When you know a book is going to be sad it can be quite tough to get started. This was how I felt about Anne Frank’s diary. It is difficult to set out on a journey which you know is going to be upsetting and uncomfortable to face but all the same I am really glad that I made myself read this story.
Anne Frank was a young Jewish girl who documented her time in hiding during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. She recorded the lives of her family and others who lived in an attic in Amsterdam through her diary. When the occupants of the annex were discovered they were transported to concentration camps all over Europe. Anne and her sister Margo died in Bergen-Belsen of typhus just a few months before the camp was liberated on this day 70 years ago.
I imagine the majority of the world knows Anne Frank’s story in some form or an other but what I hadn’t bargained for was how much her diary is about growing up. There is an awful lot of “no-one understands me” and other issues that we all face as we move into adulthood and for some reason, I had expected much more doom and gloom. Perhaps that is what makes this diary so moving; in spite of it all, in spite the intense fear and suffering, there is still an essence of normality.
In many ways the diary also examines what the intense pressure of such an enclosed environment does to the relationships between families and people. The arguments, the bickering is portrayed by Anne as an everyday occurrence one that she soon gets bored of documenting. It is also fascinating to watch as Anne grows up and as she begins to empathise with her mother. As she begins to understand her more the reader feels the resentment fall away and be replaced by a sad acceptance.
The most powerful sections for me are the ones about Hanneli, Anne’s close friend, who visits Anne in a dream and becomes a symbol for her for the wider suffering of her friends and people. The diary in general deals so little with the holocaust that these sections contrast strongly and poignantly with the light hearted tone of Anne’s writing. These moments were the ones that brought a lumps to my throat and a tear to my eye and it is largely due to the wonderful poetry of Anne’s writing. Everything else aside, she is a wonderful writer and there is a bitter sweet feel to the fact she was able to become a famous writer if only posthumously.
When the diary ends, so suddenly and without a hint of what is yet to come Hanneli came back to me. I think of the fear they all must have felt after being so close to safety. Just as Hanneli became the personal symbol of suffering for Anne, so Anne has become the personal symbol of the holocaust for me. When we talk about the holocaust we talk about numbers 11 million people, 6 million Jews but that scale is impossible for most people to comprehend. I recently went to Wembley Stadium which houses 90,000 people and I can’t quantify over 1000 times that many people. But what I can understand is a little girl, with hopes and dreams like we all have living everyday in fear and suspense and ending her life much too soon scared and alone and in agony. For that to happen to 1 person is horrific, let alone 11 million more.
Would recommend to: literally everyone, I really mean it this book should be read by everyone.