Diary of Anne Frank
Bibliographic Information on the Book
The Diary of Anne Frank was written by Anne Frank, then a thirteen-year-old Jewish girl. It is known commonly as the Diary of a Young Girl. During the holocaust, she fled together with her family when the Nazi government was killing the Jews. It is a dependable classic, providing information of the things, which transpired during the holocaust period. It was published in Dutch in 1947, but due to its vital information, it received translations into several other languages. The Dutch production was entitled Het Achterhius, which means the Secret Annex. Its first publication in English was in 1952, which had an instant powerful impact. The book was produced into a play and a film in the years 1955 and 1959 respectively. The Netherlands Institute for documenting wars affirmed the diaries’ authenticity after The Diary of Anne Frank: The Critical Edition was published in 1986.
Context on the Author
This book's author is a thirteen-year-old Jewish girl, who stayed in Amsterdam. She was born in 1929 on 12 June, in Frankfurt, Germany. The family moved to Amsterdam after the Nazi assumed power in 1933. However, the 1940 German invasion of the Netherlands shortened their quiet stay in Amsterdam. This Jewish family went into a hideout, in 1942, when the anti-Jewish measures increased and hence their safety became uncertain. Therefore, the context of the other is during the Nazi conquest of the Netherlands and imposition of their anti-Jew policy, which was meant to wipe out all the Jews. It was also the World War II period where Germany had established forced labor camps and concentration camps for prisoners. They would transport war prisoners in cattle cars, which were sealed at the back into the concentration and forced labor camps. Here, they would torture them with hard work and harsh living conditions. Most prisoners were starved to death, and others perished from diseases in the camps.
Summary of the Author’s Experiences
Anne possessed a red-checkered diary, which she had received from her parents as a gift. She recorded every bit of things she could observe, alongside her own reflections, during the period her family was in the hideout. The diary notes portray her maturity, sensitiveness, wisdom and gift in writing. Although a young girl of only thirteen years, the survival of her diary after the World War II revealed her indomitable spirit. In the hideouts, the Frank family together with their other Jewish friends had received help from the Otto Frank employers. There was a small room with an attic in his place of work, where his employers hid them, out of their love and willingness to help Frank. Anne chose to call the place their Secret Annex, where they decided to hide from the Nazi government.
Otto Frank’s employers also risked their lives by hiding Jews. Adolph Hitler had decreed that anyone who was found hiding a Jew would be murdered. However, the plan was a success story as it was kept a top secret. Only few employees knew of the hideouts of the Jews in the Secret Annex. The Franks together with their friends managed to hide for two years without interacting with the outside world. Their point of contact was the people who hid them in the office. They would feed them and update them on the progress of the war and the decrees by the Nazi government. The door to the Annex was blocked by a bookcase, which concealed the hideouts of the Jews. The Dutch protectors were faithful to keep the secret annex a top secret.
However, after two years, the Jews could no longer hide in the small room. The Gestapo came searching the office, in response to a tip. The Dutch protectors’ destructions of the Gestapo could not divert their attention. They managed to move the bookcase, consequently discovering the Annex. After the discovery, the Jews in the Annex did not resist but surrendered, to the Gestapo. They packed few of their belonging and left with the Gestapo. Anne did not carry her diary along, and this is how it survived the war. The group found in the Annex was taken to the headquarters of the Gestapo for questioning. Afterwards, they were taken to a Westerbork retaining Camp in Holland by train. The journey was quite an experience for Anne since it gave the opportunity to reconnect with the outside world, which she had been away from for two years while in the Annex. The conditions at Westerbork were bearable despite food scarcity and overcrowding. The place had no firing squads, gas chambers or crematoriums.
At Westerbork, Anne spent most of her time with Peter, and in their childhood naivety, they could not figure out the danger of their position. They seemed to enjoy the freedom that had lacked for the two years while at the Secret Annex. Anne could interact with her father at night since that was when he was allowed to visit her in her barracks. Later, the two Jewish families were transported to Auschwitz concentration camp by train. They were then put in cattle cars, which were sealed, and transported to the Auschwitz camp after alighting from the train. On arrival, the women, who included Mrs. Frank, Mrs. van Daan, Margot, and Anne, were moved into a horrific concentration camp. They were shaved and stripped, and given sack dresses, to put on despite the cold weather. This was quite some torture. The women were divided into groups for purposes of work, each having a leader, and Anne, though the youngest, managed to lead her group. Often, the healthy women were separated from the frail and sick ones, who were taken to the gas chambers. The separation was done once the women were stripped and exposed to a searchlight. Anne and Margot were selected and sent to a camp in Bergen-Belsen in Germany, by the same means of cattle cars, which were sealed. A journey lasted for several days.
At Bergen-Belsen, regular assignments of work were rare. Food was also scarce hence starvation of prisoners to death. Typhus was also a rampant disease in the camp, due to the dirty living conditions. Both Margot and Anne succumbed to the disease and died with only a difference of few weeks, Margot being the first. They died after a long time of illness and suffering. Anne’s death happened only a few weeks before the British Army intervened, liberating the camp.
The author’s experience is typical of people who live through similar circumstances of torture. War victims in their residential countries often undergo torture and suffering in their hideouts and when apprehended. Therefore, she brings out the sufferings and deaths that the Jews succumbed to during the World War II. Moreover, the author represents teenagers with dreams and ambitions, which, unfortunately, did not materialize due to inevitable circumstances affecting their safety. She represents the torture women go through when they are abducted during wartime.
The author, Anne Frank, chose to keep the memoir of the war because she was optimistic of becoming a writer. Besides this, she wanted to record her dreams and reflections as she grew up as a young girl. However, she rewrote her diary entries after she heard a radio broadcast by an exiled Dutch government. The government had requested people to save their diaries during the war, which would be published after the war. This was a good motivation for Anne to write more since she hoped that one day her work would be published.
The experiences of the author were so horrific, and I personally could not stand to read some of the experiences they experienced in the wartime. I could not quite understand how people could stay indoors for two years without ever interacting with the outside world. I also struggled with the torture present in the concentration camps where the women were stripped and given sack clothes in the cold weather. The fact that they were stripped under a searchlight for scrutiny before separation was also inhumane. Indeed, it was so unjust for the Nazi government to jail the Jews and let them die off in the jail through starvation and diseases caused by lice like the typhus. I was also so much disturbed by the fact that the Nazi government jailed children too. I believe children did not deserve to suffer sentences in jail. This is because the naivety of children cannot allow them to understand the reasons of their torture. In addition, they are innocent beings, who cannot participate in war.
I was very shocked and equally saddened by the horrific encounters that this young girl together with her family went through when fleeing for their safety. The young girl was denied the opportunity to grow and enjoy life like the other teenagers. She lacked the opportunity to live, to realize the fulfillment of her ambitions like other teenagers. This is against human rights, which I would not wish to see any other teenager or individual go through in life. Indeed, the World War II encounters were horrific.
References for history paper
Frank, A., Mooyaart, B., & Roosevelt, E. (1993). Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl (2nd ed.). New York: Bantam.
The Diary of Anne Frank: a personal essay
I am young and I possess many buried qualities; I am young and strong and am living a great adventure; I am still in the midst of it and can't grumble the whole day long. 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 and how beautiful nature is, how good the people are about me, how interesting this adventure is. Why, then, should I be in despair?
-- Anne Frank
I read The Diary of Anne Frank after finishing Martin Gilbert's Holocaust Journey, a book which left me with a yearning to know more about the Holocaust. Where better to begin, then, than with possibly the most famous literary work to come out of that period?
The Diary is, without doubt, a singular accomplishment. "Greatest-hits" lists are popping up all over the place in this, the last year starting with the digits "19", and Anne and/or her diary are included in most of these. Its lucidity, honesty and penetrating insight are noteworthy enough on their own. The fact that it was written when Anne was thirteen to fifteen years old makes it even more remarkable; that it was written in the midst of the trials she describes makes it unique.
Despite the nature of the Diary's origins, I didn't find it sad or depressing. I'd feared that it might be so -- after all, the Holocaust is hardly a light-hearted subject to read about. Instead, I found that the book, more than anything, was inspirational -- an example of how human beings can survive and maintain their dignity in the face of ruthless persecution. Anne's optimism and cheerfulness shine through every page of her diary, even as she writes of the hunted existence she and her loved ones were enduring. It's easy to maintain a positive attitude if you don't know what's going on, but Anne knew -- she was aware of the genocide being committed by the Nazis against her people, and she felt terrible guilt at having (so she thought) been spared, while her friends were being deported to the concentration camps. It would have been easy for her to react as others, in similar circumstances, have done: either to be consumed by hatred and a desire for revenge, or to fall into misery and despair.
She certainly knew what despair was. Many times in her stay in the annex, she felt it deeply -- when relations with her fellow inmates were strained to breaking point, or when, in idle moments, the lack of distractions allowed the enormity of their shared plight to fill her mind. Similarly, she was capable of inflicting great hurt on those who loved her -- her father and especially her mother, with whom she was never close. More than anything else, Anne was human: flawed, sensitive and achingly vulnerable, as human as you or I -- and indeed, just as human as those who tracked her down and ultimately murdered her. The Diary records the emotions she felt, as she grew from a child to the first stages of adulthood in the cramped confines of the annex. I read her words and think: that was me, ten years ago -- except, of course, that she had the ability to write down what she was seeing, feeling and thinking, and I didn't.
For in addition to being an ordinary girl, she was also an immensely skilled writer. She had the ability to describe with breathtaking clarity not just the world around her, but also the confused, turbulent world inside her head. She wasn't omniscient -- in fact, it's clear that Anne could be just as blinkered as anyone else. However, her words were always genuine: she held nothing back, and never tried to hide behind dissembling or diplomatic words. She turned her critical eye on herself without fear, and in eloquent words that humble as much as they inspire, she said: this is me, there is nothing else. And in spite of her own protestations, her noble side shines through. She judges herself almost too harshly, wanting to make amends for the wrongs she'd done, and resolving to learn from her mistakes. She kept up a veneer of good cheer that bolstered the spirits of those around her, even as it concealed what she was feeling inside. She gave more of herself than anyone had a right to expect, even if she might not have thought so at the time. She never surrendered to the twin demons of despair and hatred -- and if we were in a similar ghastly situation, could we say the same of ourselves?
All this just serves to underline the tragedy of her fate, since we can identify and sympathise with the young, talented girl who recorded her thoughts in the Diary. It's at this point that the enormity of the crimes the Nazis committed truly hits home. Six million murdered Jews; ten million murdered Russians and Poles -- these numbers are far too large for the human mind to grasp. Intellectually, we know (or at least the more rational ones among us know) that the Holocaust was the greatest tragedy of the 20th century, and perhaps in all recorded history. But raw statistics can't convey its true horror, any more than you can get an idea of what a city is like by glancing at the figures in an atlas. Anne Frank, however -- one innocent child, out of those millions -- that, we can understand. Talented though Anne undoubtedly was, it's the context in which the Diary is read that gives it its true power. It's common knowledge that she and her family were finally caught by the Nazis -- and that makes it very hard to read passages where Anne, in her innocence and hope, makes plans for when the war is over. One of the most poignant of all was written when she discovers that her pen has been accidentally thrown into the fireplace:
I have one consolation, although a slender one: my fountain-pen has been cremated, just what I want later!
She would indeed be burned -- in the flames of the Holocaust. But I don't want to dwell on that; it's too painful, and pointless besides. It would also be wrong, because concentrating on her death fails to do justice to her immeasurable legacy. It's more appropriate to consider the following:
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. . . . I can shake off everything if I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn. But, and that is the great question, will I ever be able to write anything great, will I ever become a journalist or a writer? I hope so, I hope so very much, for I can recapture everything when I write, my thoughts, my ideals and my fantasies.
Anne Frank's career as a writer lasted for just one book, but no sane person could question its claim to greatness.
People who have a religion should be glad, for not everyone has the gift of believing in heavenly things. You don't necessarily even have to be afraid of punishment after death; purgatory, hell and heaven are things that a lot of people can't accept, but still a religion, it doesn't matter which, keeps a person on the right path. It isn't the fear of God, but the upholding of one's own honour and conscience.
-- Anne Frank
I don't think of myself as religious. I'm not Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu or Muslim; all these faiths (and others) have too much historical, quasi-mystical baggage for me to commit myself to them. On reading the Diary, though, I can't help but feel that something is present in its pages -- I'll call it the hand of God, even though that's a cliche, because I'm not as good a writer as Anne. How else to describe a work whose impact on the reader transcends anything else written this century? There is grace in the Diary, something eternal: it speaks to all of us, Jews and non-Jews, even if we profess to be faithless.
I can't judge Anne for clinging to her faith, unless it's to admire her courage and resolve in doing so. She speaks of faith as it should be -- something that ennobles the human beast, not a doctrine to be perverted into yet another excuse for us to slaughter each other. Her words
It's really a wonder that I haven't dropped all my ideals because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet, I keep them, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. 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 too will end, and that peace and tranquillity will return again.
resound in the mind. To the cynic, such words might sound superficial: an attempt to retreat from the unpleasantries of the world into make-believe. But in fact, she isn't making a statement about the world at all. The words are a declaration of purpose -- that come what may, she'll live her life as she sees fit, even if everyone else is too brutalised to care. And from a writer as clear-sighted as Anne Frank, they have the ring of truth in its deepest form.
It's not much of an admission to say that the Diary made me cry, simply because I can't believe anybody could read this book without crying. It's strange, that one can feel a sense of loss for the death of one person more than fifty years ago. But Anne's words are so vibrant, so full of wit and hope and candour and feeling, that it's the easiest thing to do to lose oneself in the world she evokes. Once I've entered that world, I can't leave; her words trap me there right to the final page, when she's brutally wrenched away. And along with the grief, I felt anger. I was angry at those who sent Anne Frank to Auschwitz and Belsen, and at the degradation inflicted on the condemned before they died. I was angry at the thought that those who committed these crimes had never been punished. I was angry that the victims died in the first place -- a senseless sacrifice to Nazi Germany's vision of a racially pure Utopia. Perhaps most of all, I was angry that I couldn't do anything. The events in question had taken place half a century before, on the other side of the world -- no matter how I felt, it wouldn't bring her, or her millions of fellow victims, back. It's little more than tokenistic to get angry now, when even the murderers are nearly all dead and gone. I can't forgive the Nazis either -- the Nazis haven't done anything to me, so I haven't got anything to forgive them for. But what I can do is never to forget the hell on earth that they created, just two generations past.
Anne died in March 1945 at the age of fifteen, in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. It's an exquisitely painful irony that this was barely a month before the camp was liberated, and two months before the unconditional surrender of Germany. In many ways, though, she's never died at all. I may be soft-headed, but I want to believe, even though her body lies in a mass grave along with that of her sister, that Anne Frank is still alive. And really, that's true -- every time I open her Diary, I can sense once more her indomitable spirit living on in its pages, and her laughing, chattering voice echoing in my ears. Of course, it's not as if Anne lives on only for me. She is timeless -- generations of readers have been deeply affected by her Diary, and while it continues to be read, she'll never be lost to the world. And finally, she lives on in the sense that her relevance hasn't diminished as we move further away from the events of the 1930s and 40s. Anne herself was aware that anti-semitism wouldn't die even after Germany's defeat; but anti-semitism is just one manifestation of the cruelty that we inflict on ourselves. Perhaps one day she can finally be laid to rest, because we'll have managed to attain the wisdom to put ancient hatreds behind us and to consider, first and foremost, simple human dignity. That day is still a long way off, sadly.
A human being -- many human beings -- brought about the Holocaust. Six million murdered Jews stand as a damning testament to what our species is capable of, when ancient prejudices are combined with modern technology. However, a human being -- a young, yet beautiful; flawed, yet wonderful; fallible, yet preternaturally gifted human being -- also gave us The Diary of Anne Frank. The difference is that the former embodies the most bestial aspects of humanity, while the latter embodies the divine. The nearest analogy I can think of is the Greek myth of Pandora, who opened a sealed box and released Evil into the world. But along with Evil, she also released Hope -- and just as one helps us endure the other, so Anne's diary reminds us that while human beings may be capable of Evil, we can also aspire towards Good. One of Anne's interests was Greek and Roman mythology, so I'd like to think that she'd find this a fitting description of her achievement.
A voice sobs within me: "There you are, that's what's become of you: you're uncharitable, you look supercilious and peevish, people dislike you and all because you won't listen to the advice given you by your own better half." Oh, I would like to listen, but it doesn't work; if I'm quiet and serious, everyone thinks it's a new comedy and then I have to get out of it by turning it into a joke . . . . I can't keep that up: if I'm watched to that extent, I start by getting snappy, then unhappy, and finally I twist my heart round again, so that the bad is on the outside and the good is on the inside, and keep on trying to find a way of becoming what I would so like to be, and what I could be, if . . . there weren't any other people living in the world.
-- Anne Frank