Anne Frank is probably the most famous diarist from the Holocaust era. In large part, her reputation comes from her skill as a writer in vividly describing her feelings while hiding from the Nazis in the secret annex. She balanced her often humorous descriptions of personal and relationship foibles with the tragedy unfolding in the outside world. Her ability to blend private and public events into one narrative gives her diary its unique power. Readers often feel as though they are with her in the moments she described, even though they happened seventy years ago.
On September 10, 1943 Anne wrote about one of those times that contained both the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. She described thrilling and hopeful developments in the course of the war while at the same time noting with fear and sadness the very serious sickness of a close friend. She wrote, “On Wednesday, September 8, we were listening to the seven o’clock news when we heard an announcement: ‘Italy has capitulated.’ Italy has unconditionally surrendered! The Dutch broadcast from England began at eight-fifteen with the news: ‘Listeners, an hour and fifteen minutes ago, just as I finished writing my daily report, we received the wonderful news of Italy’s capitulation. I tell you, I never tossed my notes into the wastepaper basket with more delight than I did today!” Anne was so overjoyed at this development that she tried to record direct quotes from the broadcast as she remembered them. She sensed that an important milestone had been reached and didn’t want to let go of the moment, turning the words of the radio report over in her mind as she relived them for her diary. This by no means signaled the end of the war, but it certainly meant that things were going in the right direction.
At the same time Anne felt such exhilaration, she also experienced fear for the declining health of one of her family’s helpers. “Still, there’s bad news as well. It’s about Mr. Kleiman. As you know, we all like him very much. He’s unfailingly cheerful and amazingly brave, despite the fact that he’s always sick and in pain and can’t eat much or do a lot of walking. … Now it seems he has to go to the hospital for a very difficult operation on his stomach, and will have to stay there for at least four weeks. You should have seen him when he told us good-bye. He acted so normally, as though he were just off to do an errand.”
Anne’s diary entry for September 10th illustrated perfectly the problem that faced people who were in hiding from the Nazis. On one hand, they followed the events of global significance as closely as they could, since these contained their hopes for the future. On the other hand, they also worried about the status of family and friends, especially those who were also at risk from the Nazis. Unfortunately, from their positions in hiding, they were powerless to help shape the larger events and frequently unable to help their loved ones either.
Anne Frank’s diary was originally published in the Dutch language in 1947 under the title, . It has now been published in over 60 languages and is more commonly known as .
You may learn more about the role of Italy in World War II and the Holocaust here.
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