I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Germany and Austria for two weeks (I just got back two days ago, in fact), and one of the most poignant memories was my trip to KLB, or Konzentration Lager Buchenwald. Better known simply as Buchenwald, it was a labor camp filled primarily with political prisoners, Gypsies, Jews, homosexuals and other "untermenschen", distinguishing it from the death camps of Auschwitz and Dachau. Despite it's nature as a "mere" labor camp, thousands died there and were incenerated in the specially constructed crematorium there (which, ironically enough, was placed in viewing distance of the specially contructed zoo and pleasure zone built for the officers' families). Walking through those silent halls and down the treaded paths of history, I was struck for the first time in my life of the awful truth that was the Holocaust - not simply that 6 million Jews were eradicated, along with millions of others. 6 million is simply a number, "full of sound and fury," but also "signifying nothing." To understand the Holocaust (if one can understand such a thing at all), you simply have to look into the cell of a soon to be dead prisoner; to stand in the mustering ground of the prisoners' barracks and feel the hard gravel crunch beneath your feet; to peer into the terrifyingly etched interior of a human oven and let your mind try to wander its way through it all; to imagine, at the end of all other imaginings, what it must've felt like to live HERE. Not 6 million. Just you. Or someone you love. THAT'S why Anne Frank and her diary will live on. Not because it' s a well written example of literary prowess. Not because it has a magnificent plot. Not because it has lasting value as a work of literature.Read more ›
Imagine that someday you are remembered for all eternity at a very particular time and at a very particular age. You could be remembered forever as being 25 on September the 11th or you could be remembered as being 44 when JFK was shot. It seems awfully cruel for someone to be remembered between the ages of 13 to 15. Do you remember what you were like at that age? Would you want anyone to think of you as that old for as long as your name is remembered? Such is the fate of Anne Frank. Now, I never read this book when I was young. High schools, in my experience, tend to assign the play version of this story when they want to convey Anne Frank's tale. Anne tends to be remembered as the little girl who once wrote, "I still believe that people are really good at heart" in spite of her sufferings. So I should be forgiven for expecting this book to be the dewy-eyed suppositions of a saintly little girl. Instead, I found someone with verve, complexity, and a personality that I did not always particularly like. What I discovered, was the true Anne Frank.
The diary of Anne begins when she is 13 years of age and the Jews are already wearing yellow stars in Amsterdam. Anne is your usual precocious girl, flirting with boys and being impudent when she can get away with it. When at last the time comes for the Franks to go into hiding (Margot Frank, Anne's sister, has been issued an order for her removal) they do so with another family, the Van Daans. In a small floor hidden above Otto Frank's old workplace the two families are aided by faithful friends and employees. Over the course of the diary we watch and listen through Anne's eyes as, for two years, the people in the attic are put through terrible deprivations and trials.Read more ›
An innocuous gift, a diary a girl treasures. She writes in it, "I will call you, Kitty." A scrawny teenage girl begins writing her way into the hearts and minds of mankind around the world. This book will be her legacy and her memorial.
Her family, refugees from Germany, immigrates to Holland where the boots of nazi oppression and psychopathic poison are not far behind. Ann's family hides from the invader in an attic where the Dutch who are the antithesis of German intolerance give them meager rations.
Ann's writing tells us about herself, and her relations with her family and the van Danns cramped in an attic always starving, and never being sure when they will be brought food, or if the police will find them. Through the turmoil of maturation from girl to woman,we learn of a girl's decency, innocence, and goodness.
All the hope for freedom is gone as the police discover the hide-out, and Ann is taken to a concentration camp where she dies two months before its liberation. Going back to the attic, her father finds her diary that will bring her immortality. Her legacy begins.
We all would have wanted to see Ann Frank and thousands of others like her live. No one, especially a young innocent girl should be treated so inhumanly without the least iota of mercy or decency. The irony is that her seemingly meaningless death among millions is what gave her life meaning, and allowed her story to be told to the world.
This book is a reminder that love and kindness survives the most vile lack of humanity. It is a testament to the human spirit.
Ann Frank would have been seventy-eight June 12, 2007.