On June 12th, 1942, a young German girl of Jewish faith received a diary from her parents as a gift for her 13th birthday that would fortuitously become the most iconic piece of World War II literature to ever be publish. Within the pages of The Diary Of A Young Girl, Anne Frank offers readers a firsthand account of the reprehensible circumstances faced by Jews at the time as she tells of her experiences while spending two years in hiding alongside her parents Otto and Edith, her older sister Margot and four other individuals.
It was almost a decade earlier, in 1934, when the Frank family was forced to flee Germany, along with hundreds of thousands of other German-Jews, because the country’s Chancellor Adolf Hitler was heinously imposing his hateful will on the Jewish people. Unfortunately for Anne, Margot, Otto and Edith, the safety they found upon settling in the Netherlands’ capitol city of Amsterdam quickly began to vanish in 1940 as the Nazi army invaded Holland and began enforcing the same anti-semitic laws that forced them to initially leave their home country.
Due to an ever increasing likelihood of being detained by German authorities and unjustly sent to work, or even worse to their deaths, the Frank parents made the decision to go into hiding not long before giving Anne the now enterally treasured diary which was famously bound in red-and-white checkered cloth. Unexpectedly, the time to put their hideout plans into motion arrived ten days earlier than anticipated as their oldest daughter Margot received a notice ordering her to relocate to a work camp.
On July 6th, 1942, the Franks purposely left their apartment in disarray, hoping to signal they’d fled in a panicked state, and went into hiding in a secret annex connected to the Opekta Works factory where Anne’s father was the managing director. Over the next two plus years, the Frank family along with Hermann and Auguste van Pels, their teenage son Peter and an outside acquaintance by the name of Fritz Pfeffer, would stay in the unsuitably small quarters, much of the time in silence and with little food, as they anxiously awaited the end of World War II (WWII).
It was during the family’s lengthy stay in the secret annex, when Anne would write what has since become a symbolic portrayal of the unjustified struggles millions of Jews faced during Hitler’s nefarious reign. Yet still, what’s truly makes The Diary of a Young Girl one of the most cherished books to ever be published is how Anne parallels the broader set of challenges Jews were facing at the time with her own interpersonal struggles of growing from an immature child into a wise young adult. On August 4th, 1944, the same day that German police stormed the secret annex and arrested everyone in hideout, Anne wrote of this internal battle in what would be the last diary entry she would write:
As I’ve told you many times, I’m split in two. One side contains my exuberant cheerfulness, my flippancy, my joy in life and, above all, my ability to appreciate the lighter side of things. By that I mean not finding anything wrong with flirtations, a kiss, an embrace, an off-colour joke. This side of me is usually lying in wait to ambush the other one, which is much purer, deeper and finer. No one knows Anne’s better side, and that’s why most people can’t stand me.”
In the same passage, she continues:
So the nice Anne is never seen in company. She’s never made a single appearance, though she almost always takes the stage when I’m alone. I know exactly how I’d like to be, how I am… on the inside. But unfortunately I’m only like that with myself. And perhaps that’s why-no, I’m sure that’s the reason why I think of myself as happy on the inside and other people think I’m happy on the outside. I’m guided by the pure Anne within, but on the outside I’m nothing but a frolicsome little goat tugging at its tether.”
Throughout the pages of the distinguished diary, it is this purer, deeper and finer version of Anne that readers come to intimately know. Although she was only a young teenager at the time, between 13 and 15-years-old, the now immortalized diarist’s writings show that she was wise well beyond her years. Especially in the year of 1944, from January until the time of her arrest in August, Anne Frank offered supreme insights on topics such as hope, gratitude, work and happiness which will continue to inspire many generations to come.
Anne Frank On Finding Hope & Courage In God:
While there isn’t any doubt that being subjected to the circumstances faced by Jews hiding-out during WWII would make most people spiral downwards towards a depressive and hopeless state, Anne Frank was able to thrive largely because she found hope and courage in God. In fact, it’s hard to imagine that the young writer’s wisdom filled diary would’ve ever came to fruition without her unwavering sense of trust in a higher power as it was her bedrock of faith which allowed her to grow as an individual and maintain a sense of direction in the most challenging of times. For example, on April 11th, 1944, after pondering why the Jewish people have historically been the unjustified victims of immense amounts of suffering, Frank makes clear that God has always lifted them up and will do so once again. She writes:
One day this terrible war will be over. The time will come when we’ll be people again and not just Jews! Who has inflicted this on us? Who has set us apart from all the rest? Who has put us through such suffering? It’s God who has made us the way we are, but it’s also God who will lift us up again. In the eyes of the world, we’re doomed, but if, after all this suffering, there are still Jews left, the Jewish people will be held up as an example. Who knows, maybe our religion will teach the world and all the people in it about goodness, and that’s the reason, the only reason, we have to suffer.
Later in the same passage, Frank reaffirms her conviction in God while also making a concrete commitment to remain courageous and strong:
Be brave! Let’s remember our duty and perform it without complaint. There will be a way out. God has never deserted our people. Through the ages Jews have had to suffer, but through the ages they’ve gone on living, and the centuries of suffering have only made them stronger. The weak shall fall and the strong shall survive and not be defeated!”
Once again on July 6th, 1944, exactly two years after the Franks moved into the secret annex, Anne insightfully illuminates the divine benefits that come from religious practice. Even if an individual struggles to grasp abstract concepts such as heaven and hell, she wisely tells us, they can still benefit greatly from honoring their conscience within. She writes:
People who are religious should be glad, since not everyone is blessed with the ability to believe in a higher order. You don’t even have to live in fear of eternal punishment; the concepts of purgatory, heaven and hell are difficult for many people to accept, yet religion itself, any religion, keeps a person on the right path. Not the fear of God, but upholding your own sense of honor and obeying your own conscience. How noble and good everyone could be if, at the end of each day, they were to review their own behavior and weigh up the rights and wrongs. They would automatically try to do better at the start of each new day and, after a while, would certainly accomplish a great deal.”
Additionally, on July 15th, 1944, Anne sheds light on the strength that comes from trusting in a divine power. While happenings in the annex and circumstances taking place in the war make her cast doubt on her decision to live with virtues and purpose, she’s able to find hope and courage by looking above. She tells us:
It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything I still believe people to be really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again. In the meantime, I must uphold my ideals for perhaps the time will come when I shall be able to carry them out.”
Anne Frank On Living With Gratitude:
When reading through the many wisdom filled passages of Anne Frank’s diary, one can only be amazed to discover how such a young girl can have her whole world turned upside down yet continually express gratitude for the many gifts of life. Unlike the vast majority of children her age, Anne lived with a keen understanding of what to be grateful for and an equally unique ability to express it with unpretentious humility. This truth explains why many of Frank’s most cherished quotes relate directly to the gratitude she expressed for her situation in comparison to other Jews, the individuals who brought them supplies and food, and also the beauty that can be found in nature. On January 28th, 1944, for example, Frank writes about how thankful she is for resistance groups such as Free Netherlands who risk their own lives to be of assistance to the Jewish people. Of the individuals who helped her family and the others in the secret annex, she says:
It’s amazing how much these generous and unselfish people do, risking their own lives to help and save others. The best example of this is our own helpers, who have managed to pull us through so far and will hopefully bring us safely to shore, because otherwise they’ll find themselves sharing the fate of those they’re trying to protect. Never have they uttered a single word about the burden we must be, never have they complained that we’re too much trouble.”
In the passage, she adds:
That’s something we should never forget; while others display their heroism in battle or against the Germans, our helpers prove theirs every day by their good spirits and affection.”
On February 23rd, 1944, Anne Frank once again offers heartfelt appreciation for her blessings although this time it’s for her developing relationship with Peter, the young boy who lives in the annex, and the wonderful gifts of nature. After having a magical moment of silence with her new companion, Anne writes of nature’s beauty:
‘As long as this exists,’ I thought, ‘this sunshine and this cloudless sky, and as long as I can enjoy it, how can I be sad?’ The best remedy for those who are frightened, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere they can be alone, alone with the sky, nature and God. For then and only then can you feel that everything is as it should be and that God wants people to be happy amid nature’s beauty and simplicity. As long as this exists, and that should be forever, I know that there will be solace for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances. I firmly believe that nature can bring comfort to all who suffer. Oh, who knows, perhaps it won’t be long before I can share this overwhelming feeling of happiness with someone who feels the same as I do.”
Anne Frank On The Importance of Growth, Purpose & Work:
In addition to finding hopeful courage in a higher power and living with gratitude for the many gifts life has to offer, Anne Frank’s commitment to improving herself as an individual and as a writer assuredly helped her maintain an optimistic outlook in the gloomiest of circumstances. Of course the young diarist went through many of the ups-and-downs that’d naturally come from living in silent seclusion, while also struggling to intimately connect with her mother, but by putting her feelings down on paper and focusing on becoming the best possible version of herself, she was able to cultivate and preserve a healthy psychological state. On April 5th, 1944, Frank writes about her mission to leave a lasting impression on the world by further developing her God-given talent as a writer so she can give enjoyment to as many people as possible:
I don’t want to have lived in vain like most people. I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I’ve never met. I want to go on living even after my death! And that’s why I’m so grateful to God for having given me this gift, which I can use to develop myself and to express all that’s inside me! When I write I can shake off all my cares. My sorrow disappears, my spirits are revived!”
On June 13th, 1944, one day after her 15th birthday, Anne briefly writes about the presents she received and discusses the current circumstances of the war before offering an honest assessment of how she thinks others see her and reaffirming her unyielding commitment to improving herself as a individual. She says:
Wishes, thoughts, accusations and reproaches are swirling around in my head. I’m not really as conceited as many people think; I know my various faults and shortcomings better than anyone else, but there’s one difference: I also know that I want to change, will change and already have changed greatly!”
Anne Frank supplies us with some additionally insightful advice on July 6th, 1944, as she discusses how the two other children staying in the annex, Margot and Peter, lack direction, don’t have the wherewithal to work on themselves as individuals and naively hope to find happiness the easiest way possible. After examining how the three of them share similar situations and opportunities, Anne illuminates how important working on something meaningful is for one’s feelings of life-satisfaction:
We’re all alive, but we don’t know why or what for; we’re all searching for happiness; we’re all leading lives that are different and yet the same. We three have been raised in good families, we have the opportunity to get an education and make something of ourselves. We have many reasons to hope for great happiness, but. . . we have to earn it. And that’s something you can’t achieve by taking the easy way out. Earning happiness means doing good and working, not speculating and being lazy. Laziness may look inviting, but only work gives you true satisfaction.”
Anne Frank On Creating A Happy & Meaningful Life:
When you really think about Anne Frank’s life and the countless other Jewish individuals who wrongly suffered during WWII, it’s hard to fathom how any of them could authentically cultivate feelings of happiness or find a meaningful sense of purpose. Yet this is exactly what the young diarist, who continues to capture the hearts of readers around the globe, was able to accomplish and the reason she represents an unequalled inspiration for our own lives. If a young girl can have her whole world turned upside down, with nearly every enjoyable pastime activity being taken away, and still maintain a deeper sense of meaning and joy, then each and everyone of us can assuredly do the same.
Based upon the various wisdom we’ve illuminated up until this point, it’s certain that Anne Frank was largely able to cultivate feelings of happiness and make life meaningful with an affirming blend of hope, courage, gratitude, an unwavering commitment to improve herself as an individual and the pursuit of work she loved. Most importantly, however, was that Anne fully understood that happiness is determined by how we think and can always be found within our hearts. On February, 23rd, 1944, she writes in a passage addressed to Peter:
Peter, as long as people feel that kind of happiness within themselves, the joy of nature, health and much more besides, they’ll always be able to recapture that happiness. Riches, prestige, everything can be lost. But the happiness in your own heart can only be dimmed; it will always be there, as long as you live, to make you happy again. Whenever you’re feeling lonely or sad, try going to the loft on a beautiful day and looking outside. Not at the houses and the rooftops, but at the sky. As long as you can look fearlessly at the sky, you’ll know that you’re pure within and will find happiness once more.”
On April 11th, 1944, Anne Frank tells of an immensely troubling break-in attempt at the secret annex, which deeply shakes everyone’s spirits, before she illuminates how a combination of purpose, religion, love and self-confidence helps her to stay balanced and enables her to joyful look forward regardless of the circumstances she finds herself in:
I know what I want, I have a goal, I have opinions, a religion and love. If only I can be myself, I’ll be satisfied. I know that I’m a woman, a woman with inner strength and a great deal of courage! If God lets me live, I’ll achieve more than Mother ever did, I’ll make my voice heard, I’ll go out into the world and work for mankind! I now know that courage and happiness are needed first!”
The last memorable passage of The Diary of a Young Girl that we can explore brings to light the importance of looking upon life as an interesting adventure rather than something to distastefully loathe. On May 3rd, 1944, Anne Frank writes of the journey of life:
What I’m experiencing here is a good beginning to an interesting life, and that’s the reason — the only reason — why I have to laugh at the humorous side of the most dangerous moments. I’m young and have many hidden qualities; I’m young and strong and living through a big adventure; I’m right in the middle of it and can’t spend all day complaining because it’s impossible to have any fun! I’m blessed with many things: happiness, a cheerful disposition and strength. Every day I feel myself maturing, I feel liberation drawing near, I feel the beauty of nature and the goodness of the people around me. Every day I think what a fascinating and amusing adventure this is! With all that, why should I despair?”
Although the exact date and cause of death are unknown, it is believed that Anne Frank died in the early months of 1945, at only 15-years-old, after coming down with typhus while being held at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany. Fortunately, however, her spirit and wisdom will live on forever in what is unquestionably one of the world’s most iconic pieces of literature.