The Diary of a Young Girl

*Prabha Khadka

Diary is completely a personal stuff to record one’s daily activities, as well as dissatisfaction, desire, achievements and express feelings and emotions attached to it. While writing it, one hardly thinks one day it will take the shape of a book and make them alive forever. For Anne Frank, more than just sheets of paper, it was a patient and close companion to share all that lie deep in heart even when she was surrounded with life-threatening circumstances.

Anne was born in 1939, in Frankfurt, as the younger daughter of a businessman. Her family belonged to a Jewish community which contributed to the social and economic well-being of Germany. But the rise of Hitler and Nazi party began to attack on the Jews in order to clean the land for the benefits of pure Germans.

Frank family migrated to Amsterdam; Holland in 1933 after Hitler had taken the power. The suffering of Jews started there as well as he invaded Holland too. They were excluded from public services and private practices. There were so many restrictions for them like Jews must wear a yellow six pointed star, they were forbidden to drive, visit theatre, public places and allowed only to shop in fixed time in Jewish shop, must be indoor by 8 0’clock,etc.

Like many other girls of her age, Anne also had many hobbies but she was mad on reading and writing. On her 13th birthday, she received a diary as birthday gift, which she calls “Friend Kitty”. The first entry is on 14th June, 1942.

Set out for hiding

One day, the Franks received a call up for her elder sister, Margot, just 16 years old girl, which meant she would have to go to concentration camp or lonely cell. So, they decided to go into hiding, which is in Anne’s father’s office. There was a large warehouse on the ground floor with so many rooms hidden behind the door which she calls-“Secret Annex”. She thought it was an ideal hiding place though it was damp and leaned to one side.

Van Daan couple who worked with Anne’s father with their son Peter (not sixteen yet) and a dentist also joined them. In that concealed shelter, they are helped by Anne’s father’s Dutch business partners. There was nothing to pass the time, and listening to the radio was only way of getting informed and entertained. The children were provided with varieties of books including history, biography, myths, fiction etc. They are also engaged in translation work, shorthand, learning French, etc.

The clash between Van Danns and Franks

 Instead of being grateful to the Franks, the selfish Van Daans show jealousy and tears. The Van Daans quarrel on minor things. Mrs. Van Daan complains and laughs unnecessarily, tries to control others. Very often she shouts at her husband. There is discussion between the families about the upbringing of Anne and her sister. Mrs. Van Daan calls Anne ‘spoiled’ and comments her dresses as they are too short. She, unnecessrily comments on Anne’s appearances, manner, character, etc. and the Franks defense. Another topic of debate is whether to give children adult books for reading. Even the Van Daans try to misguide them in the absence of their parents. Anne views it could have been quiet different if they’d remained perfectly open and friendly. She says every opportunity should be utilized to discuss openly all the points of argument and says the Van Daans are wrong but the Franks too are responsible too some extent.

Anne is in puberty

Anne shares the wonder that is happening to her body. She is anxious about her appearance and has dissatisfaction with adults on many points.

In her mind, there is a picture of a perfect mother but her mother doesn’t fit in it. Everyday, she misses having a real mother who understands her. She doesn’t like her mother’s untidiness, sarcasm and lack of sweetness. On the contrary, like the most of the daughters in the world, she says, ‘I don’t like anyone in the world but him’. Her mother tells that she looks her daughters as her friends but she thinks she needs her mother as an example to follow and respect. She views a mother can’t take a friend’s place. She views mother is a woman who handles the children of her age effectively. Anne doesn’t like mother’s “pile of sermons” which leads her being rude. She feels alone, lacking a real friend, who advises soundly.

She mentions an incident from her childhood which gives impression of a rebellious and hyper sensitive girl. One day, her mother and sister were going to the market. She also wanted to go but wasn’t permitted as she had bicycle with her. Tears of anger sprang into her eyes which made them laugh. It has been a long time but she still feels hurt.

She thinks her parents don’t understand her. They just spoiled and defended her and have done all that parents could do. She feels terribly lonely, neglected and misunderstood. They just treat her like a child. She isn’t happy with fatherly attitude of her father, which is in her words, a wrong method. She’s often told these tendencies; “symptoms of your age”; “look other girls”, “it wears off by itself”, etc. she is called “ after boys” ; “flirt” ; “know all” ; etc.

Sometimes her mother gets hurt because of her crude joke and careless remarks. There’s a complaint that she doesn’t help her mother in the kitchen. At the same time, she is sad for being taken as a child whereas she thinks she can discuss and argue better than her mother. She often boils with anger which she mustn’t show. She wants to shout at everybody so that she is left in peace and can sleep without pillow being wet with tears. “…… everyone thinks rude if I answer …… lazy if I’m tired …I would like to ask God to give me a different nature……..”

She doesn’t want to be like her mother and many other women who do their work and are forgotten. She writes stories and reads so many books on various subjects. So she has wide knowledge and matured perspective that most of the youths of her age don’t have. She thinks herself as an individual with ideas, thoughts, opinions and dreams. Even she wants to suggest the adults but they think she is not matured enough to understand things. She often tries to be different and behave different but doesn’t get approval for it.

Struggle with feelings and tendencies

 Though Anne is an exceptionally intelligent girl with ability of analyzing things minutely, she has to be involved constantly in struggling with the symptoms of her age. She develops desire to talk to someone and finds Peter there. She finds everything pleasant with him but her parents don’t like a young girl visiting a young boy again and again. She worries whether Peter has same feelings for her as she has. At the same time, she thinks it is not love, just friendship. Sometimes she compares herself with him to find similarities and differences. She tirelessly thinks about the future of their relationship. She also doubts whether he can understand and respect the personality and feelings of a sensitive girl. Later on, she finds there are a lot about his personality that disappoints her.

There is a quarrel between her sister Margot and her over small matter. Parents take Margot’s side which makes her feel hurt. Unlike the grownups, she and her sister corresponds through letter to solve the issues related to Peter. Both of them are inspected, questioned or remarked regarding their closeness to Peter.

Inside her, there is war between desire and common sense. She is curious about opposite sex which she wants to discuss without making fun of it. She recalls once in her childhood when she asked her father about it, he told her to ask mother but her mother forbids her to tell. She then collects information about it from her girl friends, books and adults’ conversation. She questions why one has to whisper to talk on this matter and people remain so secret about it? She tries hard to control the desire of a kiss saying herself as a brave girl.

She writes a letter to her father who is dissatisfied with her for not stopping meeting Peter. She blames the parents on not realizing her difficulties when she was feeling alone and helpless. But now, struggling herself, she has grown up in to an independent individual without their contribution. So she doesn’t need anyone now. She can do everything herself. Her intention is just to show her maturity but it makes her father disappointed. Following this, a discussion takes place between her and her father after which she realizes her mistake and promises herself not to repeat it again.

Later on, she feels it is not right to be unfriendly with mother. She grows cooler towards mother and shuts her mouth.

Hard time in the hiding

In the shelter, for the whole time, there is a talk about invasion, hunger, death and imagination of if something should happen, there will be…. Anytime, they hear sound of sirens and bombard leading to shaking and rumbling of houses. There are many attempts to burglary in the houses along with fear of getting discovered. Many times, it is the sound of rats. One day, police came there but by the mercy of God they didn’t see the secret door. The outside news comes with hopelessness -many Jews are taken away being loaded into cattle trucks and sent to Jewish camp, no separate accommodation for women and girls, murder being gassed. Days and nights are passed in tension and fear.

The Dutch people help the “undergrounds” with money and food risking their lives. In hot season, they stay suffocating inside as windows must not be opened. When someone comes from outside with the wind in the clothes and the cold on their faces, Anne buries her head in the blanket and thinks “When will I be granted the privilege of smelling fresh air?” As the time passes on, there is scarcity of food, just rotten potatoes are left as the people from they obtained food coupons have been caught. Margot is forbidden to cough at night and made her have large doses of medicine so that people outside don’t hear. When the news of invasion started, they have great hope to come out and breathe in the fresh air.

The Tragic Ending

The diary ends on August 1, 1944. After some days, in spite of all their efforts, all the eight people were discovered and arrested by Gestapo along with their Dutch helpers. At the age of 15, the girl with so many dreams and ambition, Anne died in a concentration camp in March 1945.The 6 years long Second World War ended with an invasion of Germany by soviet and Polish troops. Only her father survived and published the diary in 1947 entitled “Het Achterbuis”, and eventually published it in many other languages.

This book is written in abnormal situation which gives a proof of consequences of war, racial hatred and control of politics in the hand of a psychopath ruler. Another impressive facts presented by this book is contradictory aspect of human nature. Even in the hiding, people don’t stop celebrating occasions in spite of stress and fear. Having been able to spend 25 tense months inside a warehouse is out of imagination for ordinary people. Their courage and attitude towards life is really praiseworthy. On the other hand, some people there carry their narrow mind and selfish nature in the time of crisis, too.

It’s an experience- based document in simple language which illustrates how the youths especially teenagers lose their comfort due to the changes occur in their psychology and body. Not only their problems, anxiety, emotional burden but it also shows how their family relation gets affected in course of assimilating with those changes. At the same time, adults forget those tendencies they have at this stage. Both sides have expectations, and complaints with each other which produce tussle and distance. Both parents’ and children’s points of view have been presented by a teenager at this tender stage which is unbelievable. Having considered the suitability for this age group, an entry of this diary has been extracted in the English textbook of basic level, grade VIII (under CDC )in Nepal .The students can be motivated to read this book as a material to enhance their comprehension power .They will find it written for them by someone of their age group from a foreign land . It is really heart touching for the parents as well as they are reminded the struggle of the youths with age and emotion. It encourages them to try to understand their problems and worries.

Having completed this book, it is difficult to accept the end of such a talented, lively girl with strong will power who desires “I want to go on living even after my death”. The world is really unfortunate to lose such a talent so early.

References :

  1. Anne Frank-Imdb www.Imdb.com/name/nm0290833
  2. wikipedia,the free encyclopedia en.wikipedia.org/wiki/world-war-II
  3. Frank, Anne. The Diary of a young Girl. 2001. Mahaveer Publishers ;New Delhi

(*Prabha Khadka is an English Faculty in Shivapuri Higher Secondary School.)

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