Book Review: The Anne Frank Diary


Jerry Moses


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The Anne Frank Diaries has been an introduction to the Jewish Holocaust to many around the world. Her Diaries propelled her into being one of the most discussed victims of the Jewish Holocaust. On the 13th birthday of Anne Frank she was presented with an autograph book that she had asked for, she used it as a diary and wrote extensively about their period in hiding in Amsterdam. Born in Germany, she moved with her family to Amsterdam following the rise of Hitler in 1933, When the Germans started capturing parts of the Netherlands she notes in her diary, the innumerable restrictions that came into being, as a consequence of which she also had to move from a Montessori school to a Jewish only school.

On April 1942, the Frank family goes into hiding in her father’s office. Here she notes in great detail the various compartments of the section of the annex. The Secret Annex housed another four residents who belonged to the Jewish faith. The family of Van Pels to whom she gives the proxy name Van Daan family and Mr Fritz Preffer to whom she refers to as Alfred Dussel were the other occupants of the annex. A reading of the diary gets one into the mind of an adolescent teenager. She is humorous, joyful at the lighter moments of life, she gets bogged down by the constant advice that was being passed on to her by the elder members in the annex, she feels that she was being constantly treated as a child as opposed to an independent individual. She is outspoken about her rough relationship with her mother, her relationship with Peter, her conversations with Margot, her love for her father, her anguish for her roommate and so on. Emotions are a major theme in her diary, she puts down her emotions in writing and a year later re reads and corrects herself.

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What her diary points out to are the constant tensions that arise out of people living in such small spaces locked out of the rest of the world for a long period of time. The constant bickering that leads one to disagreements with each other that became a major hassle to establish trust and respect for one another. Another major theme that reflects in the writing of Anne frank is the political awareness of the events around the world. The two helpers who constantly brought information for the households enlightened her with the latest information of the political happenings. Anne, in her diary makes note of major political movements during her time, some of which give the households hope, some of which perpetuate their fear, some of which were mere information. Anne also makes note of the political struggle by Gandhi in India twice in her journal.

The time spent hiding leads to creative impulses among the household, her dad’s poem about the struggles they go through as well as the hopes for a brighter future. One also finds the constant wish of the households to experience the outdoors, the constant fear that grips the members each time there is a knock on the door. They suffer from a dilemma as to whether to laugh and cherish their time in the Annex when there are many undergoing suffering. Anne also has nightmares of her friend who she thinks about constantly.

Her Individual Identity as a young woman who speaks her mind, who has a goal in life, who wants to create an impact in the world takes shape during these years.  Her views on human nature and religion also take a concrete form. She wonders and hopes of all the possibilities that await her after the war. She is particular about not wanting to be like her mother and sister who according to her were very passive. She is ambitious and creative; she knows her strengths and is open to the experience of life. She wants to contribute to the world, matter to people and make lives better. While she does dream of having husband and children she does not want her entire world to circle around them. She wants to write, to first become a journalist and then a full-time writer.

Amid the various restrictions that the housemates had to keep included not opening the curtains during day, not flushing the toilet after a time in the night, to speak in hushed voice at all times, to share the food they had.

The Diary’s success in my opinion was partly because of the experience of hiding from the vantage point of a thirteen year old girl, who is honest, ruthless and full of herself. It is in adolescence that one feels rebellious, tenacious and vulnerable. This is a mindset that is very visible in Anne’s Diary. She spares no one and openly discusses private matters. What is impressive is how she developed a discipline of writing, how she managed to re-create the experience of the secret annex by describing things to the utmost detail. Another reason which I presume lead to the success of this story is because Anne Frank’s outlook of life, which from her diary presents a fairly liberal mindset. Her family was not all that religious, her opinions on human nature are philosophical or Utopian in a sense, her thoughts around relationships and life all present a liberal world view. This particular mindset in that age and time could be attributed to many in Europe and North America, thus her voice through the diary echoed with many instantly. Though I base this part of my argument on a flimsy ground, I feel strongly about it, because I wonder if her diary would have been this successful if she presented a radical view of the enemy and if she constantly sought hope only in her Jewish faith and nothing else.

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Diaries are interesting pieces of historical documents, it reveals a lot about that person unlike other sources of history like textbooks etc., One can assess the biases and fears of the individual in question. One can understand why one thinks they way they do. It helps in fact to get into the mind of the person and that makes it a very powerful experience. It leaves us thinking about what things would have been like, how could we have responded when posed with a particular situation. At times while reading through I found myself empathizing with Anne frank’s views even if they were entirely biased or even when I didn’t know enough to create an opinion on the individual in question. The Anne Frank story is one that has been told many times, not only through the diary but also through movies, documentaries, plays and online resources. The Book is interesting because it is honest, its boring because it delves into unnecessary details. It is worth reading because it’s a firsthand account of an experience during the Nazi regime.

Jerry Moses is a student of M.A (IR, Semester II) at SOUTH ASIAN UNIVERSITY.

N.B:  The Review is taken from writers following blog

http://theinsomniacreader.wordpress.com/2012/12/22/2-the-anne-frank-diaries/

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