I had finished reading Anne Frank: The Diary of a young girl a few days ago. This book is the most popular war documentary of the Second World War and perhaps of all times. It was published in 1947 and since then it has been translated into more than thirty languages and adapted for theatre film and television. In her introduction to the diary’s first American edition, Eleanor Roosevelt described it as “one of the wisest and most moving commentaries on war and its impact on human beings that I have ever read”. The Soviet writer Ilya Ehrenburg had said: “one voice speaks for six million, the voice not of a sage or a poet but of an ordinary little girl”.
About the author
This book is the diary of a girl by name Anne Frank who lived in Amsterdam during the Second World War. She, her family and her brethren were the victims of the draconian and ghastly policies adopted by the Nazi government (Third Reich) of Germany.
The book contains good details about Anne Frank’s early years. As per the information given, Anne Frank had learnt using short-hand and even developed secret codes of her own at the age of fourteen. I still cannot do that. Another aspect that struck me, was that Anne was very widely read and spent most of her time during their 25 months of stay in the secret Annexe (their secret hiding place) reading and learning. The variety of subjects which she had covered was broad and incredible.
Anne’s biographer Melissa Miller said that she wrote “in a precise, confident, economical style stunning in its honesty”. Her writing is largely a study of characters, and she examines every person in her circle with a shrewd, uncompromising eye. She is occasionally cruel and often biased, particularly in her depictions of Fritz Pfeffer and of her own mother, and Miller explains that she channeled the “normal mood swings of adolescence” into her writing. Her examination of herself and her surroundings is sustained over a lengthy period of time in an introspective, analytical and highly self critical manner, and in moments of frustration she relates the battle being fought within herself between the “good Anne” she wants to be, and the “bad Anne” she believes herself to be.
The first entry in the diary is dated 14th June, 1942 i.e. when Anne was 14 years old and the last entry is dated 1st August, 1944. Anne Frank had started using this diary just a few months before they moved into their secret hiding place to escape the Gestapo (German Police) who had called Anne’s sister Margot for deportation to one of their concentration camps.
As this diary covers the life of a common girl, it has some thing of interest for every one. The initial entries reflect the good mood of the writer and slowly (as they move into and stay in their secret hiding place) it gets serious. This does not mean that when Anne started writing this Diary all was well for Jews. Nazis were all over Holland and discrimination was in full swing. Jews were asked to wear yellow star badges when in public and Jewish children could only attend Jewish schools.
The Secret Annexe was a contingency plan devised by Anne’s father Otto Frank (the only surviving member of the family (died in 1980)) and some of his co-workers at their office, to escape arrests by the Gestapo. Along with the Franks, there was another family. The Van Daans (3) and one Mr. Albert Dussel (Otto Frank’s acquaintance and a dentist by profession, who joined in later) also took shelter in the Secret Annexe.
Anne’s diary contains a vivid description of the hiding place, the daily schedule of the people living in there and her own musings. The diary shows the straining relationships between Anne and her parents (particularly her mother) as well as between the other members living there. Readers must understand that Anne or other members of the Annexe could not come out in open, even to breathe fresh air. They lived in a constant fear of being discovered and deported to concentration camps. In addition, they faced limited rations, food supply shortages, sanitation problems and severe emotional challenges which most of us might (and should) never experience in our lives.
Towards the middle of the diary, Anne Frank falls in love with Peter (only son of the Van Daans) and both of them share a sweet and secret intimacy which she covers in good detail in her diary. This episode in her life, gives her respite and the feeling of being loved (which she missed from her family). There are certain entries where Anne expresses guilt and seems confused/ contradictory with reference to her relationship with her parents. Towards the end of the Diary Anne starts writing more about the politics and the Allied invasion of Nazi captured regions. With the invasion and news of progress coming in at regular intervals, the Annexers were sure that the Nazi rule would soon end and they would once again be free. The diary ends with the last entry on August 1, 1944.
On 3rd August, 1944, a Dutch informer thrashed their hopes and Gestapo penetrated into their secret hiding place, arresting all of them along with their helpers. After the arrest, grim fate awaited the Annexers and other Jews of the region. The Annexers were among the last lot of the Jews to be sent from Holland to the concentration camps. According to the available information, Anne’s mother died in a concentration camp, followed by her sister Margot and then Anne herself. Similarly, other annexers also died except for Otto Frank who survived and was liberated by the Russian army.
When I started reading the book, I knew that Anne Frank was a victim of Nazi oppression, with no specific feelings about it. But after I completed the book I felt sad and out-of-place as though a close relative or friend of mine had suffered. This is a powerful book and people of any age group can relate to it very easily. Also, readers should remember that Anne Frank was just one among millions who were butchered for nothing and take home, the lessons learnt regarding the horrors of war.