Anne Frank was born in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1929. Her family was Jewish, and after the Nazi Party took over, they moved to Amsterdam, in the Netherlands, when Anne was four. During World War II Germany occupied the Netherlands, and she and her family hid in a “secret annex” behind her father’s office. They were later joined by another Jewish family, the Van Pels, and Anne had a romance with the son, Peter. Her father’s Dutch former employees Victor Kugler, Miep Gies, Bep Voskuijl, and Johannes Kleiman brought them food and news of the war. Anne kept a diary about the experience, which she addressed to an imaginary friend named Kitty.
The Franks and Van Pels were discovered in 1944 and sent to concentration camps. Anne died in the Bergen-Belsen camp the next year, when she was fifteen. The diary she’d kept in hiding was first published in the Netherlands in 1947 and is now one of the most widely read books in the world. The following seven entries were selected from The Diary of a Young Girl: The Definitive Edition.
Friday, October 9, 1942
Today I have nothing but dismal and depressing news to report. Our many Jewish friends and acquaintances are being taken away in droves. The Gestapo is treating them very roughly and transporting them in cattle cars to Westerbork, the big camp in Drenthe to which they’re sending all the Jews. Miep told us about someone who’d managed to escape from there. It must be terrible in Westerbork. The people get almost nothing to eat, much less to drink, as water is available only one hour a day, and there’s only one toilet and sink for several thousand people. Men and women sleep in the same room, and women and children often have their heads shaved. Escape is almost impossible; many people look Jewish, and they’re branded by their shorn heads.
If it’s that bad in Holland, what must it be like in those faraway and uncivilized places where the Germans are sending them? We assume that most of them are being murdered. The English radio says they’re being gassed. Perhaps that’s the quickest way to die.
I feel terrible. Miep’s accounts of those horrors are so heartrending, and Miep is also very distraught. The other day, for instance, the Gestapo deposited an elderly, crippled Jewish woman on Miep’s doorstep while they set off to find a car. The old woman was terrified of the glaring searchlights and the guns firing at the English planes overhead. Yet Miep didn’t dare let her in. Nobody would. The Germans are generous enough when it comes to punishment.
Bep is also very subdued. Her boyfriend is being sent to Germany. Every time the planes fly over, she’s afraid they’re going to drop their entire bomb load on [her boyfriend] Bertus’s head. Jokes like “Oh, don’t worry, they can’t all fall on him” or “One bomb is all it takes” are hardly appropriate in this situation. Bertus is not the only one being forced to work in Germany. Trainloads of young men depart daily. Some of them try to sneak off the train when it stops at a small station, but only a few manage to escape unnoticed and find a place to hide.
But that’s not the end of my lamentations. Have you ever heard the term “hostages”? That’s the latest punishment for saboteurs. It’s the most horrible thing you can imagine. Leading citizens — innocent people — are taken prisoner to await their execution. If the Gestapo can’t find the saboteur, they simply grab five hostages and line them up against the wall. You read the announcements of their death in the paper, where they’re referred to as “fatal accidents.”
Fine specimens of humanity, those Germans, and to think I’m actually one of them! No, that’s not true, Hitler took away our nationality long ago. And besides, there are no greater enemies on earth than the Germans and the Jews.
Wednesday, January 13, 1943
This morning I was constantly interrupted, and as a result I haven’t been able to finish a single thing I’ve begun.
We have a new pastime, namely, filling packages with powdered gravy. The gravy is one of Gies & Co.’s products. Mr. Kugler hasn’t been able to find anyone else to fill the packages, and besides, it’s cheaper if we do the job. It’s the kind of work they do in prisons. It’s incredibly boring and makes us dizzy and giggly.
Terrible things are happening outside. At any time of night and day, poor helpless people are being dragged out of their homes. They’re allowed to take only a knapsack and a little cash with them, and even then, they’re robbed of these possessions on the way. Families are torn apart; men, women and children are separated. Children come home from school to find that their parents have disappeared. Women return from shopping to find their houses sealed, their families gone. The Christians in Holland are also living in fear because their sons are being sent to Germany. Everyone is scared. Every night hundreds of planes pass over Holland on their way to German cities, to sow their bombs on German soil. Every hour hundreds, or maybe even thousands, of people are being killed in Russia and Africa. No one can keep out of the conflict, the entire world is at war, and even though the Allies are doing better, the end is nowhere in sight.
As for us, we’re quite fortunate. Luckier than millions of people. It’s quiet and safe here, and we’re using our money to buy food. We’re so selfish that we talk about “after the war” and look forward to new clothes and shoes, when actually we should be saving every penny to help others when the war is over, to salvage whatever we can.
The children in this neighborhood run around in thin shirts and wooden shoes. They have no coats, no caps, no stockings and no one to help them. Gnawing on a carrot to still their hunger pangs, they walk from their cold houses through cold streets to an even colder classroom. Things have gotten so bad in Holland that hordes of children stop passersby in the streets to beg for a piece of bread.
I could spend hours telling you about the suffering the war has brought, but I’d only make myself more miserable. All we can do is wait, as calmly as possible, for it to end. Jews and Christians alike are waiting, the whole world is waiting, and many are waiting for death.
Monday evening, November 8, 1943
If you were to read all my letters in one sitting, you’d be struck by the fact that they were written in a variety of moods. It annoys me to be so dependent on the moods here in the Annex, but I’m not the only one: we’re all subject to them. If I’m engrossed in a book, I have to rearrange my thoughts before I can mingle with other people, because otherwise they might think I was strange. As you can see, I’m currently in the middle of a depression. I couldn’t really tell you what set it off, but I think it stems from my cowardice, which confronts me at every turn. This evening, when Bep was still here, the doorbell rang long and loud. I instantly turned white, my stomach churned, and my heart beat wildly — and all because I was afraid.
At night in bed I see myself alone in a dungeon, without Father and Mother. Or I’m roaming the streets, or the Annex is on fire, or they come in the middle of the night to take us away and I crawl under my bed in desperation. I see everything as if it were actually taking place. And to think it might all happen soon!
Miep often says she envies us because we have such peace and quiet here. That may be true, but she’s obviously not thinking about our fear.
I simply can’t imagine the world will ever be normal again for us. I do talk about “after the war,” but it’s as if I were talking about a castle in the air, something that can never come true.
I see the eight of us in the Annex as if we were a patch of blue sky surrounded by menacing black clouds. The perfectly round spot on which we’re standing is still safe, but the clouds are moving in on us, and the ring between us and the approaching danger is being pulled tighter and tighter. We’re surrounded by darkness and danger, and in our desperate search for a way out we keep bumping into each other. We look at the fighting down below and the peace and beauty up above. In the meantime, we’ve been cut off by the dark mass of clouds, so that we can go neither up nor down. It looms before us like an impenetrable wall, trying to crush us, but not yet able to. I can only cry out and implore, “Oh, ring, ring, open wide and let us out!”
Saturday, February 12, 1944
The sun is shining, the sky is deep blue, there’s a magnificent breeze, and I’m longing — really longing — for everything: conversation, freedom, friends, being alone. I long . . . to cry! I feel as if I were about to explode. I know crying would help, but I can’t cry. I’m restless. I walk from one room to another, breathe through the crack in the window frame, feel my heart beating as if to say, “Fulfill my longing at last . . .”
I think spring is inside me. I feel spring awakening, I feel it in my entire body and soul. I have to force myself to act normally. I’m in a state of utter confusion, don’t know what to read, what to write, what to do. I only know that I’m longing for something . . .
Wednesday, February 23, 1944
My dearest Kitty,
The weather’s been wonderful since yesterday, and I’ve perked up quite a bit. My writing, the best thing I have, is coming along well. I go to the attic almost every morning to get the stale air out of my lungs. This morning when I went there, Peter was busy cleaning up. He finished quickly and came over to where I was sitting on my favorite spot on the floor. The two of us looked out at the blue sky, the bare chestnut tree glistening with dew, the seagulls and other birds glinting with silver as they swooped through the air, and we were so moved and entranced that we couldn’t speak. He stood with his head against a thick beam, while I sat. We breathed the air, looked outside and both felt that the spell shouldn’t be broken with words. We remained like this for a long while, and by the time he had to go to the loft to chop wood, I knew he was a good, decent boy. He climbed the ladder to the loft, and I followed; during the fifteen minutes he was chopping wood, we didn’t say a word either. I watched him from where I was standing, and could see he was obviously doing his best to chop the right way and show off his strength. But I also looked out the open window, letting my eyes roam over a large part of Amsterdam, over the rooftops and on to the horizon, a strip of blue so pale it was almost invisible.
“As long as this exists,” I thought, “this sunshine and this cloudless sky, and as long as I can enjoy it, how can I be sad?”
The best remedy for those who are frightened, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere they can be alone, alone with the sky, nature and God. For then and only then can you feel that everything is as it should be and that God wants people to be happy amid nature’s beauty and simplicity.
As long as this exists, and that should be forever, I know that there will be solace for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances. I firmly believe that nature can bring comfort to all who suffer.
Oh, who knows, perhaps it won’t be long before I can share this overwhelming feeling of happiness with someone who feels the same as I do.
Wednesday, March 29, 1944
Mr. Bolkestein, the Cabinet Minister, speaking on the Dutch broadcast from London, said that after the war a collection would be made of diaries and letters dealing with the war. Of course, everyone pounced on my diary. Just imagine how interesting it would be if I were to publish a novel about the Secret Annex. The title alone would make people think it was a detective story.
Seriously, though, ten years after the war people would find it very amusing to read how we lived, what we ate and what we talked about as Jews in hiding. Although I tell you a great deal about our lives, you still know very little about us. How frightened the women are during air raids; last Sunday, for instance, when 350 British planes dropped 550 tons of bombs on IJmuiden, so that the houses trembled like blades of grass in the wind. Or how many epidemics are raging here.
You know nothing of these matters, and it would take me all day to describe everything down to the last detail. People have to stand in line to buy vegetables and all kinds of goods; doctors can’t visit their patients, since their cars and bikes are stolen the moment they turn their backs; burglaries and thefts are so common that you ask yourself what’s suddenly gotten into the Dutch to make them so light-fingered. Little children, eight- and eleven-year-olds, smash the windows of people’s homes and steal whatever they can lay their hands on. People don’t dare leave the house for even five minutes, since they’re liable to come back and find all their belongings gone. Every day the newspapers are filled with reward notices for the return of stolen typewriters, Persian rugs, electric clocks, fabrics, etc. The electric clocks on street corners are dismantled, public phones are stripped down to the last wire.
Morale among the Dutch can’t be good. Everyone’s hungry; except for the ersatz coffee, a week’s food ration doesn’t last two days. The invasion’s long in coming, the men are being shipped off to Germany, the children are sick or undernourished, everyone’s wearing worn-out clothes and run-down shoes. A new sole costs 7.50 guilders on the black market. Besides, few shoemakers will do repairs, or if they do, you have to wait four months for your shoes, which might very well have disappeared in the meantime.
One good thing has come out of this: as the food gets worse and the decrees more severe, the acts of sabotage against the authorities are increasing. The ration board, the police, the officials — they’re all either helping their fellow citizens or denouncing them and sending them off to prison. Fortunately, only a small percentage of Dutch people are on the wrong side.
Wednesday, May 3, 1944
First the weekly news! We’re having a vacation from politics. There’s nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing, to report. I’m also gradually starting to believe that the invasion will come. After all, they can’t let the Russians do all the dirty work; actually, the Russians aren’t doing anything at the moment either.
Mr. Kleiman comes to the office every morning now. He got a new set of springs for Peter’s divan, so Peter will have to get to work reupholstering it. Not surprisingly, he isn’t at all in the mood. Mr. Kleiman also brought some flea powder for the cats.
Have I told you that our Boche has disappeared? We haven’t seen hide nor hair of her since last Thursday. She’s probably already in cat heaven, while some animal lover has turned her into a tasty dish. Perhaps some girl who can afford it will be wearing a cap made of Boche’s fur. Peter is heartbroken.
For the last two weeks we’ve been eating lunch at 11:30 on Saturdays; in the mornings we have to make do with a cup of hot cereal. Starting tomorrow it’ll be like this every day; that saves us a meal. Vegetables are still very hard to come by. This afternoon we had rotten boiled lettuce. Ordinary lettuce, spinach and boiled lettuce, that’s all there is. Add to that rotten potatoes, and you have a meal fit for a king!
I hadn’t had my period for more than two months, but it finally started last Sunday. Despite the mess and bother, I’m glad it hasn’t deserted me.
As you can no doubt imagine, we often say in despair, “What’s the point of the war? Why, oh, why can’t people live together peacefully? Why all this destruction?”
The question is understandable, but up to now no one has come up with a satisfactory answer. Why is England manufacturing bigger and better airplanes and bombs and at the same time churning out new houses for reconstruction? Why are millions spent on the war each day, while not a penny is available for medical science, artists or the poor? Why do people have to starve when mountains of food are rotting away in other parts of the world? Oh, why are people so crazy?
I don’t believe the war is simply the work of politicians and capitalists. Oh no, the common man is every bit as guilty; otherwise, people and nations would have rebelled long ago! There’s a destructive urge in people, the urge to rage, murder and kill. And until all of humanity, without exception, undergoes a metamorphosis, wars will continue to be waged, and everything that has been carefully built up, cultivated and grown will be cut down and destroyed, only to start all over again!
I’ve often been down in the dumps, but never desperate. I look upon our life in hiding as an interesting adventure, full of danger and romance, and every privation as an amusing addition to my diary. I’ve made up my mind to lead a different life from other girls, and not to become an ordinary housewife later on. What I’m experiencing here is a good beginning to an interesting life, and that’s the reason — the only reason — why I have to laugh at the humorous side of the most dangerous moments.
I’m young and have many hidden qualities; I’m young and strong and living through a big adventure; I’m right in the middle of it and can’t spend all day complaining because it’s impossible to have any fun! I’m blessed with many things: happiness, a cheerful disposition and strength. Every day I feel myself maturing, I feel liberation drawing near, I feel the beauty of nature and the goodness of the people around me. Every day I think what a fascinating and amusing adventure this is! With all that, why should I despair?
Yours, Anne M. Frank
The Diary of a Young Girl: The Definitive Edition by Anne Frank, edited by Otto H. Frank and Mirjam Pressler, translated by Susan Massotty. Translation copyright © 1995 by Penguin Random House. Used by permission of Doubleday, an imprint of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House. All rights reserved.