Courageous People: Anne Frank

Condemned to die, for being Jewish

With few exceptions, a diary’s content is meant to be kept private, no matter how intriguing the details might seem. Nonetheless, when Anne Frank’s journaling was originally published in 1947, the historical context, from which her impressions were chronicled, took on a personal note. Not only did her diary emerge as one of the most important pieces of Holocaust literature, she also, posthumously, became a stark symbol of Nazi genocide.  

Born in Frankfurt, Germany in 1929, Anne Frank was raised by liberal Jewish parents. On many accounts, they were a hard-working, educated couple, who imparted their love for books to their daughters. After the family relocated to the Netherlands in the years leading up to the war, both Anne and her older sister Margot would continue to nurture their literary interests

As the situation steadily worsened for the Jewish community, books would become Anne’s escape. Accordingly, this would lead to her passion for writing. When she was given a diary for her thirteenth birthday, she already knew that her thoughts would spread beyond the pages of the book. With Nazi Germany’s invasion of the Netherlands in 1942, the systematic deportation of Dutch Jews had begun.  Consequently, Anne’s father arranged for his family to emigrate. Unfortunately, the Frank’s application remained unprocessed and the family was forced into hiding.

Tucked away, in a cramped annex of her father’s wholesaling warehouse, Anne began entrusting her thoughts to her diary. She filled her thirteen year old loneliness with journal descriptions of day-to-day life in confinement. Additionally, impressions and observations of the people with whom she had to share her space made their way into the diary’s pages. When the journal entries were later published, insights into her claustrophobic conditions, revealed Anne’s suffering. These feelings of panic were enhanced by the endless fear of being betrayed.

Not surprisingly, as the war dragged on, a distinct maturation process can be traced through Anne’s writing. Initial, juvenile accounts of everyday  activities, evolve to profound philosophical questions. Ultimately, Anne not only reveals the complexities of confinement and discusses her deprivation, but also raises the issues of existence and the complexities of humanity. On a thought-provoking level, she also engages with her sense of identity as a German Jewish girl, forced into hiding.

Unlike other diary chroniclers, Anne aspired to have her accounts published. In doing so, she wanted the outside world to connect with her own brutal reality. The inappropriateness of the situation she describes, critically approaches the way people treat each other. Moreover, our own tolerance and acceptance of others is called into question. 

Like many pieces of literature, Anne’s pages are meant to be re-read. Although originally, her thoughts belonged only to the young writer, the diary’s pages now serve as a countless reminder that the atrocities Nazi victims had to endure can never be repeated.

Courageous People: Anne Frank
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