Anne Frank had just turned thirteen. Like any other adolescent, she undergoes physical and emotional changes that are a source of both curiosity and frustrations that she records in her diary as letters to an imaginary friend named “Kitty”. However, Anne Frank is no ordinary schoolgirl; she is a Jew living in Amsterdam during the reign of Hitler.
Fearing persecution by the Nazis, Anne, her family and four others hid in the ‘secret annex’ of her father’s office for two years until they were discovered in August 1944. Miep Gies and Bep Voskuijil, two secretaries who worked in the building, found her notes and kept it from the authorities in the hopes that she would one day be able to continue it. Unfortunately, Anne Frank died of typhoid and exhaustion in the Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp. She was just three months shy of her sixteenth birthday.
Otto Frank, the family patriarch and only survivor, acquired the notebooks and had her work published and fulfilled his daughter’s wish of becoming a writer.
In the tiny, dusty, sunless, crowded attic, Anne observed the world around her. She documented the fear and devastation caused by the war, the delicate balance of relationships amongst the people around her, and reflected on her own stirrings into womanhood.
Frank’s writing is eloquent, honest and mature yet also filled with the optimism and curiosity of a child. She has a keen sense of justice and empathy, and is arguably the best record of this dark period in human history. One example is in her entry on January 13, 1943, where she writes:
“Terrible things are happening outside. At any time of night and day, poor helpless people are being dragged out of their homes…Families are torn apart; men, women and children are separated. Children come home to find their parents have disappeared. Women return home from shopping to find their houses sealed, their families gone. The Christians in Holland are also living in fear because their sons are being sent to Germany. Everyone is scared. Every night hundreds, or maybe even thousands of people are being killed in Russia and Africa. No one can keep out of the conflict, the entire world is at war, and even though the Allies are doing better, the end is nowhere in sight.”
Despite the chaos caused by the regime and her own transformations, Anne Frank’s sense of self, and even humor, is consistent throughout her journals. There is a deep sense of awareness that she is in fact, in the process of change. Even at her tender age, she understands the importance of self-reflection, catharsis and friendship. Her diary, which she christens as “Kitty” becomes her one true friend and only confidant. On June 20, 1942, she wrote:
“It’s an odd idea for someone like me to keep a diary; not only because I have never done so before, but because it seems to me that neither I—nor for that matter anyone else—will be interested in the unbosomings of a thirteen-year schoolgirl. Still, what does that matter? I want to write, but more than that, I want to bring out all kinds of things that lie buried deep in my heart.”
Little did she know that millions of people from all over the world would read her work, and that her writin would be the voice for the countless, nameless victims of the Holocaust. It remained Number 1 in the New York Times Bestseller List for nine weeks and continues to rank as one of the best loved books of all time. Her work is not only read for its description of the war and oppression but also because it depicts the universal experiences of growing up and human resilience in the face of adversity.
Her prepubescent frustrations, from sibling rivalry to constantly feeling misunderstood, are common experiences of teenage angst, which cleaves the reader to her. There is vulnerability to her words and with each page; one begins to feel as though an intimate friendship has been formed.
Yet, her profound insights, not only to the horrors of World War II, but also in her vivid portrayal of an everyday life in the confines of a secret annex, showcase a wisdom beyond her years and an unwavering spirit that to this day, continues to inspire young and adult readers alike.
Want to know more? Check out:
The Secret Annex – http://www.annefrank.org/en/
Anne Frank Conquers the Moon Nazis – http://www.excelsiorstudios.net/comic.html
Songs to Anne Frank: http://www.last.fm/music/Bob+A.+Feldman/Anne+Frank%27s+Diary%3A+Songs+from+a+Musical