strained relationship with her distant and critical mother. During their time in the hiding place, she openly wrote about their separation, declaring:
I am becoming still more independent of my parents, young as I am. I face life with more courage than Mummy, my feeling for justice is immovable, and truer than hers. I know what I want, I have a goal, an opinion, I have a religion and love. Let me be myself and then I am satisfied. I know I'm a woman, a woman with inward strength and plenty of courage. 
 With all the burdens of hiding in a compromised small space, in silence, with little clothing, medicine, exercise, or healthy food, Anne asked which would be better: "...to be dead now and not going through all this misery, especially as we shouldn't be running our protectors into danger anymore"[?]
But we all recoil from these thoughts too, for we still love life; we haven't yet forgotten the voice of nature, we still hope, hope about everything. 
Later, Anne and Peter became emotionally dependent upon each other, and in many ways, Anne wanted to desperately "help" improve Peter, who suffered from the ineptitude of his own parents. She knew Peter was of weak character, and due to his admission, she said:
Quite honestly, I can't imagine how anyone can say: "I'm weak," and then remain so. After all, if you know it, why not fight against it, why not try to train your character?
She was full of compassionate and empathy; the kind of person who wanted to fix people.

She would have made a great counselor or advocate or mediator.

This is also a record of World War II, as told through the silenced victims of that war, and of course, Anne had an opinion about it, too. Naturally, she desired peace; but it was also war that brought hope because there was a promised victory, a finality to the war, and thus liberty of the people.

In May, 1944, Anne defended the English for helping the Dutch by asking why Holland deserved England's help in the first place; after all, the English could just as quickly point fingers at other surrounding and unoccupied nations for "being asleep during the years when Germany was rearming."
We shan't get anywhere by following an ostrich policy. England and the whole world have seen that only too well now...
She would have made a great diplomat. 

Finally, Anne said of the Jews:
Who has inflicted this upon us? Who has made us Jews different from all other people? Who has allowed us to suffer so terribly up till now? It is God that has made us as we are, but it will be God, too, who will raise us up again. 
Be brave! Let us remain aware of our task and not grumble. A solution will come, God has never deserted our people.  Right through the ages there have been Jews, through all the ages they have had to suffer, but it has made them strong too; the weak fall, but the strong will remain and never go under!
 And whoever is happy will make others happy too. He who has courage and faith will never perish in misery! ~ Anne Frank
OF A PERSONAL NOTE

Because I know that Anne was captured and died of typhus in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp only a few months before liberation, I found myself unable to get the horror out of my mind. I could not sleep some nights. Her hopefulness for life and liberty was heavy in my heart all the time.

And also, I wanted to add that I agree with Vera Britton (author of Testament of Youth) who argued against the decision to place blame and responsibility solely on Germany, for WWI, which was explained in the afterward of my copy of Anne Frank's Diary; and I say this because history shows us that the German people were hardest hit, not the disheveled government. This gave rise to the vile creature of Hitler, who convinced the German people, and later the rest of Europe, that their troubles were really the fault of the Jews.

IS THIS BOOK FOR YOU?

This is a book for everyone because it is universal in scope, theme, ideas, history, and nature. For some it could be overwhelmingly memorable and personal, and for others it may only be acceptably good; but whichever, it is for everyone.
If God lets me live, I shall attain more than Mummy ever has done, I shall not remain insignificant, I shall work in the world and for mankind!
I think Anne became greater than she even dreamed. 

6 comments:

Paula Vince said...

That's such a great wrap-up. What a lot we would have lost without the discovery of Anne's diary, for which we can thank her bereft father too. It's incredible to remember that Anne was only 13-15 years during it's writing, with all that incredible wisdom and knowledge. She would have been amazing in all those roles you mentioned, and what a lot she added to the literary canon in her short life as it was. I haven't read it for several years, but your thoughts make me want to take it down from the shelf. I'm sure we get some fresh insights with every read.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Paula. It's a grave injustice that she (and millions more) had their lives stolen from them!!!!

Joseph said...

Marvelous post Ruth. Painfully poignant in your...She would have made a great...teacher, judge, counselor, diplomat. The world was robbed of this young woman's greatness...and empowered by it.

Hamlette said...

I read this as a teen and did not appreciate it as I ought to have. I'll have to read it again in the near future!

Ruth said...

Thank you, Joseph. I concur. Her story is a powerful and timeless testimony.

Ruth said...

Oh, yes! Do read it again.