D is for The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank – This book has made numerous appearances on my blog already (which readers familiar with my Top 10 posts might have already known!). I read this book when I was around the same age as Anne when she wrote it (about 13 years old). I borrowed it from our school library, and a few years later, I purchased my own edition of the book as I had borrowed it a few more times since the first time. Anne Frank inspired me in so many ways – big and small. I was inspired to keep a diary in her style (addressing my journal with her own name – in my case, it was Katy, inspired also by another favorite book – What Katy Did), even write in code and learn shorthand (like Anne – this lasted only a while though for me); to write more; to read more; to learn more about the time and places of Anne’s story; to be braver and stronger; to simply be more human.
While Anne Frank has inspired millions around the world, there is still so much we can do to make humanity better, starting with right around us. As I was writing this post, I also came across this news today and was saddened by it – antisemitism in the 21st century (and so any other hate crimes too, yes, but this caught my eye even more glaringly as I was writing about Anne Frank today, and also had read about International Holocaust Remembrance Day just earlier this week, it was celebrated January 27th).
A brief look at Anne Frank and her diary:
Before life at the Secret Annex on Prinsengracht 263
Anne was born Annelies Marie “Anne” Frank on June 12, 1929 in Frankfurt, Germany, to Otto and Edith Frank. Anne’s family emigrated to The Netherlands in 1933 to escape the beginning horrors of Nazi Germany, and lead normal lives for a few years. The Nazi invasion of The Netherlands in May 1940 changed the lives of many, including Anne and her family.Anne received the red, checkered autograph book which she used as her first diary on her 13th birthday. According to the Anne Frank House, this present was not a surprise since she had picked it out herself along with her father the day before. She started writing in her journal on June 14, 1942, just a few days before she and her family went into hiding. She began her diary with the words:
“I hope I will be able to confide everything to you, as I have never been able to confide in anyone, and I hope you will be a great source of comfort and support.”
On July 6, 1942, a day after her older sister, Margot, received a summons to report to a Nazi camp, Anne and her family went into hiding at the back of Otto Frank’s office on Prinsengracht 263.
At the ‘Secret Annexe’:
Anne and her family as well as the others that shared the Secret Annex with them spent over two years in hiding. Anne initially wrote the diary in her red-checkered autograph book. Once she had used it up, she moved on to other notebooks, and even loose paper.
Of her original manuscripts, the one covering most of 1943 was lost; but that period was also covered by Anne in a second version of her diary that she rewrote for the purpose of preservation. This idea to rewrite her journals came to her after she listened to a radio broadcast where Dutch Cabinet Minister Gerrit Bolkestein said that, for history to be written, what would really be needed were ‘ordinary documents – a diary, letters from a worker in Germany, ….’, to paint the struggle for freedom in its full depth and glory.
In this reworked version, she used pseudonyms for everyone, including herself. Her father later changed the names of the Frank family to their real names, while retaining the pseudonyms for the others in the annex household.
During her time in hiding, Anne kept herself busy studying, learning shorthand, and being a normal teenager, among other things. Her hobbies and interests included (from her entry dated Thursday, 6 April, 1944) writing, family trees, history, Greek and Roman mythoogy, , and even film stars!
Capture and after the ‘Secret Annexe’:
In August 1944, Anne and her family, along with the others at the annex were discovered and captured by the Gestapo. While it is believed they were betrayed by an anonymous source, there were also indications that this was an accidental discovery during a police raid. Miepl Geis, one of the few people, who helped the Franks during their hiding, found Anne’s diary and kept it in the hope of returning it to her after the war. She handed it to Otto Frank after, and later mentions that had she read the contents of the diary, she would most likely have destroyed it as it contained incriminating evidence against all those who helped the Franks (including herself and others close to her).
Anne was first sent to Auschwitz, and miraculously survived that concentration camp. She was later sent to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp along with her sister, where both sisters died from typhus, sometime in early 1945, shortly before the British liberated the camp in April of that year. Anne was 15 years old.
Additional points of interest:
Otto Frank was the only surviving member of the annex household. In 2009, the book was added to the UNESCO Memory of the World Register. Anne had also written many short stories, the beginnings of a novel, and other miscellaneous writings during her time at the annex. All those writings were also found and published separately as ‘Tales from the Secret Annex‘. Anne Frank House is one of the most visited spots in the Netherlands.
Some quotes from the book that resonated with me:
- It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart. July 15, 1944
- So I go on again with fresh courage; I think I shall succeed, because I want to write! April 4, 1944
- Forgive me, but I don’t like crossing things out, and in these days of paper shortage we’re not allowed to throw paper away. Therefore I can only advise you not to read the above sentence again, and certainly not to try to understand it. because you won’t succeed anyhow! yours, Anne Nov 28, 1942
- The sun is shining, the sky is deep blue, there is a lovely breeze and I’m longing—so longing—for everything . . . . .— To talk, for freedom, for friends, to be alone. And I do so long . . . . . to cry! I feel as if I’m going to burst, and I know that it would get better with crying, but I can’t,…. Feb 12, 1944
- 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! April 11, 1944 (The complete entry for this date was possibly one of her longest entries for a single day)
- Oh, I’m becoming so sensible! One must apply one’s reason to everything here, learning to obey, to hold your tongue, to help, to be good, to give in, and I don’t know what else! l’m afraid I shall use up all my brains too quickly, and I haven’t got so very many. Then I shall not have any left for when the war is over. yours, Anne Dec 22, 1942
As I read her diary, I marveled at how they survived and lived their everyday lives in the annex in the turmoil and horrors surrounding them, with the constant fear of discovery. And I marvel at the strength of the human spirit.
This post goes towards UBC (day 31,yay!) Just Jot It January, ABC Wednesday‘s round 22 – letter D (my theme for ABC Wednesday’s Round 22 as you might have already guessed, is children’s books – I will pick one popular (and sometimes the not so popular/the unknown) book – classic/modern/old/new… – and write about it – be it a backstory or facts or something else completely).