I suppose because of my continuing hypochondria, or maybe the weather, or maybe a fatalistic view of life (since I’ve lost 2 of the 5 members of my original “nuclear family” in the last 4 years, after long illnesses, with my dad now fading away in the nursing home), I feel that, if I were to die in my sleep of a heart attack tonight or get run over by a truck tomorrow, I wouldn’t want “my final answer” on WordPress to be that extremely coarse post I threw out there last night. (Not that I don’t live for the laughs that coarse humor can sometimes bring.) And, for crying out loud, everyone who has ever learned to read, or to think on their own, should, at some time in their life, have to write an essay about the little Dutch girl whose heart was mightier than an army of Panzer tanks.
What brings this on now is that I find it hard to believe I lived to be 55 before I ever actually read what’s commonly known as “The Diary of Anne Frank”, but was originally translated from the Dutch as “The Secret Annexe” and has the English title of “The Diary of a Young Girl.” Whether or not any of it is, line by line, fabulously polished literature or not, is open to debate, I suppose. But, as a simple but eloquent body of work, it has few parallels. I suppose I always felt that I knew the story; after all, who hasn’t heard of nice, non-Jewish people hiding Jewish people in attics in WWII? But, no, I never read it till these last few weeks, after picking it up at a rummage sale. (Who sells this at a rummage sale, even in paperback? Why wouldn’t you want it on your bookshelf forever? Why wouldn’t you think that there would be a time in the future that you’d want to present it to a child or friend who hadn’t read it? Maybe they had an extra copy for some reason.)
Her spirit was so great, almost uncrushable, it seems, though she despaired, of course. Her absolutely consuming thirst for knowledge, even though she had little else but survival to pass the time with, is amazing. She would read as much in a day as I ever have in, well, in months (at my best).
There’s three passages that deeply affected me: From November 7, 1942: …. “I wonder if anyone can succeed in making their children absolutely content. (New paragraph) Sometimes I believe that God wants to try me, both now and later on; I must become good through my own efforts, without examples and without good advice. Then later on I shall be all the stronger. Who besides me will ever read these letters? From whom but myself shall I get comfort?…..” This passage makes me want to fully, un-doubting-ly, believe in Heaven, so that someone like her can look down and realize the effect she has made on the world, see that her words were, are, and will be read and cherished by millions of people for hundreds of years to come, and she will be surrounded by the warmth of loved ones for eternity.
From July 15 1944: “It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness. I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace will return again.” Okay, I’m wrong about saying that there can be debate as to whether or not any lines from here are great literature. I would put that passage up against any, and would claim that it has a stirring combination of ominous foreboding and hopefulness which are similar in tone to that which you find in some of Martin Luther King’s speeches.
Finally, this passage from April 4, 1944: “I want to go on living even after my death! And, therefore I am grateful to God for giving me this gift, this possibility of developing myself and of writing, of expressing all that is in me.”
“I can shake off everything if I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn. But, and that is the great question, will I ever be able to write anything great, will I ever become a journalist or a writer? I hope so, oh, I hope so very much, for I can recapture everything when I write, my thoughts, my ideals and my fantasies.” Well, young Anne, with the bright, expressive eyes, I hope that somehow you know that you did indeed write something great, words that will outlive all evil, and that a mere 100 pounds, give or take, of teenager has carried more weight than the jackbooted legs of a million stormtroopers, that a simple love letter by a girl to her “Dear Kitty” (as she addressed most of her entries), will outlive all Nazi propaganda for all time. Thank God (or thank goodness, whatever) that she wrote, that people saved, that her father agreed to publish, that millions of copies have been printed of, this powerful little work. Everyone should read this, and wonder why, as a whole, we continue to disappoint her with our wars and hatred even as we make her proud with our love.