Anne Frank is undoubtedly the most famous of the teen diary writers from the Holocaust era. Her writing style was so vivid, personal and engaging that we feel as if we have actually met her through her words. Anne’s personality seems to leap off the page and into our memory. The sad truth, though, is that we didn’t get to meet the real Anne at all.
People who knew Anne Frank before the war described her as a free-spirited, energetic and outgoing girl. In her diary, though, Anne sometimes comes across as thin-skinned, sullen and angry. For example, on January 30 1943 she wrote, “I’m seething with rage, yet I can’t show it. I’d like to scream, stamp my foot, give mother a good shaking, cry and I don’t know what else because of the nasty words, mocking looks and accusations she hurls at me day after day, piercing me like arrows from a tightly strung bow, which are nearly impossible to pull from my body. I’d like to scream at Mother, Margot, the van Daans, Dussel and Father too: ‘Leave me alone, let me have at least one night when I don’t cry myself to sleep with my eyes burning and my head pounding. Let me get away, away from everything, away from this world.’” Anne’s metaphor of a tightly strung bow seems apt indeed, but for her personality rather than for the words and actions of her mother. In the same diary entry, Anne even wished for a different, less antagonistic personality. In reality, her problem was not her personality, but her situation.
Of course, Anne could get angry or upset like anyone else, but the environment of the secret annex made it impossible for Anne to react in a normal way. Instead, she vented her anger and frustrations into her diary. Emotions that would have passed quickly became permanent on the pages that we have read. As a result, the personality that emerged from Anne’s diary was distorted by the hiding situation and by the brutal persecution that threatened from the outside. Fear and tension were constant companions for all who tried to escape from the Nazis through hiding. The emotional strain affected everyone in the annex and warped the true nature of their relationships. Therefore, it is unfair for us to remember Anne only as we encounter her in her diary.
You may learn more about Edith Frank-Holländer, Anne’s mother, here.
This online exhibit gives a more complete picture of Edith and her daughters than can be found in Anne’s diary.
You may read more about the difficulties faced by children in hiding here.
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