February 24, 2010 Edition

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Frankly speaking...

John Bland
Publisher

Several factors led me to pick up and read our daughter's copy of "Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl," The Definitive Edition.

  • My sister and her family had visited Amsterdam a few days last summer. They toured the annex where Anne and her family lived in hiding over two years. The bookshelf hiding the annex entrance still exists.

  • In two of our daughter's classes last fall, language arts and history, the Holocaust and Anne's diary had been topics of study.

  • Black River Technical College sponsored its Fifth Annual Holocaust Survivor presentation with Holocaust survivor, Estelle (Wakszlak) Laughlin, speaking in the fall. She was 10 when the Germans invaded Poland during World War II. Many area school students attend these presentations, which are also open to the public and are coordinated by BRTC's Dina Hufstedler of Walnut Ridge.

  • Miep Gies died on Jan. 11 of this year. She was the last survivor among Anne Frank's protectors. She had found the diary strewn across the floor after Anne and the other seven people in hiding in the Secret Annex had been arrested. She retrieved the diary pages and tucked them away for safekeeping.

********

Anne Frank was 13 when she began the diary and 15 when she was forced to stop. The first few pages read as you might expect: a young teenaged girl writes her innermost thoughts about her friends and classmates. I almost stopped but continued in a second attempt and am glad I did.

The foreword explains that Anne first began writing the diary strictly for herself. Later, she was inspired by a radio broadcast by a member of the Dutch government. He said he hoped to collect letters and diaries after the war that would give eyewitness accounts of the suffering of the Dutch people under German occupation.

Anne was impressed by the speech and decided that after the war she would publish a book based on her diary.

********

Originally, out of respect for the dead, Anne's father, Otto Frank, omitted a number of diary pages that were unflattering about his wife (Anne's mother) and others in hiding in the annex. I would have done the same thing. In The Definitive Edition, those pages have been included. Anne's writings are "stubbornly honest."

She succeeds in giving a clear account of what life was like for those in hiding from the Nazis. She writes with perspective beyond her years of their hunger, daily fears and the frustrations of eight people living in such close quarters. She also writes descriptively of their day-to-day lives, as well as about romance and her coming of age.

Anne dreamed of being a journalist and writing a book based on her diary. Without realizing it, by writing her diary, Anne accomplished both with success beyond her wildest dreams.

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