12th Jun 2012
Bookish Birthdays: Anne Frank
A masterpiece! A classic! A work of art! The Diary of a Young Girl has been described as all of these.
But it should never have been any of those things… it should have been the diary of a 13-year-old girl, with the difficulties of school life, the travails of adolescence, the excitement of a first kiss perhaps, and the beauty of life from a 13-year-old’s eyes.
It should not have been a masterpiece or a classic, for Anne was only a child, and deserved her childhood.
Anne Frank was born in 1929 in the city of Frankfurt am Main in Weimar Germany. She had an older sister, Margot.
Born a German national, Frank lost her citizenship in 1941 when Nazi Germany passed the anti-Semitic Nuremberg Laws against the Jews.
In 1933, when the Nazis took over Germany, her family moved to Amsterdam. The Nazi occupation of the Netherlands in 1940 and subsequent Jewish prosecutions in mid-1942 led them to go into hiding in a secret annexe of a warehouse. Anne was 13.
A diary, which was given to her on her thirteenth birthday, chronicles her life from 12 June 1942 until 1 August 1944, when their hiding place was betrayed to the Germans and they were taken to concentration camps.
Anne and Margot were eventually transferred to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where they both died of typhus in March 1945.
Of the nine million Jews who had resided in Europe before the Holocaust (approximately two-thirds) – over one million Jewish children, approximately two million women, and three million Jewish men perished.
Anne Frank’s diary was published in 1947 by her father, Otto Frank, the only surviving member of the family. It is one of the most heartbreaking accounts of the life of Holocaust victims.
The Frank family lived in the cramped space of the annexe for over two years; they were helped by a couple of German friends who brought them food and water.
Living life in complete isolation, in complete silence, they went from one day to another reading the books that they brought with them and listening to the almost-mute news on the radio. Their days and nights were held up by the hope of freedom, by the belief that all of it would definitely come to an end soon.
Anne’s diary describes all of these events, and they form the backdrop of her fights with Margot, her occasional friction with her mother, and closeness to her father. Her dreams, aspirations, and hopes mingled with the depressing world of Nazi rule, something that can be branded as man’s lowest days in all of civilization.
Anne aspired to become a journalist, writing in her diary on Wednesday, 5 April 1944:
I finally realized that I must do my schoolwork to keep from being ignorant, to get on in life, to become a journalist, because that’s what I want! I know I can write …, but it remains to be seen whether I really have talent …
And if I don’t have the talent to write books or newspaper articles, I can always write for myself. But I want to achieve more than that. I can’t imagine living like Mother, Mrs. van Daan 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 want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I’ve never met. I want to go on living even after my death! And that’s why I’m so grateful to God for having given me this gift, which I can use to develop myself and to express all that’s inside me!
When I write I can shake off all my cares. My sorrow disappears, my spirits are revived! But, and that’s a big question, will I ever be able to write something great, will I ever become a journalist or a writer?
As the world later witnessed, she was achieving her dreams then and there, in that awful time, in that terribly insulting life. Her account of her life is bone-chilling and it is impossible to imagine how she might have maintained her sanity living a life of hiding and constant fear.
She was becoming a journalist, a writer, an inspiration; and most importantly, she was becoming the voice of those six million Jews who were immortalised by her work.