“Finally I will get to know about the life in hiding that Anne Frank was doomed to lead for 2 years.”
“War couldn’t be good, but how bad it was, will be revealed now.”
“What could a diary of a 15-year-old in hiding possibly hold during the time of war, other than the misery and fear she and her family constantly lived in?”
Such were my thoughts before I started reading a much renowned diary, a diary that was published as a book posthumously, a diary that will always remain in the pages of history for its translucency, a diary that may or may not resonate with its reader but will stay in the heart for a long time. Yes, it is the diary of Anne Frank, it is “The Diary of a Young Girl”.
This review is not to tell you the story, this review is not to ask you to read this book, this review is solely for the purpose of letting me share my experience, my expectations, and my favorite liners from the diary, and then you may decide for yourself if you still want to miss out on this book cum diary.
“There’s in people simply an urge to destroy, an urge to kill, to murder and rage, and until all mankind, without exception, undergoes a great change, wars will be waged, everything that has been built up, cultivated, and grown will be destroyed and disfigured, after which mankind will have to begin all over again.”
– Anne Frank
When I started with the diary, war had commenced, Jews had started to develop the utter fear they would be forced to live in for next many months, but the Frank girls were still in their house leading a normal life- going to school, having fun-time with their girlfriends and boyfriends, nothing out of the line of a girl’s usual life, until a letter came to the house, asking for Margot (Anne’s older sister) to go as a laborer to a concentration camp.
And just as I had conjectured, the usualness remained only for a small fraction of time. As soon as the letter arrived, the fear took hold of the Frank family, and their never-ending misery started. Once in hiding, pages were filled in Dutch language, ink was emptied on diary’s pages, life was spilled out, truths were spoken, lies were bared naked by Anne’s pen. But all those truths and lies had the least to do with war, and most with her parents and sister and her own self and the others in hiding with her family and the people (including Miep) who were brave and loyal enough to let ‘The’ Jews hide.
Fair portion of the diary is about a young girl’s longing, her desires and dreams, her shortcomings, her opinions on parenthood and friendship and love and war and life in general. While reading, at some places, I had a hard time to believe that this was penned down in the diary of a girl who started writing that diary at the age of 13, and could continue only till 15. Such a tender age and such depth; this was yet another instance that maturity and growth come not with age but with experiences. And the life, that Anne had to lead for 2 years, was meant to ripen her prematurely.
Although, I had expected and wanted to read more after the last diary’s entry, but, unfortunately, shortly after the last entry, police raided their hiding place (it’s still unknown, and perhaps will always be, who betrayed those in the hiding), and everyone was sent to concentration camps, where each and every person in the hiding died (Anne’s mother, Edith Frank, due to starvation and both the sisters- Anne and Margot, due to typhus,) except Otto Frank (Anne’s father). Among all 8 in the hiding, he was the lone survivor of the war, and it was he, who took into his hands, to get Anne’s diary published.
The diary was an insight into Anne’s and her kins’ life for the world, but it was a revelation to her father, who, in an interview, mentioned, how he came to know his own daughter, in real, after she died, through her diary. I feel, somehow, we all are on the same page- we all think we know the other, but, do we really do? We all have more than one side to us; we show what we want to, and keep the other sides hidden, and we all know this. But, comically, we all want to think that we know the other wholly, that we have seen all the sides, but unlike Otto, most of us never even come to know that such was never the case. Is it fortunate or unfortunate for us, I cannot really say, but it certainly is discomforting.
“Who has inflicted this upon us? Who has made us Jews different from all other people? Who has allowed us to suffer so terribly up till now? It is God that has made us as we are, but it will be God, too, who will raise us up again. If we bear all this suffering and if there are still Jews left, when it is over, then Jews, instead of being doomed, will be held up as an example. Who knows, it might even be our religion from which the world and all peoples learn good, and for that reason and that reason alone do we have to suffer now. We can never become just Netherlanders, or just English, or representatives of any country for that matter; we will always remain Jews, but we want to, too.”
– Anne Frank
What turned out to be a revelation to me, related to writing, was the improvement with every diary entry. I had just heard of ‘The more we write, the better we become’, but this diary proves it. I could see it, I could sense it, I could observe it. The original entries were in Dutch, but the translation couldn’t be far from the original; it shouldn’t be. After all, straying away from the original makes the whole purpose of translation lose its purpose. The sentences were crafted with sheer brilliance. Not those long, mesmeric, complex yet beautiful sentences; short ones- but their formation was too good, considering the age of the diarist.
“If I haven’t any talent for writing books or newspaper articles, well, then I can always write for myself.”
– Anne Frank
Anne wanted to be a journalist, and someday, in her life, if she could live on after the war, wanted to publish her own book, wanted to become an author. (This I’ve gathered from one of her diary entries.) Sadly, she couldn’t live, but her dream did come true. This gives such a mixed feeling that I fail to decide if to celebrate the event or mourn it. I wonder how her father dealt with this his whole life after the war!
I cannot say that Anne, ever, wrote her diary with the idea of getting it published (though, it did occur to her once), yet she had the craft within her, which lurked through her writing. She already was an efficient writer, whose craft was being honed, I believe, by the extensive reading she used to do, and, of course, the regular diary-writing. I didn’t even think of ever reading those heavy books that Anne did during her times. Oh! How I wish she had survived and wrote more! How I wish she had just lived more!
What saddens you more, I believe, is to witness the high hopes of the victims when you know their ending is tragic.
“It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again.”
– Anne Frank
How could my heart not bleed after reading this? How?
It was natural that, once done reading TDOAYG, I was going to read and watch everything related to this book, and that is how I stumbled upon two miniseries based on Anne’s diary and a biography each. Last weekend I watched both of them- The Diary of Anne Frank (2009) and Anne Frank: The Whole Story (2001). I’ve attached their YouTube links for your convenience.
The former is the shorter one, and includes all the major turning points of Anne’s life. While, the latter one is longer and includes almost all the chapters from Anne’s diary, resulting to be a more comprehensive one of the two. Also, the reason I’d recommend you to watch the 2001 series is that it has an hour long phase after the original diary ends, after the Franks and others were arrested. That, apparently, is the dramatization of their life in concentration camp (as Anne’s diary discontinued after their hiding place was raided,) but the emotional impact that it has is incomparable to the rest of the series. (It does have some strong visual scenes, including partial nakedness and violence, so audience discretion is needed.)
Also, as I’ve read quite a few books about Jews and their sufferings by now, it’s time that I take a look at the person who had his fair share behind their misery, the person who will be remembered for the biggest holocaust ever occurred, the person who deplored a community so much that he did all in his power to decimate it, the infamous Adolf Hitler. My next read is going to be Mein Kampf (after Tharoor’s “An Era of Darkness: British Empire in India”). I always wanted to know what drove a human to the heights of cruelty and inhumanity. There’re always two sides of a story. It’s high time to listen to the other one.