The Diary of a young girl was first published in 1947 under the title ‘Het Achterhuis’ and is considered one of the most authentic accounts of suffering of Jews in the Nazi world. The first world war and the humiliating defeat of Germany in the war led to several changes in the economic as well as social scenario of the country. Adolf hitler came to power in Germany taking the advantage of such volatile political scenario using and advocating extreme jingoism and anti-Semitism in 1933.
Anne frank was born in Germany on 12 June, 1929 as the second daughter of Otto frank and Edith frank Hollander. Otto frank had served in the imperial German army during the first world war as a lieutenant. With the rise of anti-Semitic movement in Germany, he relocated his family to Amsterdam, Netherlands in 1933. In the May of 1940, Netherlands was invaded by the Germans, and strict rules and restrictions were imposed on the Jews living in the country. Jews were forbidden from using public transport, Jewish children had to study in special schools and they had to wear a star on their backs. Several forced labor camps were even made and many Jews were abandoned from their right to property.
Anne’s family went into hiding after her elder sister Margot frank received a call up notice from a work camp and their home was visited by SS guards. The diary was a birthday gift for her 13th birthday which was cherished by Anne as her closest confidante. The diary contains details from 14th June, 1942 to 1st august, 1944. The book was originally written in Dutch but was translated and published in English under the title ‘diary of a young girl’ in 1952.
The book is written as a first person account which describes the daily routine activities of a group of eight people living in hiding in Amsterdam, due to the state persecution of Jews. The author is a teenage girl, who is at a major state of transition physically as well as mentally and emotionally. She wants to express herself but due to the current state of affairs she doesn’t have somebody to share her anxiety, helplessness, emptiness and other feelings felt by a teenager during this transition. She expects for help, but is treated with crude and insensitive remarks. she rebuts them but is conscious of the fact that sometimes it goes way out and becomes vitriolic. Anne wants to be an adult as well as a child at the same time.
She wants her own breathing space, but doesn’t know the proper way to reach such a stage, this confusion makes her suffocated and rebellious. At a point of time, this confusion starts throttling her cheerful and vibrant personality. Anne is a modest person, who has a neutral point of view for all events, even if she is at fault. She even records the changes in outside environment, how they affect people in her surroundings, how desperate those two years were for them, how helpless they felt while seeing fellow people suffer due to the war and present state of affairs. The book also contains the aspirations and dreams of a teenage girl, her confusion regarding the changes in her body and how political situations make her mature beyond her years.
Anne and Peter’s relationship, her relationship with her mother and father, her misunderstanding about her sister and her changing outlook towards people relationships, understanding and care are the crux of the novel. How her opinions change time to time when her understanding is improved is also the proof of an unspoken fact that people don’t change but with experience their vision changes. The book is very relatable for a teenager who is going through the transition period. The instances, the bodily changes, the hormonal changes which lead to behavioral changes is very vivid and descriptive.
The book ends with an eerie silence, you can just imagine what happens to the author and other characters. The diary is full of personal reflection on past, present and future events, but after the abrupt ending and the story of misfortune which unfolds itself makes you to go through an inner reflection.
- Relationship between Anne and Peter-
Anne describes the relationship between Peter and her as circumstantial, because in normal course if Anne had more options she wouldn’t have preferred Peter. Anne always dreams to be a righteous, strong headed, courageous and independent woman. But she laments the lack of these values in Peter, she even compares and contrasts the values she desires and how Peter falls short of expectations. There are several similarities between them, like both want their mothers to understand the complex emotional phase they are going through, have very deep thoughts and emotional outbursts. These similarities make them enjoy each other’s company. Anne’s companionship with Peter started after she had a dream about Peter Schiff, which shows that unconsciously she wanted somebody to pour her heart.
- Anne’s inner conflict-
The conflict in Anne ‘s personality is visible by the fact that she doesn’t want her mother to behave like her friend while at the same time she wants her parents to not treat her like a child. She wants to be respected as an adult but wants others to protect and care for her like a child. This shows how adolescence was a period of inner conflict for Anne as she badly longs for somebody to hold her hand, comfort her and for this to happen that person needs to know her complex emotions but she wants everybody to be cautious of her inner space and wants to be left alone to reflect deeply on the present past and future.
- Problems affecting the residents of the Annexe-
The residents of the Annexe were not supposed to make any sound during the morning as this would attract unwanted attention. Rationing was introduced but most items were brought from black market. There was a lack of clothes, oils, vegetables and spices. Mrs.Van Daan exclaimed that she has lost interest in cooking due to the lack of ingredients. In most meals, they just had spinach and potatoes and there were times when they could have only two mouthful of meals two times a day. Anne once exclaimed the dismay she felt when she saw her father scratching the pan for leftover food. Anne, Margot and Peter had outgrown of most of their clothes, plus the clothes had become tattered due to continuous use. The Annexe was infested with rats and once a rat had even bit Peter. The residents of the Annexe could not even visit doctors, plus they were supposed to keep no contact with the outside world except their helpers.
- Incidents after the raid of gestapo-
On August 4th 1944, Anne, and others residents of the secret Annex were arrested by the Gestapo, who acted on a tip-off to search their hide-out in Amsterdam. After their arrest, the group was taken to an Amsterdam prison for interrogation, before being transferred to Westerbork holding camp in the northeast of the Netherlands. Although the conditions in Westerbork were far from pleasant, the residents could have stayed there in relative safety and lived out the war. Instead they were deported on trains to leave the camp on September 3rd 1944. In the Auschwitz camp Anne and Peter used to spend most of the time together. From here men and women were separated from each other. Anne her mother, sister and Mrs. Van Daan were sent away to another facility. Peter died in the death march from Auschwitz camp.
The new arrivals were separated into those who were able to work and those who were deemed unfit. Over half of the 1,000 people who arrived with the Franks were gassed, including all those under 15. Anne had turned 15 three months earlier and was spared the gas-chambers. But inside the camp, she was stripped naked, and her head was shaved. At the end of October, her mother Edith was selected to go to a labor camp in Silesia, which had better conditions than Auschwitz. Anne was not allowed to go due to the scabies she’d developed, and so her mother and sister decided to stay with her. A few days later, Edith was chosen to be gassed and was separated from her daughters. But she managed to escape before reaching the gas chambers, fleeing to another part of the camp where she hid all the food she could find for when her daughters’ returned. They never did. Edith Frank died of exhaustion on January 6th 1945. In November the Frank sisters were transported again. Along with Mrs. Van Daan from the Annex, they were taken to Bergen-Belsen and put in make-shift tents. Both girls were already weak and sick. As the camp became more crowded, their health deteriorated further. Both the sisters died from typhus in march, 1943, first Margot then Anne, the exact dates of their deaths remain unknown.
- How the book got published-
Miep gies, one of the helpers of the Annex residents had saved Anne’s diary after the gestapo raid. Otto frank was the only resident of the Annex who could survive after the arrests. He on the insistence of family friends decided to get the book published. Anne’s father after reading the diary exclaimed that he found a very different side of her.
Image Source: Anne frank.org
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