The stories of those who survived the Holocaust have been read by millions and their words a reminder of one of history’s darkest times. Their will to live and courage in reliving their experiences have given the world invaluable treasures in books that have stood and will continue to stand the test of time. Among them is the story Annelies Marine “Anne” Frank (1929-1945), whose diary kept while hiding from the Third Reich, became one of the most popular books in the world. In June, 2013 while visiting The Netherlands, I paid a visit to the Anne Frank Museum. As I entered the museum and made my way up to the attic, I was overcome by chills at just how small it really is. Pictures and words do not suffice, it is something to be seen in person. And it continues to boggle my mind that several people lived in such a compact space. But their will to survive kept them focused on their surroundings and remaining in the attack for as long as possible. Their hiding place was eventually discovered and for many years it was believed that the family was betrayed. However, historians have never found conclusive proof that the family’s location was given to the Sicherheitsdienst (SD) in the form of an anonymous phone call as is widely believed. The truth may remain lost to history. Frank was sent to the Bergen-Belsen camp where she died of Typhus in February, 1945, several days after her sister Margot and would have been simply another victim of the Final Solution if not for her father Otto, who survived the war and returned to Amsterdam where he found her diary. Believing his daughter’s words to be important to future generations, he found a publisher willing to put the words in print. And the result is a literary masterpiece that is read each year by growing numbers of young students across the world.
The diary is fascinating and shows the musings of a typical teenage girl living in atypical times. Her account of daily life in the annex and thoughts about her family, war and her feelings towards the other occupants in the annex are interesting and at times humorous. Her sharp wit and analytical observations of those around her, show that she is wise beyond her years. And her ability to maintain a sense of humor even as they are hiding in the attic, is a testament to her character and that of those around her. We the readers know that eventually she falls victim to the Nazis and is sent to the camp where she will die. But as the book moves forward, it is impossible not to become drawn to her through a vivacious personality and blossoming mind. We are even introduced to her paramour, Peter whose family is in hiding with the Franks. Her story really is the diary of a young girl.
When I finished the book, I found it incredibly difficult to come to terms that such a young woman was sent to her death simply because of her religious faith. It forced me to ask myself why humans do the things they do to each other. We have an uncanny ability to cause the destruction of ourselves and those around us. Anne Frank, never finished high school, went to a university, met the love of her life and started a family. During the Second World War, she and the occupants of the hidden attic fell victim to Nazi terror formulated by Nazi ideology. But in death, Frank has become a martyr of the Holocaust and one its brightest voices from beyond this world. Today, more than seventy-three years after her death, this book remains on the shelves of bibliophiles, libraries and teachers throughout the world as new generations of students learn about the Third Reich and the quest of Adolf Hitler to accomplish world domination.
Anne Frank’s story is one that will remain with you long after you have finished the book. Although it is recommended reading to young adults, I find that even older adults can find meaning in this captivating journal recorded by a young woman whose life was changed permanently in the country she called home as the Austrian menace pushed Germany in a world conflict. And until the end of time, people will continue to read and cherish this diary of a young girl.