I recently reread Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl in preparation of my trip to Amsterdam, where I knew I would be visiting the Anne Frank House (the secret annex). I had read it the first time in 8th grade, so I had only a vague recollection of the contents of her diary. Rereading it as an adult was enlightening (and timely, given some current events) since I had some experience and knowledge that made her ideas, trials, tribulations, opinions, and joys more relevant to me now than when I was 13 years old.
I’m fairly certain that most–if not all–of you have read at least sections of Anne’s diary either on your own or in school, so I will spare you the details. However, if you have never read it or if it’s been more than 10 years since you’ve read, I strongly urge you to lend your eyes and ears (and heart) to Anne as she painstakingly details her experiences in hiding from the Nazis during WWII (Anne’s diary begins in June 1942 and goes until August 1944. The family went into hiding July 6, 1942: today marks 76 years!).
A short list of what I loved about Anne while rereading her diary:
- Her sense of humor
- Her candor
- Her honesty
- Her introspection
- Her quest for self-discovery
- Her unquenchable thirst for knowledge and self-improvement
- Her self-confidence, even as it gives way to doubt later on
- Her self-awareness
- Her resolve under the most distressing circumstances
- Her determination and will to survive
- Her deliberate attempts at teenage experiences (i.e. romance!) in the most unlikely place under the most distressing circumstances
A short list of what I learned about the dangers of history repeating itself while rereading her diary:
- Still today, national security takes precedence over humanitarian concerns. (See today’s news about the Franks’ thwarted attempt to come to America in 1941.)
- Fewer and fewer people are aware of the Holocaust. See also: An astonishing 2/3 of millennials do not know what Auschwitz is.
- A Holocaust denier and anti-Semitic Republican from California won in the primaries and is now on the general-election ticket. (what?!)
- An Iowan congressman is retweeting Neo-Nazis/Nazi sympathizers. Re: anti-immigration. (Note: there are two different tweets linked here.)
- While what’s currently going on at our borders is most definitely NOT the Holocaust, family separation was one of the worst aspects of the Holocaust according to survivors (if you can even imagine!!!!), and we ALL should take notice and stop this horrible, senseless action.
I encourage whoever you are to read the news articles above for yourself and really reflect upon what’s going on in our world right now. We have some pretty scary people in office–not just in the U.S. but in other parts of the world–and history could very well repeat itself if we don’t take careful and deliberate action that it doesn’t. Annnnd I’ll leave it at that.
Back to Amsterdam.
I was not allowed to take pictures during my tour of the secret annex, but I was content to take pictures only on the outside of the annex (See pics below as well as this video.). The space inside demands all of your attention. As you walk through the rooms all 8 refugees inhabited, it’s nice not to have your attention divided, not to see the room you’re actually standing in on a tiny phone screen so that you can look quickly back at pictures later. No. The space demands all of your attention, and it deserves it. I think having Anne’s voice so fresh in my head and on my heart made my visit much more meaningful. I felt her presence there. I felt each of the eight people’s presence there. And I wondered how so many inhabitants could occupy such a small space for so long without going outside, without feeling the breeze on their skin, without walking around while swinging their arms–all the while fearing for not only their own lives but also for the lives of those helping them. Anne always puts her frustrations in perspective when she makes sure to point out how good they actually had it; otherwise, they would have been in a concentration camp–or worse, dead.
Of course, we all know what happened to them in the end. And what a sad thing to have happened. It shouldn’t have happened. It could have been avoided. If only. If only. If only…
I’m sure Anne never lost hope of survival, and thankfully, her father Otto did survive and gifted the world with Anne so that we all could know her and learn from her so that we forbid those horrors happening again.