|Pic courtesy Penguinbooksindia
The Diary of a Young Girl
Edited by Otto H. Frank and Mirjam Pressler
Translated by Susan Massotty
Published by Penguin Books India.
Anne Frank was an ordinary thirteen year old, who kept this diary from her thirteenth birthday for the next two years. She penned all everyday happenings, her feelings about everything and everyone around her. We have her account of her growing-up pains and joys, a lowdown on her relationships, all the yo-yo-ing typical of adolescence, her darkest, deepest secrets and her hopes for the future.
So how is this any different from something that anyone else might have written? Just this, that Anne was a Dutch Jew in hiding from Nazi persecution with her family and four other people. Other than the turmoil normal for her age, there was the fugitive existence, living life on the edge, in constant fear of discovery, and the chaos of having to live in close quarters with family and strangers, with no end to their troubles in sight.
Even in this situation, the diary is so full of life, and of hope, that the reader sometines forgets that this immensely talented girl died before her 16th birthday, and the world lost someone who could probably have been a prolific writer, and an original thinker who believed in the goodness of humans. The future that Anne herself had envisioned for herself.
Some lines of note from her diary-
11th April 1944 :”One day this terrible war will be over. The time will come when we’ll be people again and not just Jews!”
11th May 1944 : “…my greatest wish is to be a journalist, and later on, a famous writer.”
15th July 1944 : “It’s twice as hard for us young people to hold on to our opinions at a time when ideals are being shattered and destroyed, when the worst side of human nature predominates, when everyone has come to doubt truth, justice and God…Yet I cling to (my ideals) because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.”
After around two years in hiding, on 4th August, 1944, their hiding place- The Secret Annexe- was discovered, and they were arrested by the Gestapo and deported. The afterword gives details of the eight members’ fate. They were first taken to Westerbork, a transit camp, and then on to Auschwitz. There, the group was separated, and in late October, the two Frank girls were sent to Bergen-Belsen. Anne and her sister were together till their end, dying of typhus in early March 1945, at Bergen-Belsen, a few weeks before the surrender of Germany and the end of WW2 in April 1945. Otto Frank, the girls’ father, was the only survivor, and he was handed Anne’s diary along with other papers by Miep Gies, one of the non-Jews who helped them while they were in hiding.
Otto Frank decided to publish the diary in deference to the wish Anne expresses in it to be a famous writer, and to go on living after her death. He also hoped that it could be instrumental in holding up a mirror to the horrors that can be perpetrated due to prejudice about the ‘other’, so that these things may happen “never again!” An optimistic and foolish hope!
A first edition of the diary was published in 1947, after Otto Frank had edited out what he thought were the more ‘private’ matters- Anne’s thoughts on her relationships with the members of her family, and her growing sexuality, something that he was not comfortable with revealing to the world. This latest, definitive edition has the complete text of the diary, and we get a comprehensive picture of society and of Anne’s life before and after going into hiding.