Friday, June 12, 2009

Anne's birthday.


When I was ten or eleven, I came across a copy of The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank somewhere, and read it eagerly. I don't think I knew much about World War II or the Holocaust at that age--the story of Anne's family hiding away in a secret hiding place seemed more like an exciting adventure to me at that age.

I'll never forget the feeling I had when I reached the end of the book and read the little afterword, which said very simply that the family was caught in August 1944, and that Anne had died in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945--just a few weeks before it was liberated.
It felt like I'd been punched in the chest and had to catch my breath.

I felt like I'd lost a friend. I still feel that way. I've re-read Anne's diary several times since then, and more recently read the revised critical edition which contains bits and pieces her father omitted from the original. Reading it as an adult, I was struck by her amazing writing skill and the places her thoughts ranged to, as she sat in that tiny nest of rooms trying to be quiet all day long, day after day. What seemed like an adventure to my child's mind, I now understood as the nightmare it really was.

Today would be Anne's 80th birthday, if she had survived the war years and all the years since then. But instead she died at age 15. What a tremendous life she could have had. But she did something tremendous with the life she was given, and I'm grateful for that. After reading her diary, I developed an interest in the war, the Holocaust, and Judaism that is still part of my life today. Her words started it all, and they are such a gift.

4 comments:

beverlyd said...

This is so strange, but last night, when I was watching the news and they were talking about the museum incident in Washington, I thought to myself how badly I really wanted to go and re-read The Diary of Anne Frank. I loved that story. I remember watching a movie about it, too. I immediately began a diary after reading that book. I wonder how many people have been touched by that book and the story.

Janelle said...

You know, I think I started a diary after reading that book, too! Not a very good one, as I recall. :-p

Cheryl said...

I think a lot of us started diaries after reading that book. I think I was 11 or 12 when I first read it. Even though I was very young, I remember being struck by the fact that even though the world was in complete chaos and falling apart all around them, normal things continued to happen...Anne argued with her sister, she had her first kiss, had teenage angst. I've always felt that she believed that she would survive it all and live to tell the tale...what a tragedy that she didn't.

donnapiranha said...

Boy you expressed exactly how I felt...punched in the chest! I was just as shocked and didn't want to believe that's what happened.

I didn't know there was a revised critical edition. Interesting.