Dearest Anne

If only I could turn this blog post into a letter

First published in 1947 and then translated into more than seventy languages, Anne Frank’s diary has been known worldwide for many decades. We all have heard of it. But honestly, I never felt compelled to read it, imagining there might be more hype and political importance than an actual good book.

I had been to Amsterdam a couple of times before. I have never been a big museum person, but this time in 2023, a hint came through somewhere in my subconscious mind. And I found myself interested in visiting Anne Frank’s House, so much so that I stayed up late one Tuesday night (they only release tickets that are normally sold out six weeks in advance) to grab my ticket.

Visiting her family’s hiding place got my imagination wild – into that little space, into that specific timeline… Following my curiosity, I decided to give Anne Frank’s diary a read, but this time, I’m thinking, this is going to be a typical young teenager’s musings which I’ll quickly flip through.

Oh, how wrong I was. The Diary of a Young Girl was rich, intense, moving, sincere, innocent, open, dramatic, deep… The reading was an enjoyable experience, and the book touched so many of my nerves. It was a ride into a 13, 14, and 15-year-old girl’s private and yet so common human world.

Anne is you and me. Her diary entries were all her letters to a dear friend Kitty, the name she gave to her diary. Anne’s choices of words were very clear and quite masterly, yet they still carried that young girl’s tone. She wrote about her growth, her confusion, her struggles, her dreams, her longings, her political views, her relationships, her self-reflections… ordinary daily human lives in an extraordinary time and a trapped place. Her natural narratives turned those living people into wondrous characters. Many days after I finished reading it, I was still breathing with the book’s rhythm at nighttime and living in my imagination in that secret annex.

Anne received her diary on her 13th birthday. A week later, she wrote:

Writing in a diary is a really strange experience for someone like me. Not only because I’ve never written anything before, but also because it seems to me that later on neither I nor anyone else will be interested in the musings of a thirteen-year-old schoolgirl. Oh well, it doesn’t matter. I feel like writing, and I have an even greater need to get all kinds of things off my chest.

Oh well, this can be my best suggestion to the writers out there who have writer’s block. Contrary to her self-doubt, Anne’s diary is said to be the most widely read book in the world outside of the Bible. If she could, she wouldn’t believe it. People like to think they have to believe in themselves so they can write. Actually, to get things off your chest might be enough reason. And as they say, the rest will take care of itself.

As I moved on reading into November 28, 1942, you see a 13-year-old girl’s deep confusion in trying to fit into the world:

In bed at night, as I ponder my many sins and exaggerated shortcomings, I get so confused by the sheer amount of things I have to consider that I either laugh or cry, depending on my mood. Then I fall asleep with the strange feeling of wanting to be different than I am or being different than I want to be, or perhaps of behaving differently than I am or want to be.
Oh dear, now I’m confusing you too. Forgive me, but I don’t like crossing things out, and in these times of scarcity, tossing away a piece of paper is clearly taboo. So I can only advise you not to reread the above passage and to make no attempt to get to the bottom of it, because you’ll never find your way out again!

There was little personal space in a confined hiding place with two families plus one. And being the youngest of all, constantly being treated as a child with no right to voice her opinions. (She did have strong ones, ones which I, the reader, completely agree with over sixty years later.) Anne’s independent way of thinking, observing, and behaving was not understood. Anne, therefore, felt she was “sinning” all the time in her interactions with those older than her.

Anne, it was a confusing situation, but I’m not confused by your words!

Here’s more on Anne being in impossible situations:

Everyone thinks I’m showing off when I talk, ridiculous when I’m silent, insolent when I’m tired, selfish when I eat one bite more than I should, stupid, cowardly, calculating, etc., ect. All day long I hear nothing but what an exasperating child I am, and although I laugh it off and pretend not to mind, I do mind. I wish I could ask God to give me another personality, one that doesn’t antagonize everyone.

I can definitely relate. I felt that way when I was her age; however, Anne took it further than I ever did:

But that’s impossible. I’m stuck with the character I was born, and yet I’m sure I’m not a bad person. I do my best to please everyone, more than they’d ever suspect in a million years. When I’m upstairs, I try to laugh it off because I don’t want them to see my troubles.

On May 3, 1944, this now 14-year-old girl was into the psychology of the war:

I don’t believe the war is simply the work of politicians and capitalists. Oh no, the common man is every bit as guilty; otherwise, people and nations would have rebelled long ago! There’s a destructive urge in people, the urge to rage, murder and kill. And until all of humanity, without exception, undergoes a metamorphosis, wars will continue to be waged, and everything that has been carefully built up, cultivated and grown will be cut down and destroyed, only to start all over again!

When Anne turned 15, more pages were devoted to boys, or in her situation, the only boy, a fellow Secret Annex resident, Peter, whose face she was unable to not see every single day. On July 6, 1944, Anne got into psychology more simply but deeply:

My blood runs cold when Peter talks about becoming a criminal or a speculator; of course, he’s joking, but I still have the feeling he’s afraid of his own weakness. Margot and Peter are always saying to me, “If I had your spunk and your strength, if I had your drive and unflagging energy, I could…!”
Is it really such an admirable trait not to let myself be influenced by others? Am I right in following my own conscience?
To be honest, I can’t imagine how anyone could say “I’m weak” and then stay that way. (Highlighted by Kemila.) If you know that about yourself, why not fight it, why not develop your character? Their answer has always been: “Because it’s much easier not to!” This reply leaves me feeling rather discouraged. Easy? Does that mean a life of deceit and laziness is easy too? Oh no, that can’t be true. It can’t be true that people are so readily tempted by ease… and money. I’ve given a lot of thought to what answer should be, to how I should get Peter to believe in himself and, most of all, to change himself for the better. I don’t know whether I’m on the right track.

August 1, 1944 saw Anne have her last entry in the diary. She and all the residents of the Secret Annex were arrested on the morning of August 4, 1944. She would not have planned for the last sentence of that day’s entry, which, unfinished as the diary was, became the perfect finish line for this book. It made the diary-turned-book feel complete, as it carries so many layers of meaning at the end of Anne’s diary journey. That sentence reads:

I get cross, then sad, and finally end up turning my heart inside out, the bad part on the outside and the good part on the inside, and keep trying to find a way to become what I’d like to be and what I could be if…if only there were no other people in the world.

So Anne, I saw your wish and dreams come true. It is possible, especially out of the confinement of a hiding place with so many characters, to live a life as if there were no other people in the world; not to ignore anyone, not to be an ostrich, but to give yourself everything you need and want: recognition, validation, approval and even love.

Thank-you Anne!

You may also like...

What do you think?