Anne Frank’s diary has been loved by millions of readers since it was first published by her father in the aftermath of World War II. One of the reasons for this affection was Anne’s unflinching honesty. She wrote openly about her opinions and feelings on many subjects when others might have held their peace. Of course, Anne was keeping a diary partly for personal reasons, so she may not always have had privacy issues uppermost in her mind. Still, she did write with an eye toward future publication, so her honesty and bluntness should not be dismissed as a feature that she would have edited out of a later account, even if had she lived to write it. Anne gives contemporary readers a feel for the stresses and strains of her life in hiding precisely because she refused to hide her reactions to events that she later found embarrassing or shameful.
On May 7th, Anne had nothing but bitter words of rebuke for herself. Two days earlier she had given her father a letter that included some very harsh words in response to parental criticism. She felt justified in what she had written until the conversation during which she received her father’s answer. She wrote, “Father and I had a long talk yesterday afternoon. I cried my eyes out, and he cried too. Do you know what he said to me, Kitty?”
Anne recorded her father’s words as follows. “I’ve received many letters in my lifetime, but none as hurtful as this. You, who have had so much love from your parents. You, whose parents have always been ready to help you, who have always defended you, no matter what. You talk of not having to account to us for your actions! You feel you’ve been wronged and left to your own devices. No, Anne, you’ve done us a great injustice! Perhaps you didn’t mean it that way, but that’s what you wrote. No, Anne, we have done nothing to deserve such a reproach!”
Anne was cut to the quick by her father’s response. She wrote of herself, “Oh, I’ve failed miserably. This is the worst thing I’ve ever done in my entire life. […] It’s good that somebody has finally cut me down to size, has broken my pride, because I’ve been far too smug. Not everything that Mistress Anne does is good! Anyone who deliberately causes such pain to someone they say they love is despicable, the lowest of the low!” Anne continued in the same vein for several more lines.
Undoubtedly, Anne was too hard on herself. Her father was willing to forgive her and to forget the whole incident. Surely he knew that the harshness of Anne’s letter was, in part, due to the fact that the strictures of the hiding place gave her no other way to vent her feelings. Her diary account on this day reminds us also of how difficult it must have been to keep everything bottled up under conditions where the ability to keep silence and control could mean the difference between life and death.
You may read more about Anne Frank and her relationship with her parents here.
Click here to read excerpts from Anne’s diary.
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