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. There are good times and bad, but Anne is a singularly biased narrator and her observations must usually be taken with a grain of salt. After a while you become so comfortable with Anne's observations and voice that the final page of the narrative comes as a shock when the capture of Anne and her family is finally announced.
I recently had the mixed pleasure of finding and rereading my own diary from around the age of 14. After forcing myself to look through the occasional passage here and there I was forced to conclude that for her age, Anne is a marvelous writer. She has a sense of drama, tension, and narrative that is particularly enthralling. It's painful to think about what a great writer she could have been had she lived any longer. Honestly, the Anne I met in this book showed all the worst characteristics of her age. I found her detestation of her own mother to be particularly repugnant. Then I remembered... she's an early adolescent. Of course she hates her mother! Of course she's just simply awful a lot of the time. But you can see who she's becoming, and that's what makes the book so hard to get through. You can see her growth and her character. You know that she's learning and trying to understand what it means to be a human being during World War II. It's all the more awful that this would be the age she was preserved at.
The book is remarkable on so many levels. I think young teenage girls will understand Anne's plight intrinsically. Who couldn't? Who doesn't remember the rocky years of 13-15? The need for attention? The sobbing for no particular reason? By the end of the diary, Anne becomes far more philosophical. She no longer records the family's every move and action. Instead, she ponders questions like whether or not young people are lonelier than old people. Or what it means to be good. Though you may not like the protagonist of this book at all times, you come to understand and sympathize with her. She is a remarkable author, all the more so when you consider that this diary was written for her eyes alone at the time. If I could require kids to read something in school, I think this would top the list. It probably remains the best Holocaust children's book in existence today.
on December 25, 2000
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. It will live on because it's the voice of so many people who went voiceless, who went into the night, into the dark, to be shot from behind or in front, blindfolded or eyes open, gassed in sterile shower rooms or tortured to death in the name of "science."
I've read some of the reviews here, and the majority of those who gave this book anything less than five stars usually point to the diary's defecincies in the "interesting" section. Time and time again, that's exactly why I found this book to be so engrossing - whatever faults it has comes from the writer not being a writer! She was a girl, on verge of her flowering into womanhood, full of the hopes and dreams and fears we all are at that age. Whatever picture this book paints is one of her, to remind us not only of who she was and that she was real but also to remind us of those 6 million (and more, so many more, in those ghastly 6 years of death) silent voices.
The trip to Buchenwald was not totally disenheartening. In the middle of the mustering grounds is a small marker, maybe 4 feet by 4 feet, surrounding by a small collection of flowers and cards. It's made entirely of a steely gray metal, and in the middle of it is a small square with words on it: Albaner, Algerier, Andarraner, Argentinier, Agypter, Belgier, Baenier.... These are the German names of all the nationalities of all the people who died in World War II. They comprise 60 different nationalities. At the bottom is written K.L.B. But the most spectacular thing happened when I touched the plaque - it was warm.
It's kept heated, 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, in the depths of winter or in the middle of Germany's summer season, in the memory of all those who died. Our tour guide explained it to me, in his accented English: "It stands for the warmth of those who have passed, the life. They are gone, yet this warmth remains. Life remains."
That's why Anne Frank's diary is what it is: life remains because of it.
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.
on August 23, 2008
I have finally, at the age of 33, gotten around to reading Anne Frank's diary. There is little point in adding another glowing review. Everything has been said. But after reading some of the negative reviews, I feel compelled to respond. It seems there are two primary criticisms (Three if you count the ridiculous idea that the diary is a forgery, which I won't dignify). The first is that Anne doesn't talk a lot about the war or the holocaust. To this, I can only say, that's all for the better. She was a thirteen year girl living in total isolation from the rest of the world. She really had no special expertise or light to shed on these subjects. There are many excellent history books on both of these subjects. The second criticism is simply that the book is boring. She talks too much about her day to day life, her thoughts, her feelings, and so on. To this I can only say, what part of "Diary of a Young Girl" is ambiguous? The annex was her entire world. What do you expect her to write about?
What a few don't seem to understand is that this is not a "book about World War II", or even about the holocaust. If that is what she had written about, the diary wouldn't even be a footnote in history. This is the story of one young girl, in her own voice, trying to figure out what it means to live, to grow, and to be human in the most depraved and inhumane circumstances. She wrote about her hopes, her dreams, her fears, and occasionally about peeling potatoes. But the thing that some people don't see is that even when writing about the most mundane topics, she was actually writing about people, about how they endure and falter, about how they come together and how they fall apart. And despite the enormous injustice she endured, she always made the case for optimism, for hope in humanity, and for love of life. I don't know that I can agree with her, having adopted a more cynical outlook, but that just increases my admiration for her and my shame in myself for not living the gift of live to the fullest.
The other thing that stands out is the maturity of the writing. After reading just the first entry, I was blown away by the eloquence and clarity of Anne's writing. I could hardly believe that I was reading the prose of a 13 year old girl. She does write a lot about the trials and tribulations of being a teenage girl, but the voice of the writing does not feel childish at all, except perhaps in its optimism. The world lost a great talent and a brilliant soul to those murderous barbarians.
This is a difficult book to digest, and two days after finishing, I'm still haunted by it. Anne's optimism, faith, and courage inspired me throughout, but made the knowledge of what would come at the end all the more a bitter pill to swallow. All that we can do is to honor her by making sure her story and the story of millions of holocaust victims are never forgotten and never happen again. So far, we're not doing so well with that.
And there, I've done it. I've written a review. I didn't intend to, but I did. So go out and read it, if you haven't.
on January 10, 2005
The revised critical edidion was released from the Netherlands Institute for War and is the most comprehensive study of the diary. The first 195 pages, before the Diaries of Anne Frank (which is three editions of the diary. Her original journal, her manuscript as she edited it, and the popular story with her father's revisions)is a complete history of Anne Frank, starting with the pictures of young Anne and family. Then the horrifying arrest. Miep reported the final moments with the Franks. After "betrayal" the book tackles the question of how they were finally discovered after so long in hidding in the annex. So close to German defeat. Then the sadening story of "imprisonment and deportation". Included in this edition are the Tales "From the Secret Annex and Cady's Life." I found the work impressive, The extents to prove the legitemacy of the pages, the story and pictures, that completed the picture started by Anne from her diaries.
on November 10, 2003
Many readers are familiar with Anne Frank: The diary of a young girl which is an edited version of the diary Anne wrote while in hiding. What the revised critical edition is three versions of Anne's diary: The version which was edited by her father and first published, the version that Anne herself edited while in hiding, and Anne's complete diary. These three versions run side by side in the book allowing the reader to see the differences between them. Also before the diary itself there is a lengthy introduction with information about the Frank family, how the diary came to be published and different editions of the diary.
on February 23, 2007
After reading many versions of the Diary of Anne Frank, it was great to finally see the original version Anne herself wrote, with no edits. The first part of this book details the verification process when the authenticity of Anne's diary was challenged. The second part takes Anne's original diary, her own edited version that she began just before discovery, and the published version that Otto edited and compares them in small sections together. Its very well documented and if this is an area of interest to you, I highly recommend it.
I adore Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl and have read it multiple times over the years. Anne's diary has come to mean different things to me as I've grown older - when I first read it as a ten-year-old girl, I was fascinated by the hidden life she led with her family and there was a sense of dread and excitement about her precarious circumstances, the danger of being discovered. When I read Anne's diary again as a teenager, I came to empathize with Anne's frustrations with her mother and the other adults around her whom Anne felt did not understand her and treated her as a child. I felt Anne's desire to be 'heard' and not just treated as an inconvenience or child was so much aligned with what I was going through during adolescence.
When I re-read the diary as an adult, I came to appreciate all the other things - the tragedy of having lost such an amazing and talented young voice in the most horrible of circumstances; the beauty of Anne's writing which is all the more amazing given how young she was when she wrote this diary; and the themes of alienation, fear, and hope. Now, as the mother of a young daughter, I read this diary again and gain another fresh perspective - of the complex relationship between daughter and mother. Anne had a strained relationship with her mother Edith, and clearly gravitated toward her beloved Pim (father). This was obvious even before Anne and her family were compelled to move into hiding in the Annex. As a mother, reading Anne's thoughts about her mother (often unflattering) was a disconcerting experience, though things do improve somewhat later on.
Anne Frank's Diary of a Young Girl is a classic not only of Holocaust literature, but also a classic Young Adult read with its myriad themes that will appeal to both adolescents and adult readers.
on April 29, 2000
A lot has been said about "The Diary of Anne Frank." Some people have even claimed that it is a fake, which is an outrageous claim that denigrates those who died in the Holocaust and those that survived. This book is testament to a child's spirit and humanity as she hides in ever deteriorating circumstances with her family in an attic over an office in Amsterdam. We are witnesses to her first kiss with Peter a boy also in hiding, and her stormy relationship with her mother which she tries to resolve often unsuccessfully. We see flares of brilliance as she tries to understand human nature as well as the innocence of youth when she says, "basically I believe most people are good." The Diary of Anne Frank would probably be just an ordinary young girl's memoirs if the Holocaust had not happened. However the Holocaust did happen and Anne Frank's diary stands for all the young girls whose lives were ended before they had a chance to blossom. If any book was to be made compulsory reading in schools then this book should be it. Through Anne Frank we will never forget her humanity or for that matter our own.
on May 15, 2007
Great book. A valuable addendum when reading The Freedom Writers. A very positive teaching tool. My 17 year old daughter has enjoyed the book and it has enhanced her views and opened her mind to many issues that still exist in the world today.