Every single time I visited Amsterdam there was an impressively long queue at the Anne Frank House, where Anne and other 7 Jewish people hid for 2 years from German soldiers during WWII. And I was always wondering why wait for so many hours just to visit a museum? Well, after reading “The Diary of a Young Girl” by Anne Frank, I got my answer: it’s not about the museum, it’s about what it symbolizes.
“The Diary of a Young Girl” was written by Anne, a Jewish girl who lived in Amsterdam. Anne started writing the diary in 1942, when she was only 12 years old. Few days after she started the diary, her family went into hiding into a small Annex. And that’s when their lives changed forever. They stayed there for 2 years, from July 1942 until August 1944, together with one more family. During this time, Anne recorded her (and their) life in the diary that has been published in more than 60 languages.
To give you a bit of context, I picked up this book in a second-hand bookstore in Cambridge (Oxfam), out of pure curiosity. This was one of the few non-fiction books I read in the recent years, and it might be the first memoir-type book I’ve ever read. As I’m used to reading fiction books, I had to remind myself from time to time that what I was reading was not fiction – but actually the reality of Anne and her family!
My first impression of the book, after reading the first 30-40 pages, was that it was quite boring, as there wasn’t much action happening. I was even tempted to abandon it … oh, how glad I am now that I did not do that! Even though it might seem there is not much happening in the Annex, there are actually so many things going on – learning how to survive in harsh conditions, fighting and celebrating anniversaries, falling in love, almost getting discovered a few times … You might see with different eyes the small things around you after reading about life in the Annex through Anne’s eyes.
It’s fascinating to observe how the diary is changing together with Anne, as time goes by. It all starts with sharing bits and pieces of everyday happenings, and it ends with philosophical discussions, self-introspection and sharing of beliefs. Anne is a funny and witty girl, passionate about learning, with high aspirations for her future. It’s truly inspiring and heartbreaking at the same time to read her diary.
“It’s difficult in times like these: ideals, dreams and cherished hopes rise within us, only to be crushed by grim reality. It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.” (Anne Frank)
To conclude, I heartily recommend reading this book, especially if you’re interested in WWII stories. It can also be a great travelling companion if you’re visiting Amsterdam, giving a glimpse into the less pleasant side of its history.
I can’t help thinking about how Anne’s life would’ve looked like had WWII not happened …
‘Till next time … happy reading!
PS: “The Diary of a Young Girl” is now a WanderBook (click for more details). If you’re interested in reading this book and you live in Europe, please let me know!