A 13th birthday gift from her parents is what caused the Diary to come into being. Anne started writing on June 12, 1942. She poured all her thoughts, feelings, angers, and most importantly, love, into this volume. It was her.
When she begins, Anne is living with her parents and older sister in Holland. Her family have been moved around and living separately for quite some time, all while trying to stay out of the way of the Nazis. Because they are Jewish, insane laws and endless harassments are something they have to endure, and Anne has to chronicle. And it gets worse and worse and worse. And it’s disgusting.
Shortly after she starts the Diary, her family has to go into hiding. Another family with a teenage boy, Peter, also move into the hidden annex Anne’s father has set up. Some time later, a lone middle aged man also takes up residence. The annex were a set of small hidden rooms on the upper floors of Anne’s fathers business. This mix of people in a small confined space, never allowed to leave, constantly watching out, causes friction and panic to spread. The pain is always.
Anne is very insightful with her observations of everyone she is trapped with. Her parents strained marriage is something she understands, all while solidly siding with her beloved father. She also has a complicated relationship with her sister Margot. The next family, called the Van Pels (names changed by Anne to protect loved ones) she is scathingly disliking. Their son Peter becomes her object of obsession and love. Fritz Pfeffer, the middle aged man, clashed with Anne on a daily basis.
All aspects of the daily lives are examined by Anne. What they eat, how they make it, and the ways they procure it, are all illustrated by her. The routines they must follow to avoid detection, the indignities to endure that are uncivilized to us but essential to them. Sometimes the monotony of existence wears on them, causes friction, only to be broken by the occasional visit from a friend bearing supplies, news, and welcome companionship. All this, in vivid detail, are explored in the Diary.
Laced throughout is Anne’s eternal venting about her mother. She can tell her mother and father do not get along and are probably incompatible, and her great love and admiration for her father is extremely clear. Disdain, dislike, loathing, are just some of the ways to describe Anne’s feelings towards her mother. She has done nothing right, can do nothing right, and will do nothing right. Her mother gave birth to her and that was it. Some of her harshness can be justified by the reader, but a lot of the volatility seems excessive.
What the issue really is for Anne is that she is very smart. It becomes evident from the Diary that she is full of thoughts and feelings and is very articulate in how she expresses them. Everyone else, with the exception of her father, seem dim-witted and thoroughly unintelligent. They sense this, and like jealous bullies, constantly attack her. The youngest is the smartest. And this is unacceptable. She must be put in her place. Multiple times throughout the Diary you want to reach out hug her, tell her not to worry, that she is right. The heartbreak of this situation is only outmatched by the heartbreak of the ending.
Peter is one of the only outlets for her. Her attraction to him grows and grows and becomes full blown love. A previous crush from years ago cause her some angst, but it all becomes about Peter very quickly. This is the young man that she wants to share her life with. Peter becomes her main focus, which brings much gossip and consternation to the citizens of the annex. The relationship cools down before the end of the Diary, but Peter was her first love. Young girls can read those passages and know exactly what Anne is talking about. It is universal.
Anne’s other outlet is the Diary itself. At first, it feels strange to be reading a young girl’s thoughts, almost an intrusion. But Anne wants it published after the war, in order to for the Diary to become an historical document. The fact it did shows you how good she was. She dreams of a career as a writer when she grows up. Her keen insights, wonderful style and deep emotions provide you with a glimpse of what might have been. Truly sad is all I can say here.
Unfortunately, after the war, when Anne’s father is given the Diary by it’s saviors, he had it edited. Entries about her disagreements with her mother, her dislike for her fellows in the annex, and her intense emotions towards Peter, were taken out. Her father did not like these parts, and the fact his daughter was growing up, and they were not published until after his death in 1980. Both editions have been read by me, and I highly suggest getting them both. They are fascinating. The fuller picture The Definitive Edition shows is by far the better one, but read the “original” first. You will thank yourself for it.
I saw the the first movie version between readings, and while it is a fine film, I found it wanting. A strange conundrum was experienced by me. While I loved the book The Great Escape and also loved the movie, the historical inaccuracies of that film were minor annoyances to me. But with the Anne Frank movie, the changes bothered me to no end. Every time something was altered, it just felt wrong. Despite that discomfort, the ending is extremely powerful and lasts with you forever. That terror should never be experienced by anyone.
When she is 15 years old, The Diary of Anne Frank stops. The last entry in this birthday gift from her parents is dated August 1, 1944. Everyone was found by the Nazis on August 4, 1944. Her father was the only survivor of the annex. Anne died in a concentration camp. Her final thoughts are unknown to us. The legacy of her love and feelings shine out from her Diary.
So that this will never happen again is why Remembrance Day exists. Anne Frank should never have had to go into hiding. Anne Frank should not had died.
We must always remember this. Always.
P.S. The Diary of Anne Frank was written by Anne Frank. It is published by Random House, Inc and is copyright 1947 to the Estate of Anne Frank. The cover of The Definitive Edition is copyright Random House, Inc. It is 335 pages in Paperback. The Definitive Edition is edited by Otto H. Frank and Mirjam Pressler. The movie cover is copyright 1952 to Doubleday Publishers.
P.P.S. The movie The Diary of Anne Frank was released in 1959. It is available on dvd.
P.P.P.S. Holocaust Education Week is November 1-9, 2011. The website is: www.holocausteducationweek.com. Remembrance Day is November 11. Lest We Forget.