by Anne Frank
The Diary of a Young Girl is Frank’s personal diary kept during the two years spent in hiding in a small apartment in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam during WWII. Upon hearing the Dutch government was seeking out personal accounts of the conflict for later publication, she wrote and rewrote many passages with the intention of donating the diary after the war. The pages were recovered and her father, Otto––the only survivor from their Secret Annex––further edited things to some extent before publication, but the edition I read apparently includes multiple passages withheld in the original edition, mainly those dealing with sexuality.
And, no matter the amount of editing that actually made its way into the final book, the quality of writing for someone who finished writing at the age of fifteen was staggering. Part of this can likely be explained by an honesty throughout, where Frank wouldn’t shy away from expressing her true feelings such as they were either in the midst of emotion or after cooling off and looking at things more level-headed. The diary’s also surprisingly well-structured. We get a clear look at the author’s original, normal, carefree existence, which gives proper context for us to appreciate the changes she experiences, along with the eventual tragedy. And Frank’s growth of character and wisdom through her years in hiding comes readily forth by the end. It becomes apparent that The Diary of a Young Girl isn’t effective just because of the experience described, but because the author possessed a rare talent of expression, which ultimately makes the tragedy of her death at such a young age that much sadder.
But I don’t want anyone to come away from this thinking The Diary of a Young Girl is just a depressing reminder of the things people are reduced to when someone attempts to strip them of their humanity for superficial reasons. While this is a piece of it, the book is more a beacon of hope looking out from a seemingly hopeless situation. Throughout her ordeal, Frank maintains an inspiring optimism, with probably the most instructive passage being her breakdown of her mother’s philosophy that they think of the suffering in the world and be thankful they’re not a part of it: “I don’t think Mother’s advice can be right, because what are you supposed to do if you become part of the suffering? You’d be completely lost. On the contrary, beauty remains, even in misfortune. If you just look for it, you discover more and more happiness and regain your balance.” And this from a fourteen year-old. I’d quite honestly put this alongside Art Spiegelman’s Maus as one of the most important and enlightening books dealing with the Jewish experience during WWII.