12+ Like many my age, I learned about Anne Frank's story as a kid at school. But it wasn't until my thirties, living in England, that I appreciated the full grace and horror of her life. I saw a Brighton theatre production of The Diary of Anne Frank, read the Pan edition of the diary, and visited the Anne Frank House museum in Amsterdam.
As with others who have read her diary, or seen the theatre adaptation, or watched the Anne Frank movie (1959) or the "Whole Story" TV mini-series (2009), or visited her house, I felt I got to know Anne's story intimately.
And this makes it all the more difficult to comprehend how the Frank family and friends survived in secret hiding for so long, from July 1942, as diarised by the teenage Anne. Only to be eventually betrayed and discovered by the Nazis in August 1944. And for all but her father, Otto, to perish in the Holocaust concentration camps.
A Dutch friend who lived in Den Haag (The Hague) and worked for a local radio station when I visited the Anne Frank House told me she had interviewed Miep Gies from Anne's diary for a radio program. Miep had risked her life to provide the Frank family with food and provisions, and it was she who had a German gun pointed at her when the family's luck finally ran out.
Miep also found Anne's diary and handed it to Otto Frank when he returned after the war. I struggle to imagine how Otto must have felt reading his dead daughter's diary entries. The closest I come is when I read the opening lines Anne wrote in her diary on the 12th June 1942, when she was just thirteen, a few years younger than my teenage son:
"I hope I shall be able to confide in you completely, as I have never been able to do in anyone before, and I hope you will be a great support and comfort to me."
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Barbarity of War
Anne's diary is a reminder of the barbarity of war. And of the courage of those who risk their lives to protect others. But most of all, of the observations of a teenage girl who never had the chance to fulfil her potential, let alone live a long and full life!
I still can't think about The Diary of Anne Frank OR Anne without a mixture of anger and deep, deep sadness.
© 2018 Robert Fairhead
N.B. I posted a version of this piece on my Facebook page (January 2018).
A middle-aged dad and dog owner, Robert is a writer and editor at Tall And True and blogs on his eponymous website, RobertFairhead.com. He also writes and narrates episodes for the Tall And True Short Reads podcast, featuring his short stories, blog posts and other writing from Tall And True.
Robert's book reviews and other writing have appeared in print and online media. In 2020, he published his début collection of short stories, Both Sides of the Story, and in 2021 Twelve Furious Months, twelve short stories written for the Australian Writers' Centre's Furious Fiction writing competition.
Outside of writing, Robert's favourite pastimes include reading, watching Aussie Rules football with his son and walking his dog.
He has also enjoyed a one-night stand as a stand-up comic.