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Posts Tagged ‘Diary of Anne Frank

Throughout the ages, countless diaries have been written and some have even been published. Why is The Diary of Anne Frank so special? An obvious reason is the historical events it recounts. Biographers also tend to refer to Anne’s extraordinary writing ability and to her indefatigable spirit through even the most horrific of circumstances.  On a more personal level, I appreciate how candid Anne is about her adolescent experiences. I have also used her diary as a learning tool with my students.

Most everyone is aware that Anne Frank kept her diary in the 1940’s, when the Germans took over Amsterdam and imposed anti-Jewish measures. The day after Anne’s older sister received an official summons to report to a Nazi work camp in Germany, the family went into hiding, never once stepping outside until their eventual arrest. Throughout the family’s stay in the Secret Annex, Anne wrote extensive daily entries in her diary. Several of these early entries describe the anti-Jewish measures, while later ones refer to radio reports that caused great concern or celebration, depending on the status of the war. Later entries also referred to the atrocities being heaped upon their fellow citizens, the destruction being invoked by war raids, and of the numerous scares being faced by the family due to burglaries, sickness, and other potentially life-threatening situations. If for no other reason, The Diary of Anne Frank will continue to endure because of the historical events it records.

Of course, in her diary being a historical record, it also helps that Anne knew how to write for an audience. She selected only the highlights of a day to record in her diary such as a birthday celebration or a bout with sickness. Only on rare occasion did she outline the events of a day from start to finish. And then she had reason: Anne wanted to share what a typical day in the Secret Annex felt like. From her, we learn about when the family had to be quiet for fear of discovery and when they could relax because there was no one around to hear them. For each event that Anne elected to write about, she provided ample background and details, thereby pulling readers into her world. She even contemplated the reasons behind actions. With every page of her published diary, I feel as if I’m right there with her feeling anxious, frightened, confused, or excited.

With all the emphasis on its historical and literary merits, you might more easily forget how deeply personal The Diary of Anne Frank is. Several of the early entries detail at great length how isolated Anne felt from her family, especially from her mother and her sister. Only as she matures does Anne began to understand that perhaps some of her own actions have caused strife between mother and daughter. In addition, she and her older sister start to forge the beginnings of a friendship that is formed out of mutual respect, rather than simply forced upon them due to being sisters. Yet along with Anne’s growth also develops the awareness that her family’s views of their boarders might have prejudiced her against them. For that reason, Anne tries to impartially observe their boarders and note their strengths. Along with Anne’s questions about relationships are also her reactions to her changing body, her erratic periods, and her growing infatuation with the adolescent boy (Peter) who also resides in the Secret Annex. Whenever I reread The Diary of Anne Frank, I never cease to marvel at how vocal Anne is about her fears, hopes, hates, and loves.

All of the above provides me personally with an engaging reading experience, but it also serves me as a teacher too. When older students of mine display racist attitudes, or worse try to act tough by embellishing their arms with swastika, I read to them from Anne’s diary. We talk about how Anne was a real teenager. Just like them. We talk about how on a daily basis Anne never knew when an air raid from outside countries might destroy their building or when the military who were occupying their country might capture them and put them in concentration camps. All because she was a Jew. Anne wanted to feel fresh air, eat junk food, spend time with friends, laugh at jokes, and experience the pains of growing up. Just like the average teenager. Tragically, after turning thirteen, Anne never had the opportunity to have any of these experiences. Because she was a Jew. This message has been enlightening to my students.

Why is The Diary of Anne Frank so special? Anne’s father, the sole survivor of those who hid in the Secret Annex, apparently ends each of his letters with the words: “I hope Anne’s book will have an effect on the rest of your life so that insofar as it is possible in your own circumstances, you will work for unity and peace.” If you have yet to read it, you owe it to yourself to borrow it now and find out for yourself why this particular diary has endured. If you have already experienced its depth, I’d be interested in hearing how it has personally impacted you.

My rating? Bag it: Carry it with you. Make it a top priority to read.

How would you rate this book?

Born on June 12, 1929, Anne Frank was a German-Jewish teenager who was forced to go into hiding during World War II. She and her family, along with four others, spent over two years hiding from the Nazis in an annex of rooms above her father’s office in Amsterdam. During this time, Anne wrote about her experiences and wishes. She was 15 when the family was found and sent to a concentration camp. She was one of over one million Jewish children who died in the Holocaust. The Diary of Anne Frank has since been read by millions.

PERSONAL LIFE

AnneFrankAnnelies Marie Frank was born June 12, 1929, in Frankfurt, Germany, to Otto and Edith Frank. Her father was a lieutenant in the German army during World War I, who later became a businessman. Anne also had a sister named Margot who was three years older than her.

For the first five years of her life, the Frank family lived in an apartment on the outskirts of Frankfurt. After the Nazi seizure of power in 1933, Otto Frank fled to Amsterdam in the Netherlands, where he had business connections. The rest of the Frank family followed, with Anne being the last of the family to arrive in February 1934 after staying with her grandparents in Aachen.

According to Biography, the Franks were a typical upper middle-class German-Jewish family living in a quiet, religiously diverse neighborhood near the outskirts of Frankfurt. However, Anne was born on the eve of dramatic changes in German society that would soon disrupt her family’s tranquil life as well as the lives of all other German Jews. During the late 1920s and early 1930s, the National German Socialist Workers Party (Nazi Party) led by Adolph Hitler became Germany’s leading political force, winning control of the government in 1933.

I can remember that as early as 1932, groups of Storm Troopers came marching by, singing, ‘When Jewish blood splatters from the knife.’

–Otto Frank, Biography: Anne Frank

When Hitler became chancellor of Germany on January 20, 1933, the Frank family realized that it was time to flee. They moved to Amsterdam, Netherlands. Anne described the circumstances of her family’s emigration years later in her diary: “Because we’re Jewish, my father immigrated to Holland in 1933, where he became the managing director of the Dutch Opekta Company, which manufactures products used in making jam.”

Anne began attending Amsterdam’s Sixth Montessori School. Biography states that throughout the rest of the 1930s, Anne lived a relatively happy and normal childhood. She had many friends, along with being a bright and inquisitive student.

In 1940, the Germans took over Amsterdam too and imposed anti-Jewish measures. Jews were required to wear a yellow Star of David at all times and observe a strict curfew. Anne and her sister were forced to transfer to a segregated Jewish school. Otto Frank managed to keep control of his company by officially signing ownership over to two of his Christian associates, while continuing to run the company from behind the scenes.

Within two years, German authorities and their Dutch collaborators had begun to concentrate Jews from throughout the Netherlands at Westerbork, a transit camp near the Dutch town of Assen, not far from the German border. From Westerbork, German officials deported the Jews to Auschwitz-Birkenau and Sobiborkilling centers in German-occupied Poland. As Anne later wrote in her diary, “After May 1940, the good times were few and far between; first there was the war, then the capitulation and then the arrival of the Germans, which is when the trouble started for the Jews.”

I hope I will be able to confide everything to you, as I have never been able to confide in anyone, and I hope you will be a great source of comfort and support.

–Anne Frank, Biography: Anne Frank

WRITING LIFE

AnneFrankDisary_InsideOn June 12, 1942, Anne’s parents gave her a red checkered diary for her 13th birthday. She wrote her first entry, addressed to an imaginary friend named Kitty, that same day.

Only a few short weeks later, Margot received an official summons to report to a Nazi work camp in Germany. The very next day, the family went into hiding in makeshift quarters in an empty space at the back of Otto Frank’s company building, which they referred to as the Secret Annex. They were accompanied in hiding by Otto’s business partner Hermann van Pels as well as his wife, Auguste, and son, Peter. Otto’s employees Kleiman and Kugler, as well as Jan and Miep Gies and Bep Voskuijl, provided food and information about the outside world.

For the next two years, the families remained in hiding, never once stepping outside the dark, damp, sequestered portion of the building. To pass the time, Anne wrote extensive daily entries in her diary. In addition to her diary, Anne filled a notebook with quotes from her favorite authors, original stories and the beginnings of a novel about her time in the Secret Annex.

On August 4, 1944, the Gestapo (German Secret State Police) discovered the hiding place after being tipped off by an anonymous Dutch caller, and the Frank family and the four others hiding with them were arrested. One month later, the Gestapo sent them to Auschwitz, a concentration camp complex in German-occupied Poland. Upon arriving at Auschwitz, the men and women were separated. This was the last time that Otto Frank ever saw his wife or daughters.

Selected for labor due to their youth, Anne and her sister were transferred to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp near Celle, in northern Germany in late October 1944. Their mother was not allowed to go with them. She fell ill and died at Auschwitz shortly thereafter, on January 6, 1945. Biography states that at Bergen-Belsen, food was scarce, sanitation was awful, and disease ran rampant. Anne and her sister both came down with typhus in the early spring and died within a day of each other in March 1945, only a few weeks before British soldiers liberated the camp. Anne Frank was just 15 years old at the time of her death.

“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.”

–Otto Frank, Biography: Anne Frank

At the end of the war, Otto Frank returned home to Amsterdam, searching for news of his family. On July 18, 1945, he met two sisters who had been with Anne and Margot at Bergen-Belsen and delivered the tragic news of their deaths. He also found Anne’s diary, which had been saved by Miep Gies, and Biography notes that he was awestruck by what he discovered.

The Secret Annex: Diary Letters was published on June 25, 1947. Since that time, Anne’s diary has been published in 67 languages. Countless editions, as well as screen and stage adaptations, of the work have been created around the world. It is also used in thousands of middle school and high school curricula in Europe and the Americas. Her diary has become a symbol for the lost promise of the children who died in the Holocaust.

It’s utterly impossible for me to build my life on a foundation of chaos, suffering and death. I see the world being slowly transformed into a wilderness; I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too. I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty too shall end, that peace and tranquility will return once more.

–Anne Frank, Biography: Anne Frank

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