on 11 January 2009
Since a young age I had known about Anne Frank, from her diary, hiding in the "Secret Annexe" in Amsterdam during the Second World War, and ultimately her tragic death at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. But until recently I had not read the diary. I had been read extracts from it but never picked it up and read it from beginning to end. If I try to think of reason behind why it took me so long, I fail to think of one.
I started reading on Tuesday and quickly found myself in a state of being half surprised. Growing up, though knowing it was non-fiction, and had actually happened, I only ever really read fictional books so a part of me imagined reading the Diary would just feel like reading a rather realistic fiction. What took me (oddly) by surprise is how aware I was of the fact that it is a Diary. It wasn't at all like the `realistic fiction' I imagined when I was younger. This I discovered quickly, and thus made me hang on every word.
Another thing I noticed early on was Anne's sense of humour, which I didn't expect. There were entries that not only made me smile, but if I was with someone, they'd notice I was somewhat amused, and I would then read them what I found funny.
"I was being discussed and they decided that I'm not completely stupid after all." - 21st September, 1942.
I'm aware of how odd, if not disrespectful, it may sound, laughing at the Diary, considering the situation they were in. But don't get me wrong, it wasn't laugh out loud funny. Anne wasn't telling a joke, she had a very subtle sense of humour that really wasn't obvious. You could see it was present though, in the way certain comments were worded.
"Mr. Van Daan used to be in the meat, sausage, and spice business. It was because of his knowledge of this trade that he was taken on in Daddy's business. Now he is showing the sausagy side of himself, which, for us, is by no means disagreeable." - 10th December, 1942.
It was around half-way through the Diary when I found myself thinking about it more when I was busy doing other things. I wouldn't say I felt guilty as such. Thankful, is what I felt.
One night, I looked around my room, at all my belongings, and just felt so thankful that I have all the things that I do. The guilty-side would make more of an appearance at dinner-time, or when I would climb into my large snugly bed. I've felt this a little less now that I've finished reading. But the thankfulness remains here to stay.
In the beginning I admired how observant she was, and her ideology, her views on the world, her theories. As the diary progressed you could see her becoming a young woman, and it's not only you, who is learning more about her, but she is learning about herself, and is honest about it.
She becomes aware of her strengths, and her flaws. And as this went on I just became more fascinated by every entry. I also pondered how what she wrote still applies today, there are obviously differences but in the grand scheme of things not a lot has changed. The feelings felt, thoughts and curiosities are exactly the same as any teenager nowadays.
There was something I noticed on the evening that I finished reading the Diary, and not long after I thought of a possible theory behind it. That entire day I could've easily picked the book up and finished it. I wasn't busy that day, I was thinking about the Diary, and I know I wanted to finish it. But 6 o' clock in the evening came along and still I had not touched it. My theory came to me later that night when I began to read again.
I was reading it knowing what was coming, knowing full well what would be the outcome to all of it, and she continued to write, with no idea. (This became sadder towards the end with the invasion of the Allies beginning). And after a while I thought, on some level, if I didn't finish reading it, they can't get caught. And it couldn't have ended like it did.
"Dear Kitty, Now I'm getting really hopeful, now things are going well at last. Yes, really, they're going well! Super news!" - 21st July 1944. Anne's penultimate entry, just 15 days before capture.
When I had finished reading the Diary, I honestly felt like I had sort of lost a friend. I had learnt so much, and felt like Anne was confiding in me. Even though I knew how it ended in advance, I felt I had to prepare myself for the end and felt, well if I'm honest, a little lost when I was finished. I still feel like this a little, the day after.
Maybe it's just because I could feel with my fingers that there weren't many pages left, but the last few pages read almost as if they were finalizing things. Despite Anne having hope that it would all be over soon. I have never shed a tear over a book before but last night there was a statement that ended this.
"Daddy and Mummy have always thoroughly spoilt me, were sweet to me, defended me and have done all that parents could do. And yet I've felt so frightfully lonely for a long time, so left out, neglected and misunderstood."
No other book has been such a journey, so to speak, for me. I'm positive that this week changed me. This book changed me and the way I think. I thank Anne Frank for this. Sometime in the near future I shall visit the house, and the "Secret Annexe", to pay my respects.