I read The Diary of Anne Frank when I was 18. I found the novel in my university’s library (though it is specifically built for food-tech & business majors, this particular library provides a handful of great English and Indonesian novels). At that time, I spent most of my time waiting for my next management class or whatever by reading Anne Frank’s diary, which was pretty pathetic but I’ve always considered myself the biggest loser ever since I failed majoring in literature anyway — so, that’s okay.
As you all know, Nazi Germany was an extremely brutal regime led by the dictator Adolf Hitler, who had killed:
- Between five and six million Jews
- More than three million Soviet prisoners of war
- More than two million Soviet civilians
- More than one million Polish civilians
- More than one million Yugoslav civilians
- About 70,000 men, women and children with mental and physical handicaps
- More than 200,000 gypsies
- Unknown numbers of political prisoners, resistance fighters, homosexuals and deportees
Hitler and the Nazi Party blamed the deteriorating power of Germany solely on Jews, and preached the supremacy of the so-called German/Aryan (white) race. The germans, Hitler declared, were the “master race”, creators of all civilization and fitted by nature to rule the world.
The year was 1942 when Anne Frank’s family and a handful of Jewish people decided to go into hiding in a secret building with a bookshelf entrance called the Secret Annex, after the German invasion in Netherlands. Anne, whose German citizenship got erased, was writing the journal entries on the span of 2 years, from 1942 to 1944. She mainly wrote about her day-to-day living, hiding from the German authority: sometimes days would be boring, or sometimes days could be frightening because of random bombings and explosions. Living with a bunch of people in such confined place was a struggle for free-spirited Anne; she was always left miserable by the petty quarrels with her mother. Most of the time, Anne’s family and friends had a deficit of food and supplies, or broken toilet sewage. Despite the uncomfortable living situations, Anne understood how her life at that moment was far better than the ones living in concentration camps. Although she could not go to school anymore, Anne educated herself with the help of her father on lessons such as French, English, Mathematics, and History. In her diary, Anne even wrote about the daily schedule of living in the hiding place (Secret Annex). On the entry of 20 June 1942, Anne listed a bunch of places forbidden for Jews: theatres, cinemas, entertainment places, schools, and so on. It’s somewhat surprising for a not yet 16-year-old girl to be writing in such good prose, especially when she wrote about her love towards Peter van Pels. Probably Anne’s journal had gone through an abundance of editing, but still.. Anne Frank wrote extremely well for a little girl. If you want to read the novel, come to Widya Mandala library 🙂
Reading the diary is saddening, especially when we already know how life would end up for Anne Frank. She wrote her journal entries mostly with utmost optimism. Believing that the war would be over soon, she planned out her career as a writer/journalist to discuss about the war. Every seconds, she waited for the day of Nazi’s loss. But on August 4 1944, a year before the war ended, Anne Frank’s family and friends were captured and sent to concentration camps by the German police. Anne, Margot (Anne’s sister), and their mother (Mrs. Van Daan) were stationed in Auschwitz, Poland. There, Anne was shocked at how human beings were treated as if they were worse than animals. Not so long after that, Mrs. Van Daan died of depression & starvation when she was sent with Anne and Margot to Belsen in Germany. In Belsen, Anne learned how different the situation was from that of Auschwitz — there was no organization, no food or water. There were only the barren, frozen land, and starving people looking like literal ghosts. Anne died when she was not yet 16 years old, right after her sister’s death. Ironically, the war ended only 2 months after Anne Frank’s death. The brutality of anti-semitic Nazi Germany had crashed Anne’s passion, killing her before she was even liberated. Nevertheless, her dreams of becoming a writer and having her stories heard are fulfilled, as Otto Frank (Anne’s father) decided to publish her journal to the public in 1947. Today, her journal has been translated to various languages, and the Secret Annex (the hiding place) has become the Anne Frank House/Foundation. Each year, the house is visited by thousands of people all over the world, while the foundation is also working towards the better future and comprehension of young generations. You can actually visit the house virtually on the website here.