Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Book Review: Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl


Everyone has heard of Anne Frank. Everyone knows she went into hiding with her family to avoid falling into Hitler’s hands and his Nazi regime. I knew all of this, and I knew that her life ended just before the concentration camp she was in was liberated. What I didn't know was that they were in hiding for just over two years. I didn’t know they were in hiding with another family and a local dentist, that there were eight people shut away above a warehouse.

Anne was just 13 when her family went into hiding. The diary shows their life over the next two years, up until they get discovered and taken to concentration camps. It shows everything from the arguments between the group, to Anne and Peter, the boy of the other family, getting closer to each other. It gives an insight to how it felt to be hidden away, not being able to go outside, not being able to express how you felt, not being able to make a single noise at certain times of the day in fear of being discovered and having to live to a very strict schedule.

Whilst reading this book, I kept forgetting that Anne was so young. The way she wrote, the words she used and the way she described situations made her seem so grown up. I guess being in her situation she had to grow up pretty quickly. She had no choice but to have to learn to share everything with seven other people. There were times throughout when she did show her age, like complaining that the adults didn’t understand her or didn’t take her seriously, which is how a lot of girls her age feel, even to this day. She was in that awkward in-between stage where she wasn’t a child, but she wasn’t an adult either. She was very well read and knowledgeable for her age. She loved learning new things which filled up a lot of her time.

I’m an introvert. I’ll be the first to admit that. I like staying in, watching TV, reading a good book, but I also like seeing my friends and going for walks. I cannot even begin to imagine, and hopefully I will never have to know, what it must have been like to not be able to leave the house for two years. Anne didn’t even have her own room that she could retreat to if she was getting irritated with someone, she had to share with a grown man. I couldn’t imagine not having somewhere to call my own. There were multiple times throughout her diary where she wrote about getting frustrated and annoyed with the adults who she lived with, but there was nothing she could do. That was her life, so she had to learn to live with it.

This book showed the mundane and repetitive life that her and her family led, having to live off potatoes, porridge and any vegetables they could get their hands on. What I was surprised to discover whilst reading this was that they never seemed to have a shortage of food, that the people on the outside who were helping them always managed to get them enough to eat and even got extras for their birthdays. One of the helpers signed up for classes and Anne sent in work under her friend’s name so that she could continue learning, so that she wouldn’t fall behind with her school work. My guess is that this was in order to retain some sense of normality in her life, so that she wouldn’t go completely stir crazy being shut away.

I was also surprised to learn that they had a radio which allowed them to keep up with what was happening in the outside world. Anne often wrote about times when she and her family would sit around in the evening listening to updates about the war, wondering when the invasion would happen.

Throughout the two years that Anne was writing her diary, she stayed relatively optimistic about life returning to normal once they were allowed out of hiding, especially after they had heard that the English had started their invasion. It gave her hope I suppose, something to look forward to and to keep her going. She was captured at the beginning of August, and in the second to last diary entry before she was captured, she wrote about how excited she was about being able to return to school in September/October, truly believing that Hitler would soon be defeated now that the invasion had happened, and more and more places were being taken back from Germany.

That enthusiasm, that determination to hold on just a little longer is what made the ending of Anne Frank’s life so moving to read about. She never gave up. She never stopped believing that she would once again be free. No matter how many times she got into arguments with the people that she lived with or felt as though she couldn’t express how she was truly feeling or what she thought about the war. She just kept going. She was so brave, I honestly do not know how I would have coped if I had been in her situation, but I guess that it’s one of those situations where you don’t know how you will cope until you must live it yourself.

Anne Franks Diary gives a rare insight into what it was like for one Jewish family during World War II. Obviously, it wasn’t the same for all Jewish families who went into hiding, but I still think that it is an important part of history that needs to be read.

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