The remarkable Anne Frank
This week, I have finally delved into Anne Frank’s diary, a book that I’ve had on my to-read list since high school. Earlier this year, I found the tattered pre-loved paperback on a $2 per book trestle table, and nestled it away between my other to-reads; it’s a rare oddity that it made it out of the pile so soon.
For those who don’t know, ‘Anne Frank: The Diary of A Young Girl’, is about a 12 year old Jewish girl and 7 others (including her immediate family) who went into hiding in a secret annex located at the back of her father’s workplace to escape being caught by the German’s during World War 2.
The second world war is of particular interest to me, for reasons I find difficult to explain. I suppose it continues to boggle me how so many millions of people could band together to kill or maim so many other millions; bloodshed and turmoil on an unprecedented scale! Over 60 million souls or an estimated 3% of the global population wiped out.
I reflect on the fear that must have pervaded the Earth, the uncertainty, the grief, the relentlessness, the endurance, the sheer courage and guts it must have taken to put yourself in the firing line, largely involuntary – but most of all, the jarring forces of humanity at play. For every human act of bloodshed committed, there were people with unflinching bravery willing to risk their lives to protect and save innocent people. People like Anne Frank.
Anne Frank went through puberty and adolescence whilst confined by the perimeters of that tiny annex. Her life dramatically transformed from hanging out with her friends, and attending a regular school, to tiptoeing along the floor, and burning food scraps on the stove to avoid detection. In her diary, she writes so candidly, and so eloquently, it is quite remarkable and oddly, I find myself somewhat envious of her ability to grasp and communicate her feelings and thoughts with such poise.
What is most remarkable though, is that through all the turmoil, injustice, fear, and uncertainty she experienced, Anne reached such clarity in thought on human happiness, as evidenced by the following extract:
Tuesday, 7 March 1944
At such moments I don’t think about all the misery, but about the beauty that still remains. This is where Mother and I differ greatly. Her advice in the face of melancholy is: ‘Think about all the suffering in the world and be thankful you’re not part of it. My advice is: ‘Go outside, to the country, enjoy the sun and all nature has to offer. Go outside and try to recapture the happiness within yourself; think of all the beauty in yourself and in everything around you and be happy’
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. A person who’s happy will make others happy; a person who has courage and faith will never die in misery!
I’m nervous to read on as I know what is to transpire. Despite it now being only a record in history, the impact is real.
On a closing note:
Considering the en masse of people who suffered as a result of the world wars, how do we now find ourselves in such fickle and precarious times? When will humanity triumph once and for all?