Confession times! I had never read The Diary of Anne Frank before. I’d talked about it, read about it, watched some of the movie and sold heaps of them in the shop but I’d actually never actually read the original.
I went through a phase when I read every Holocaust related novel I could lay my hands on (although surprisingly not this one). Growing up as the grandchild of Holocaust survivors, learning about it at school, reading books, visiting sites, hearing stories from survivors, sometimes it’s easy to feel like you’ve ‘done’ the Holocaust. But I think it’s not really possible to have ‘done’ the Holocaust, perhaps it’s just easier to think that and stop forcing yourself to think about unthinkable things.
So I started reading the Diary and I was surprised by how readable and compelling it is. Anne wrote honestly, self-deprecatingly and crazy well for a thirteen year old. She was committed to recording herself with all her flaws and gave a real insight into the inner workings of a teenage girl and the development of her identity. And like I said, she wrote really, really well for someone so young, especially when you consider how monotonous her life became. Because for all the fear, angst and politics, she spent her days doing the same things, over and over again.
Visiting the annex in Amsterdam was a strange experience. Anne described the place very specifically when she first moved in and the details were made very clear over the course of the diary. The place is kept empty now and, compared to Anne’s descriptions, it seemed blank, almost like a set. But it did reinforce the tragedy of the events – this wasn’t just a fictional account but the real life diary of a girl and her family who were persecuted, trapped and murdered.
I found The Diary of Anne Frank not only compelling and moving but also darkly humorous and brutally honest. I think it is Anne’s lively and witty personality rather than her tragic circumstances that have made this book the classic that it is. I think part of the trouble with trying to comprehend the the Holocaust is the sheer scale of murder, so Anne’s story is a reminder of the real lives lost; it is just one tiny part of the tragedy that is the Holocaust that this talented, funny and clever girl was never able to write anything else.