Remembering Anne Frank
By Lauren on June 12th, 2012
When I was in elementary school, my parents introduced me to my first literary heroine. Like me, she was a young girl who loved keeping a diary, chronicling the every day trials and tribulations of her teenage life—fights with her parents, rivalries with her sibling, the butterflies in her stomach over her first crush. Like me, her thirst for answers to the questions posed by the world around her led her to want a career in journalism. Unlike me, she wrote her diary as teenage Jewish girl forced into hiding by the Nazis. My first literary heroine was Anne Frank and today marks what would have been her 83rd birthday.
When I was in elementary school my parents gave me a copy of Anne’s diary after we inherited a pile of letters my Grandfather had written my Grandmother when he was a soldier during World War II, sparking a fascination with that period of history. The letters, though mostly mundane, took me back in time and carried my imagination to the 1940s. I loved the idea of hearing these experiences through a primary source. My Hebrew School had also recently begun teaching us about Shoah – the Holocaust. The devastation that happened to the Jews in Europe during World War II is hard for anyone to wrap their mind around, let alone a ten year old. Anne Frank’s diary was an effective way to explain those atrocities at a level I could relate to. I don’t think I really understood the journey I was about to embark on when I opened to the first page of the book, but I immediately became enthralled, enraged, hopeful, and heartbroken by Anne’s story. Some moments were hard for me to envision—the small cramped quarters in which she lived, having to remain silent and still during the day for fear of being discovered, her constant hunger, not having the freedoms I took for granted, things as simple as the ability to go to the bathroom when she wanted. Other times I felt I found a kindred spirit who was able to put my own pre-teen emotions into words. Like Anne did with her housemate Peter, I had just developed my first crush on a classmate and related to Anne’s everyday confusion over new feelings and her struggle with growing up. Our circumstances may have been drastically different, but some things are universal. And, even at a young age, I understood on a deeper level that there was something incredible about Anne, despite her situation, being able to even contemplate falling in love. When I got to the end and learned that Anne had died at Bergen-Belsen, her loss felt deeply personal. And in a way I still can’t explain, Anne’s Diary has forever connected me with both wanting to understand the Holocaust and to honor those who lost their lives during it. Since Anne’s diary, I’ve consumed more non-fiction and fiction books on World War II then I can count and I make a yearly visit to the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC.
A few years ago, I came home from college to once again find a copy of Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl waiting on my bed. It wasn’t unlike the first time my parents brought her into my life. My mom happened upon an anniversary edition that had been released and knowing how much the book had impacted me, she bought it. I hadn’t ever gone back to re-read Anne’s story and this annotated version seemed like the perfect opportunity. After closing the book for the second time, Anne’s words were just as poignant, truthful and haunting as they had been for me fifteen years ago.
What about you OOM readers? Have you read Anne Frank’s Diary? Tell us your experiences in the comments.