A lot has been said and written about this book since its first version was published in 1947 under the Dutch title Het Achterhuis.
Later, it had been published throughout the world, the English title being "Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl". It has been made into plays, movies and television adaptations besides being translated into thirty-one languages.
I have heard about this book since my childhood, but, somehow, had never got the chance to read it. Last August, during my stay at my aunt's place, I borrowed this book from my cousin. And finally I have read it!!
Anne Frank had received the diary as a birthday present on June 12, 1942, the day she had turned thirteen. Her first note was, "I hope I shall be able to confide in you completely, as I have never been able to do in anyone before, and I hope that you will be a great support and comfort to me." She had begun her entries from June 14, 1942.
She never knew that this diary of a thirteen-year old schoolgirl, where she wrote about her school, teachers, friends, family and the boys who used to fall in love with her, would one day turn into a priceless document about the World War II.
Life was becoming difficult for the Jews since the previous decade, because of the increasing anti-Jew decrees and laws enforced by Hitler. Anne's father Otto Frank and the family used to live in Germany when Anne was born in 1929 in the city of Frankfurt.
When Otto Frank had sensed the impending Nazi persecution, he had left Frankfurt, with his family, in the summer of 1933. He went to Holland where he established himself in the food products business and the Franks were settled in Amsterdam, by the spring of 1934.
During the next few years, Anne and her elder sister Margot grew up in Amsterdam like any other Dutch girl.
But things changed when the Germans invaded Holland in 1940. Initially, the impact was not felt by Anne - being compelled to leave the Montessori School and attend the Jewish Lyceum was the only change that she had to face.
When the Nazis began and continued with the roundup and deportation of Jews in Amsterdam in 1941, Otto Frank arranged for his family's safety. Although, he was forced to leave his business by a German decree, his Dutch employees and associates remained loyal friends. A group of rooms at the top and back of the building (on Prinsengracht Canal) that served as an office and warehouse for the business, was secretly made into a hiding place. - - - - - -
- - If I start telling you about this intriguing account, I don't think I would be able to stop myself.
The last entry of Anne's Diary was made on August 1, 1944. And what an entry it was! Such introspection, self-evaluation and meditative thoughts coming from a mere fifteen year old is bound to amaze every reader!! In fact, the entire diary is amazing, more so if you keep in mind the age of the writer and the conditions in which it was written.
It contains a poignant and detailed account of those 25 months that were spent in hiding by that group of eight people. The living conditions,the challenges, the deteriorating menu and the oppression of the Jews would weigh heavily on the readers' minds. At the same time, the reader would draw inspiration from the intellectual quality of the life that was led in the "Secret Annexe". They gifted each other books, they wrote stories and poems for birthdays, they received books as gifts and as a regular supply from the library from the people who helped sustain them. Anne studied everything that a teenage girl should study. She read history and made family trees, she did maths, she learnt French words and their pronunciations. She always had her hands and mind full and was always busy.
She dreamed of returning to school some time soon, when things normalized. She wanted to go places and had visions and plans. She despised the life of a housewife that other women might like. Could we have blamed them, had they lived a life of utter dejection and resignation during that period? I do not think so! But the kind of life they led makes our hearts bow down with respect. We should feel ashamed of ourselves every time we give up easily.
This account would be incomplete if I do not put in a special word for Anne's maturity and will to improve. Throughout the period in hiding, we find Anne analyzing her weaknesses and trying to shed them - she tries and tries to become a better human being. I wonder if any teenager living in stable, peaceful and predictable conditions have ever done the same.
The Gestapo penetrated into the hiding place and imprisoned the inhabitants on August 4, 1944. The pages of Anne's diary and notebook were strewn on the floor when Miep and Elli, two of Otto Frank's associates, found them.
They handed these to Otto Frank when he returned to Amsterdam, months after the war ended in May 1945. The rest of his family had been obliterated by then.
Initially, Otto Frank made copies of Anne's diary and privately circulated them. Later it was published in Amsterdam in June 1947.
I gathered from the Miep Gies website that after the Bible, the diary of Anne Frank is the most widely read book in the world.