Diary of a Young Girl (Het Achterhuis)

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DIARY OF A YOUNG GIRL (Het achterhuis)

Diary by Anne Frank, 1947

Diary of a Young Girl tells Anne Frank's story of her life in hiding in the secret annex in Amsterdam from July 1942-August 1944. She paints a vivid picture of the eight people who spent more than two years cooped up in the annex, with little food, little space, and virtually no privacy. Published in Dutch in 1947 and in English translation in 1952, the book has been translated into more than 50 languages.

Anne Frank describes with great admiration her intelligent and loving father, writes of her sometimes rocky relationship with her mother, and discusses her accomplished and talented sister, Margot. She writes with great disdain of the Van Daans, in particular of their constant bickering and their selfishness. Mr. Van Daan spends much of his money on cigarettes, even selling his wife's beloved fur coat in order to purchase more; furthermore, he steals some of the food that the inhabitants are rationing. Mrs. Van Daan is self-absorbed, flirting alternately with Mr. Frank and Mr. Dussel; in addition, she is prone to bursts of hysteria, insisting that the Nazis will win the war and that the group in the annex will be captured. The couple fights not only with each other but also with Anne and her mother. Anne characterizes Dussel as temperamental and finicky, difficult to get along with. She writes in great detail of her relationship with Peter, of their strong feelings for each other and of developments in their relationship. She does express some concerns about Peter, such as his immaturity and lack of interest in religion. And perhaps most importantly, Anne Frank writes about herself.

Part of the greatness of the diary derives from the profound introspection within it—quite rare for someone as young as Anne. The reader learns a great deal about Anne as she discovers more about herself. She confides in the diary, which she calls "Kitty." She writes introspectively about her relationship with Peter and about her behavior and personality in general. Some of these moments occur immediately after arguments with other inhabitants of the annex, such as when she writes a letter to her father (5 May 1944), complaining about life in the annex and claiming that she, at the age of fourteen, is now capable of being independent. In the letter (written in response to being told not to spend so much time alone with Peter), Anne tells her father that she has cried much since she moved into the annex in July 1942 and that if he knew "how desperate and unhappy I was, how lonely I felt, then you would understand that I want to go upstairs! I have now reached the stage that I can live entirely on my own, without Mummy's support or anyone else's for that matter." She discusses how life in the annex has rendered her an atypical fourteen-year-old girl. In a 3 May 1942 entry, Anne maturely discusses politics, society, and war. She considers it foolish that large airplanes and bombs are built in order to destroy houses, which then have to be rebuilt, and that large amounts of money are spent on weapons while the poor go hungry. She claims that there exists within human beings an urge to destroy others. It is fascinating that a fourteen-year-old girl, hiding to save her life in cramped quarters with little food, concerned herself with the plight of others. It demonstrates great precociousness and altruism.

The passages covering an attempted burglary are suspenseful and descriptive; the fear that the burglars, the police, or the Nazis will find them renders the annex inhabitants white with fear. It is noteworthy that the teenagers Anne and Peter are the most calm: Anne comforts Mrs. Van Daan and tells her to be strong and brave, and Peter brings the burglary to the attention of Otto Frank while attempting to avoid making the other inhabitants nervous. These passages show that the Jews hiding in the annex had to be on their guard at all times, and that the slightest mistake (such as when Mr. Van Daan shouted, "Police!" to scare away the burglars) could cost them their lives. (Anne remarks that in a time of such terrible socioeconomic times, burglaries are prevalent.)

Toward the end of the diary, Anne and the others become more optimistic, believing that the Allies will save the inhabitants of the annex; this is especially true after the D-Day invasion. Anne even mentions that she hopes to return to school by the end of 1944—after the Nazis have lost the war and life has returned to normal. These sections of the diary are quite poignant, given the fact that the readers know Anne's tragic end.

—Eric Sterling

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