Like many children I was first introduced to Anne Frank’s diary in primary school.
I remember my teacher reading passages of the diary (mainly her short stories) and instantly I was captivated. At the end of the day I sheepishly asked my teacher if I could borrow her copy of the book so I could properly get to know Anne’s life a bit better.
That was back in 2007, and over the past twelve years I’ve easily read The Diary of a Young Girl five times.
But how come I read it so many times? And how has it impacted me in different stages of my life?
Between 2007 – 2009 I must have read it twice. I loved that Anne wrote with such emotion and fire, but also that she wrote to Kitty.
Kitty became Anne’s imaginary friend while she was in hiding, someone she could confide her deepest secrets and desires to, and although I wasn’t Kitty (any I think many others would agree!) it felt like she was writing to me.
As someone who was bullied through their years in education and so friends were few and far between, especially in primary school, the way she wrote it was like I was her friend, making my remaining primary school years easier.
In high school History became one of my strongest subjects, and as part of my GCSE I had to pass two modules, History of Medicine and Nazi Germany.
Whilst learning about Nazi Germany we obviously were taught about the Holocaust, again touching on Anne’s story.
I was in Year 9 when flyers started appearing around school that Eva Schloss, Anne’s posthumorous step-sister was coming to our school with a theatre company to tell Eva’s story. It was mandatory for all Year 10 and 11 History students to attend, and as I didn’t fall into this bracket, I begged my teachers to let me go.
Thankfully, after hearing me wanting to attend and a couple of others asking too, I was told the wonderful news that Year 9 students were added to the attendance list.
Hearing Eva’s story was harrowing.
The amount she had gone through, and most of it by herself at such a young age, it was hard to fathom.
She told us she was in the same school as Anne, and if I remember correctly she also lived on Merdweplein.
She told us of the Anne she knew, a very popular, happy and giggly girl, always surrounded by friends, and how her first memory of meeting her was in a dress shop.
She also told us of Otto, how the war and loss of his daughters affect his life and how he found happiness with her mother and together they help get Anne’s story into the world.
It was an honour meeting Eva afterwards and she was a truly wonderful lady.
When my friends and I booked a holiday to Amsterdam for my 21st, I knew one of the places I wanted to visit was the Anne Frank Huis.
When Shauna asked us if we could go I was thrilled.
Beki booked the extended tour for us, which included a 30 minute chat beforehand on the life of the eight who lived in the Secret Annex.
When I walked up to 263 Prinsengracht, I was awestruck. There was so much history behind the walls I could see before me (as was the case for a lot of Amsterdam) and I couldn’t believe I was there.
I could easily see how thrilled Anne was with their hiding place as from looking at the front of the building you would never have known of the Annexe attached.
Visiting the Anne Frank Huis brought the diary alive.
Walking through the Opekta storeroom and offices I could see the break-ins that shook those in hiding and I could could imagine Anne in the front office trying to peek out of those windows to get a glimpse of the outside world.
Then I arrived at the bookshelf. Anne’s description was circling in my head…
Now whenever we want to go downstairs we have to duck and jump. –
Anne Frank – 21st August 1942
And you really would have to! Faced before you is a giant step and above your head is a large map so anybody taller than me (which isn’t particularly hard!) would have had to duck!
Once I’d taken my leap inside I was so surprised at the size of it! It felt so small compared to the connected warehouse and offices, but it had a really cosy feel to it. However I couldn’t fathom how eight people lived in that space! But I know it must have been one of the largest spaces for those that lived in hiding – 6 rooms is quite substantial!
Walking into her bedroom and seeing the famous postcards plastered across the walls and imagining how she would have written her diary in that space was overwhelming.
Then, when we headed upstairs, and I saw the attic stairwell where Anne went to escape from her life in hiding and look at the sky.
I walked through Peter’s room and into a pathway that lead to the diary. It was a surreal moment seeing it and the fountain pen on the page!
It really was a special experience and something I will always remember.
So what have I learned from her diary?
- The ability to write is a gift and one we should all treasure.
- Paper has more patience than people.
- Have courage.
Has Anne impacted your life in any way?
Picture from a postcard I purchased from the Anne Frank Huis, Amsterdam