A thread on Twitter that a friend of mine retweeted got me realizing something that my younger self would have been very disappointed with me for forgetting. This year, specifically this summer, marks a number of anniversaries for Anne Frank; the young Netherlands-based writer who perished in the Holocaust, and whose voice would go on to speak volumes to the rest of the world and across generations.
Allow for me to break it down for you: Five days ago on June 12th, along with it being Loving Day and the one-year mark since the shooting at Orlando’s Pulse Nightclub, it was also, what would have been, Anne Frank’s 88th birthday. What’s even just as significant is that this past Monday marked 75 years since Anne received the diary that she would later do all the in-depth writing that would even astound her father when later reading it after learning of her death. Of course, this writing wouldn’t begin until two days later, making this past Wednesday 75 years since she wrote her first diary entry. It was a relatively short entry, as she recounted her excitement from two days before, both from her 13th birthday and from receiving the diary. At this time in 1942, she and her family still have their freedom, though the ongoing control from the Nazis are heavily felt in their adoptive country of the Netherlands. In a few weeks, it will have been 75 years since Anne and her family left their home for the, what is now known as, the Secret Annex, where they along with four other people will have hidden for the next two years.
Now if all that wasn’t mind-blowing enough, allow for me to blow your mind a little more. This year marks 70 years since the diary was originally published, and it’s been 65 years since it was published in English.
I don’t know about other countries, but I know that at least in the school system here in the United States, students typically learn about Anne Frank’s life and her writings in eighth grade (or, at least in the case of one Jewish friend of mine, first grade via Jewish Sunday school). I had the unusual experience of accidentally learning about her life in third grade after coming across a picture book about her, and decided to have her as my subject for the biography project I did at the time. As I got older, I grew to be particularly intrigued by her writings, and her ability to remain hopeful, even under the dark circumstances she found herself in. She left behind quite a legacy at just 15 years old; not only in the form of diary entries, but also essays and short stories as well. In 1944, she wrote of how as she began the process of revising her diary for a readership, she wanted to grow up to become a writer. Maybe it’s because of her youth that she did not realize then that she already was one.
For me, it’s only natural that I’ve been fascinated by Anne’s story for the past 16 years of my life. To see a writer thrive at such an age, despite what would eventually happen to her, is more so inspiring than tragic in my eyes. That doesn’t always mean I necessary agreed with everything she said though. Perhaps you are familiar with this one quote from her: “In spite of everything, I still believe people are very good at heart.” While I can agree that many, if not most, people are various shades of gray, I beg to differ when I say that there are the few whose souls are nothing but one solid shade of darkness. It’s so weird, knowing that she wrote that at a time when Adolf Hitler was in power. If she were still alive today, what would she say to the likes of Donald Trump, Kim Jong Un, Vladimir Putin, and Rodrigo Duterte as some of the current political leaders?
I had the experience of visiting the Secret Annex in Amsterdam several years ago, and I remember what a surreal experience that was for me. It was weird to have read about this place and the people who occupied it so many times throughout the years, and to suddenly be in that space. I remember noticing just how small the rooms were, and finally understood how, apart from not wanting to make their presence known, Anne’s time there was no vacation. Even more so, I remember seeing her diary on display in a glass cabinet, her handwriting in prominent view, and how for whatever reason, I felt very tranquil. Perhaps it was assurance to me that she wrote out to the world, and I from the world returned to the original source. It could have very well been signifying a full circle coming into fruition in that moment.
Again I bring the political climate into the mix, but I hope people will to take the time to value her story and her messages going forward. I hope for Anne Frank to continue inspiring others with her life, her writing, and her optimistic spirit.