Anne Frank: September 16, 1943

Anne Frank’s diary is the most famous account written by someone while in hiding from the Nazis. It is well-known mainly due to the quality of Anne’s writing. Especially poignant were her reflections on her own personality and on her relationships with the others who were hiding along with her in the secret annex. Those relationships were often filled with tension. Anne frequently used humor to describe the arguments and petty squabbles which broke out in the hiding place, but the humor masked the seriousness of the situation. People in hiding from the Nazis were in constant danger of discovery. The stress caused by these circumstances couldn’t help but come out in the way the hiders treated one another.

On September 16 1943, Anne wrote, “Relationships here in the annex are getting worse all the time. We don’t dare to open our mouths at mealtime (except to slip in a bite of food), because no matter what we say, someone is bound to resent it or take it the wrong way.” By the time Anne recorded this statement, the people in the annex had been in hiding for over 15 months. They had little opportunity to move freely and almost none to vent their emotions. Anne mentioned on this day that she was taking valerian (an herbal remedy) to help with her anxiety, but observed that a good hearty laugh would probably have helped her even more.

The stress of hiding came from more than just relationship problems. The physical dangers were real as well. Anne wrote, “Another fact that doesn’t exactly brighten up our days is that Mr. van Maaren, the man who works in the warehouse, is getting suspicious about the Annex. […] We wouldn’t care what Mr. van Maaren thought of the situation except that he’s known to be unreliable and to possess a high degree of curiosity. He’s not one to be put off with a flimsy excuse.” Anne’s statement about Mr. van Maaren revealed one of the most dangerous aspects of a hiding situation. People hiding from the Nazis needed outside help. Outside helpers, though, had to be very careful not to attract attention while they were visiting the hiding place with supplies or information. Anyone who suspected that Jews were hiding nearby would be on the lookout for suspicious activity. Anne described a situation in her diary entry which she and the others considered to be a “close call” with Mr. van Maaren. They were lucky to avoid detection that day, but how long could their good luck last? With this type of pressure hanging over the hiders every day, it is not surprising that they often exhibited the signs of high stress.

You may read more of Anne’s writing, which has been published under the title, Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. This book is a multi-million copy best-seller and has gone through numerous printings. It has also been set for performance on stage and screen.

You may learn more about hiding experiences by visiting the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s online exhibit entitled, “Life in Shadows: Hidden Children and the Holocaust.”

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