Arguably, the Holocaust victim, a mere teenager, who captured the world’s attention and lasting fascination was a German-Jewish girl by the name of Annelies “Anne” Marie Frank, born in Frankfurt on June 12, 1929. She was the second daughter of businessman Otto Frank and his wife the former Edithth Holländer. Anne’s sister, Margot, was three years older. When Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany in 1933, the family emigrated to Amsterdam, Holland. At first, Otto Frank worked for a firm producing pectin, and he set up his own company dealing in the wholesale fruits in 1938. When Germans occupied the Netherlands in 1941, Anne Frank was forced to withdraw from the Montessori school she attended, enrolling in a special school for Jews. Facing the threat of deportations to labor camps, Otto Frank and his family decided to hide in the warehouse of their Amsterdam business. Assured of a regular supply of food, and with the help of non-Jewish friends, they remained in hiding until August 4, 1944, upon being discovered by the Gestapo, who arrested them. The Frank family was deported to Auschwitz concentration camp, where Anna’s mother died from hardships on January 6, 1945.
Anna and her sister were relocated to the concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen, where Margot died from typhus on September 3, 1945, followed by Anne three days later. The irony, of course, is that on January 27, 1945, Soviet and Allied forces liberated Auschwitz found Otto Frank alive, the only surviving family member, who was to live to 1980, 91 years! After the arrest of Frank’s family in Amsterdam, and upon invesrigation by a family friend, various documents were given to Otto Frank, including what became The Diary of Anne Frank, which was published with the title “Het Achetrhius,” in 1947. The diary was an instant best-seller, and was translated in German, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Japanese, and Greek. A non-fiction account based on the diary won the Pulitzer Prize in 1955, while the subsequent film presented an Oscar to Shelley Winters for her interpretation. The readers of this diary frequently draw historical and personal conclusions about the author.
Let us begin with the historical context the protagonist draws. Anne Frank, in her diary on D-Day, June 6, 1944: ’’Would the long-awaited liberation, which still seems too wonderful, too much like a fairy tale, ever come true? Could we be granted victory this year, 1944? We don’t know yet, but hope is revived within us. Now more than ever we must clench our teeth and not cry. ‘’ The people of Holland had lived under Nazi occupation for four long years. On May 10, 1940, without a declaration of war, Germany struck against neutral Holland. Paratroopers and panzers overpowered the Dutch peace-time army, with its obsolete weapons. Using Holland’s excellent roads, Hitler’s columns raced across the flat countryside before the Allies could come to the rescue. At lunchtime on May 14, 50 Heinkels attacked the port of Rotterdam. In 15 minutes they started fires, which destroyed the city center and struck terror into the hearts of its residents. The Germans airdropped leaflets: ‘’Citizens of Amsterdam! Surrender now! Or suffer the fate of your fellows.’’ Rotterdam capitulated, and only a few hours later, Holland decided to surrender to save other cities from a similar fate. That night, as Rotterdam blazed, the Dutch people were leaderless. The queen, with her cabinet, had escaped to Britain to carry on the government in exile. Faced with the prospect of Nazi rule, more than 300 Dutchmen, mainly Jews, preferred to commit suicide. People were stunned, bewildered, and fearful.
There lived 1.400.000 Jews in Holland. In May 1942 they were ordered to wear the yellow Star of David. It was forbidden for the Jewish people to go to the movies, to go to the parks, or gather in any public venue. All Jews were mandated to officially register in a government office. Wagons full of Jews arrived at the concentrations camps of Vught and Herzogenbusch near Drenthe. The Christians of Holland also were scared with this situation. Moreover, many priests tried to offer succour, and encourage their Dutch flock to assist their Jewish compatriots, simultaneously resisting such racist behavior. The second front, in the spring of 1944, would bring a measure of desired solace. Meanwhile, the Germans had affixed posters asserting that any pending Allied invasion would result in death and destruction.
Then, there is an analysis of Anna Frank the writer that beckons, amid her understanding of her reality. As a writer, she questioned whether there was a deficiency from which the Jewish People suffered. Through the eyes of a child’s soul it could not fathom the imminent forthcoming geopolitical changes. Until the Frank family moved to their shelter, Anna was living a normal life. While in the shelter, Anna assessed the reality that her, and the family’s situation was radically different. Anna realized that this move meant that the ‘’Jewish Question’’ for the Nazis was of primary importance. Yet, she continued to make dreams and imagine her life after the end of the war. More, Anna understands, and is moved by the plight of coreligionists who were not as fortunate to have a hiding place to escape. The writer of the diary has feelings of sympathy and even empathy for the human drama unfolding. Anna’s life continues as normal, within the announced strictures. Of course, there are moments when she despairs, as when bombs are heard, or news filters to her from the banned radio. Here it is useful to quote a part from Anna’s diary to illustrate the point: This excerpt is from April 11, 1944:
“We’ve been strongly reminded of the fact that we’re Jews in chains, chained to one spot, without any rights, but with a thousand obligations. We must put our feelings aside; we must be brave and strong, bear discomfort with- out complaint, do whatever is in our power and trust in God. One day this terrible war will be over. The time will come when we’ll be people again and not just Jews! Who has inflicted this on us? Who has set us apart from all the rest? Who has put us through such suffering? It’s God who has made us the way we are, but it’s also God who will lift us up again. In the eyes of the world, we’re doomed, but if after all this suffering, there are still Jews left, the Jewish people will be held up as an example.
Who knows, maybe our religion will teach the world and all the people in it about goodness, and that’s the reason, the only reason, we have to suffer. We can never be just Dutch, or just English, or whatever; we will always be Jews as well. And we’ll have to keep on being Jews, but then, we’ll want to be. Be brave! Let’s remember our duty and perform it without complaint. There will be a way out. God has never deserted our people. Through the ages Jews have had to suffer, but through the ages they’ve gone on living, and the centuries of suffering have only made them stronger. The weak shall fall and the strong shall survive and not be defeated!’’
This part of the diary is exactly how Anna understands her reality, and the portion reveals sensitivity that her condition represents all oppressed Jews. Without any knowledge or insight of Zionism, she becomes its best herald and advocate. She responds to her life seriously, and without pessimism; she convinces herself that her present condition is not permanent, and one day all will be corrected. With uncommon maturity, she believes that for this is not the right time for her to be … a girl! Still, witnessed deliberations are confusing. She can not assimilate the issue that caused Germans to so brutally chase Jews away; nor can she comprehend the madness of humanity. The figure who makes her attain some sense of what transpires about her is the help of her father, to whom she is attached, perhaps, pathologically in love with him. Within solitude, Anna feels the need to become more prudent and stronger to cope with life. The biggest flaw in Anna’s view is that she fails to accomplish something that she begins. She wants to treat others like a responsible person, and not as a pampered girl who nobody takes seriously. Anna feels like an adult, and she already has plans for her ideal life. She accepts that she is forced to tolerate those who disturb her daily existence, believing that only the diary and Kitty are patient with her. She promises to her fantastic friend that she will be strong, but Anna confesses that she needs encouragement from those who love her.
Anna’s problematic relationship with her parents presented with sincerity, also includes a psychological dimension of Anna’s mood, characterized by instability and transitions. While many of the opinions and writer’s judgments are informed by an emerging maturity, many of the Anna’s complaints are reminiscent of a spoiled child who wants to be the center of attention. Thus, are the contradictions manifested in her character and psychology. She is a girl who blames her mother, who is jealous of her sister, who complains to her father and generally argues with everyone, because they don’t understand her.