📕“Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy.”
On 4 August 1944, after more than two years in hiding, Anne Frank and the other people hiding in “the Secret Annex” in Amsterdam were discovered and arrested. Anne’s father, Otto, later described the moment. “I was upstairs with the Van Pels family in Peter’s room, helping him with his schoolwork. Suddenly someone came running up the stairs and then the door opened and there was a man right in front of us with a pistol in his hand. Downstairs they were all gathered. My wife, the children, and the Van Pels family all stood there with their hands up in air.” The families were sent to concentration camps and by February 1945, Anne was dead. Only a few months later, the war ended and the concentration camp prisoners were released. Anne’s father, Otto, was the only survivor.
📘“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment
before starting to improve the world.”
Anne’s diaries, by a miracle, did survive. When the family was arrested, the contents of a briefcase were dumped on the floor to make room for seized valuables. Two employees in the main building retrieved the diaries from the floor and gave them to her father after the war. Otto was startled by what he read, calling it, “a revelation. There was revealed a completely different Anne to the child that I had lost. I had no idea of the depths of her thoughts and feelings.” This reflected Anne’s own admitted difficulty; she wrote that she struggled to fully express herself within her family.
📙“I can’t imagine having to live like Mother,
Mrs. van Pels and all the women who go
about their work and are then forgotten.
I need to have something besides a husband
and children to devote myself to! I don’t
want to have lived in vain like most people.”
📕“I can shake off everything as I write;
my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.”
Anne had little difficulty expressing herself on paper, and it is clear she wrote for a larger audience than herself. It was her dream to write a book and have it published and she wanted to become a journalist and writer. Perhaps the years trapped in hiding caused a torrent of feelings to pour out of her through her pen.
📗“People can tell you to keep your mouth shut,
but that doesn’t stop you from having your own opinion.”
Anne’s diary reveals an insightful, confident and direct young woman. She was honest in her writing , expressing intimate teenage things that women were discouraged from speaking about. She also wrote outspokenly about ethics and humanity. These were radical acts that made her an inspiration and a role model for girls.
📘“…. Women should be respected as well! Generally speaking,
men are held in great esteem in all parts of the world, so why
shouldn’t women have their share? Soldiers and war heroes are
honored and commemorated, explorers are granted immortal
fame, martyrs are revered, but how many people look upon
women too as soldiers?…Women, who struggle and suffer pain
to ensure the continuation of the human race, make much
tougher and more courageous soldiers than all those
big-mouthed freedom-fighting heroes put together!”
Anne’s last diary entry was made on Aug. 1, 1944. But her legacy lives on. By 1947, knowing she wanted them published, her father had the diaries published. Through Anne’s diaries, people began to learn about the Second World War and the Holocaust, and they read about how it is to be excluded and persecuted. It was a direct, honest entry into a life of persecution that couldn’t be denied. Anne Frank is well-known and has become almost a sanctified figure. Today, several organizations do humanitarian work on her behalf.
📙“I still believe, in spite of everything,
that people are truly good at heart.”
Today, I visited Anne Frank House. There is such an immediacy about being in the place where these people lived, going from room to room and imagining their constant fear and tension. Anne and her mother had to constantly admonish her father for not whispering or stepping too heavily lest any of the workers in the warehouse below should hear them. They imposed a “no plumbing after 8pm” rule. It is hard to imagine a 14 year old keeping her spirits up for so long under such conditions. It was impossible to stay cheerful just experiencing it for an hour. Her notes and diaries were here, and her handwriting is so impeccable and mature. It gave me a chill to know Anne died of typhoid at Auschwitz. It was so easy for me to visit the travel clinic and get a typhoid shot before I came here.
Even in her uniquely horrible existence, confined for over two years in the Secret Annex, trapped with her family, this angsty teen found joy in the clear blue sky and reminded us to find our happiness. Her voice, like a bullet, direct and piercing, shot over the heads of her oppressors. Through her writing, she revealed the hideous truths of those who voraciously burned books. She gave girls a voice and inspired women. She understood the power of the pen, and used it. And, she was vindicated. She didn’t want hers to be a life lived in vain – certainly it was not. In fact, she became one of the most important writers of the 20th century.
I recently read that now, after 70 years in a bank vault, the diary of “the Polish Anne Frank” has been published. You can click on the link for more info.