Diary of a Young Girl | Traumatic Experiences of Anne Frank
Traumatic Experience of Anne Frank in Diary of a Young Girl
Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl | An analysis
The Diary of a Young Girl despite few disputes has reached the height of literary antics. In the first glimpse it seems to be the bitter experience of a young girl forced to live in confinement under the Nazis rule in Germany. However, it carries deeper level of meaning and significance in the history of mankind, which has its root in the traumatic experiences faced by its writer, Anne Frank.
Anne Frank, who was the victim of German anti-Semitism, narrates her life that became increasingly restricted by anti-Jewish decrees. In 1942 the deportations to the concentration camps began. The Frank family went into hiding with the Van Daar’s family and Fritz Peffer’s in the annex of the building that housed Otto Frank’s business. The diary has a great impact because it is a poignant record of the struggles of adolescence: the anger, the aspiration and doubts, first love, and the search for an authentic self in, probably one of the most troublesome era of human history. Anne is a vibrant and passionate personality, full of life and vague longings that she sometimes cannot understand. The Diary of a Young Girl is both tender and humorous. Frank has the capacity to laugh at herself and to make the readers laugh with her. “I hope I will be able to confide everything to you, as I have never been able to confide in anyone, and I hope you will be a great source of comfort and support,” (June 12, 1942). In June 12, 1942, Anne Frank’s parents gave her a small red-and-white plaid diary for her thirteenth birthday. She named her diary “Kitty.”
The diary became a way for Anne Frank to express her feelings and sorrows, and thereby to reduce her internal pain of being away from school and society. It was also a true friend to explore how she felt about becoming a woman, and her evolving identity. Through writing she gave voice to her inner self, which became the best way to reduce her mental and psychological sufferings, from which she was having day to day experience. She records the fear and trauma of living during World War II and the “hunt” of the Jews. On July 6, 1942, Anne and her family were forced to go into hiding. She wrote on July 8, 1942:
Years seem to have passed between Sunday and now. So much has happened; it is just as if the whole world had turned upside down. But I am still alive, Kitty, and that is the main thing, Daddy says. Yes, I’m still alive, indeed but don’t ask where or how. You wouldn’t understand a word, so I will begin by telling you what happened on Sunday afternoon. (14)
On that very unfortunate day, they received the call of attaining the Concentration camp, and the very day, they decided that it was time that they move into their hiding.
The days of trauma were in the offing. She and her sister, Margot were to go together in the hiding, which means no social and public appearance any more for the young girls. Initially, they were restricted from the common schools, and into the Jews school, and now that too was being seized from them. Moreover, they were to join the labour camps, which meant certain death, or at least in most cases that was the result.
So, on the day when a letter from the Nazis came ordering them to join the camp, the family decided to move on the hiding place, the Secret Annexe. However, for Anne it was memories and more memories. She writes:
Into hiding – where would we go, in a town or the country, in a house or a cottage, when, how, where . . .? [. . .] Margot and I started packing our most important belongings into a school bag. The first thing I stuck in was this diary….Preoccupied by the thought of going into hiding, I stuck the craziest things into the bag, but I’m not sorry. Memories mean more to me than dresses. (15)
And then the life started for them, the next day. A life away from the normal chores, societal values and gatherings, with no playgrounds, friends, and above all restriction in all the activities they were to perform. It was like a horrible nightmare for young Anne, and her sister and rest of the members of the hideout; however, the ordeal was the strongest for the younger members in the hideout. But, surprisingly, Anne, the youngest one was the bravest of all to face the shock, as her best friend to sooth her was her dear “kitty.”
For over two years, Anne wrote about her life with seven other people in hiding, her parents, her sister, the van Pels family, Mr. Pfeffer, the helpers, the war going on around her, and her hopes for the future. On March 29, 1944, Anne heard over the radio that the Dutch government wanted people to save their wartime diaries for publication after the war. Mr. Bolkestein, the Cabinet minister, speaking on Dutch broadcasted Radio from London had said that after the war a collection would be made of diaries and letters dealing with the war. She decided to rewrite her diary entries as a novel that would be entitled Het Achterhuis, generally translated as “The Secret Annex.” On March 29, 1944, she writes, “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” (202).
As Anne rewrote whole sections of her diary on loose sheets of paper, she gave pseudonyms to the residents of the Annex: Mr. Pfeffer became Albert Dussel, Mr. and Mrs. van Pels became Mr. and Mrs. van Daan, and Peter van Pels became Peter van Daan. The helpers’ names were also changed: Miep Gies became Miep van Santen, Bep Voskjuil was Elli Vossen, Johannes Kleiman became Mr. Koophuis and Victor Kugler was Mr. Kraler.
On August 4, 1944, the Nazis raided the Secret Annex and arrested the residents. Anne’s entire diary, notebooks, and loose sheets of paper, remained behind in the Annex.
Things in the confined place were never the same, as everyday invited more intrigues among the hiding members. They were full of worries and eagerness to what happened outdoor. In the day time, they limited their activities within the close doors and at night they moved to upper portion of the Annexe. The Annex was in the rear portion of Mr. Otto’s office. It was cleverly hidden behind the bars of a cabinet, with steps to go downstairs with three rooms to live for. Anne, found it very difficult and was often called by other members as a contradictory creature. To which, she writes in one of her final entries, “Forgive me Kitty, they don’t call me a bundle of contradictions for nothing!” (277) on July 21, 1944. She has queries like, what are the different ways that each of us defines ourselves? What pieces make up who we are? How do we identify others? To which she answers, in the following manner in her diary dated August 1, 1944:
As I’ve told you many times, I’m split in two. One side contains my exuberant cheerfulness, my flippancy, my joy in life and, above all, my ability to appreciate the lighter side of things. By that I mean not finding anything wrong with flirtations, a kiss an embrace, an off-colour joke. This side of me is usually lying in wait to ambush the other one, which is much purer, deeper and finer. No one knows Anne’s better side, and that’s why most people can’t stand me. (279)
The cheerful side of young Anne during the extreme is an encouragement to other members in the hideout. Of course, she too, a victim of the trauma, however, serves as the source of inspiration to other members.
It was an era of depression, everywhere. The Nazis were left free in the street of Amsterdam, searching for prey. It was as if like things were in total control of the killer Nazis, the German offenders. After the conquest of the Amsterdam by the Nazis, the fellow Jews, either went in a hideout, or left their business cheaply or for no money, to the Nazis. In the scenario, young Anne and other members of the Annexe were having a tough time. All their hopes of coming back to the normal life were falling apart and into distant dreams. Somehow, these deteriorating dreams are reflected in the following lines:
I don’t fit in with them, and I’ve felt that clearly in the last few weeks. They’re so sentimental together, but I’d rather be sentimental on my own. They’re always saying how nice it is with the four of us, and that we get along so well, without giving moments thought to the fact that I don’t feel that way. (178)
Amid the time of depression, there was patience; patience to endure whatever falls. This depression reflected in the following form in the diary, dated April 11, 1944 as:
Who knows, maybe our religion will teach the world and all the people in it about goodness, and that’s the reason, the only reason, we have to suffer. We can never be just Dutch, or just English, or whatever; we will always be Jews as well. And we’ll have to keep on being Jews, but then, we’ll want to be. (210)
It was a situation, when the humanity crosses all the borders and turns into mere savage. The Nazis in the course of imposing their ethics and values into the normal people went to the limitless cruelty of dominating religion and people.
She knew she was a Jew, and it was her only crime sufficient to stay in the Annexe, away from natural freedom. The Franks were in hiding from the Nazis because they were Jews. Narrating the scene, while they were going to hideout, as:
We’ve been strongly reminded of the fact that we’re Jews in chains, chained to one spot, without any rights, but with a thousand obligations. We must put our feelings aside; we must be brave and strong, bear discomforts without complaint, do whatever is in our power and trust in God. One day this terrible war will be over. The time will come when we’ll be people again and not just Jews! (211)
Men and women live in different spheres in all societies and experience many historical epochs and turning points in quite different ways. Thus, the Holocaust experienced by males and females are different, their experiences cannot assimilate together. Anne, a thirteen year old girl changes her mind time and again but her resistance against patriarchy finds expression from the beginning to end.
All the Jews whether they were male or female were the victim of the Nazis’ anti-Jewish policies. As Anne narrates:
Our many Jewish friends were being taken away by the dozen. These people are treated by the Gestapo without a shred of the big Jewish camp in Drente. Westerbrok sounds terrible only one washing cubicle for a hundred people and not nearly enough lavatories. There is no separate accommodation. Men, women and children all sleep together. One hears of frightful immorality because of this; and a lot of the women, and even girls, who stay there any length of time, are expecting babies. (40)
Jews were facing the toughest time; being secluded from the society, education and even from the basic facilities, which derived them to a bleaker tomorrow. Their activities were limited and the young and the adults were taken to the labor camp, often forced to work under harsher conditions, leading to their untimely demise.
Anne gradually experienced the difficulties and sufferings of living in a confine place, with no where to go. Moreover, she developed dislike towards her mother. She finds her mummy very different to her. Commenting on her dislike towards her mummy, Anne writes:
We are exact opposites in everything; so naturally we are bound to run up against each other. I don’t pronounce judgment on Mummy’s character, for that is something I can’ judge. I only look at her as a mother, and she just doesn’t succeed in being that to me. I have to be my own mother. I’ve drawn myself apart from them all, I am my own skipper and later on I shall see where I come to land. All this comes about particularly because I have in my mind’s eye an image of what a perfect mother and wife should be, and in her whom I must call “mother.” I find no trace of that image. (47)
It was no doubt the gift of the harsh situation in which they were living. It tortured Anne, so terribly that she starts ignoring her mother. She makes a resolution, as “I am always making resolutions not to notice Mummy’s bad example” (47). As such Anne believes she has been treated badly by her mother.
Anne wants her mother to be a real mother, a friend, a guide, so that she could reduce her pain of being isolated from the rest of the world. Anne lacks a real mother in the mothering of her mother. She imposes her ideology and strict discipline rather than to understand Anne’s inner sufferings and psychological worries caused to her. In Anne’s imagination mother could teach her daughter about the feminine qualities and the changing physical appearance with the change of age. She wants Anne to understand her physical as well as psychological changes coming to her and limit her activities.
Anne wants to break all the stereotypes created by the society for women. Her wish to be a writer is also a challenge for the society. Till that time women used to read only the male written texts where women have not get their space. But Anne challenges all the existing bourgeoisie stereotypes about women and wants to create her own identity. Many times she writes that she would not be like her mother. She wants change for the betterment.
Anne posses extraordinary quality as a good writer and desires to earn a living as a writer, but is forced to live a life in a mouse trap. She wants to be strong enough to break away with the barriers set by the world; however, is forced to live a life like a mice trapped in a mousetrap. She laments her present living, in the following manner, as noted in her diary dated October 1, 1942: “We are as quiet as baby mice. Who, three months ago, would ever have guessed that quicksilver Anne would have to sit still for hours – and, what’s more, could” (38).
The things were not in her control. As outside the Annexe much more were going on, beyond her innocent young mind was able to think and determine. Within a week after the capitulation Hitler put a fellow Austrian, Arthur Seyss Inquart as the incharge of German occupied Holland. Arthur Seyss Inquart made an address to the Dutch people. In his address Inquart said that the German would not impose their ideology upon Holland; furthermore, he would respect existing Dutch laws. Seyss Inquart’s speech heartened the Jews in Holland and they had the expectation that if the German were not going to impose their Nazi ideology on Holland, they would not impose anti-Semitism either. But slowly and gradually, in the summer of 1940, the Nazis began to impose anti-Jewish measures in Holland. After the imposition of anti-Jewish laws in Holland, the good times for Jews were gone. First there was a war and second, a series of anti-Jewish laws totally deprived the Jews of any freedom. A list of anti-Jewish laws pushed the Jews to live the life in misery and pain. Anne, in her diary, listed some of these rules. She reports the boycotting facilities of Jews in this way:
Jews were required to wear a yellow star, Jews were required to turn in their bicycles; Jews were forbidden to use trams; Jews were forbidden to ride cars, even their own; Jews were required to do their shopping between 3:00 and 5:00 P.M; Jews were required to frequent only Jewish owned barbershops and beauty salons; Jews were forbidden to be out on the streets between 8:00 P.M and 6:00 A.M; Jews were forbidden to go the theatre and Cinema or only other forms of entertainment; Jews were forbidden to use swimming pools; tennis courts, hockey fields or any other athletic fields; Jews were forbidden to go rowing; Jews were forbidden to go any athletic activity in public; Jews were forbidden to sit in their gardens or those of their friends after 8:00 P.M. Jews were forbidden to visit Christians in their homes; Jews were required to attend Jewish schools etc. (8)
There were restrictions imposed upon the Jews. Everywhere Jewish people were confined within the boundary of Nazi terrorism.
After the imposition of anti-Jewish laws in Holland, Nazis forced the Jews to sell their business. The forcing of Jews to sell their business and the restriction on many others to practice their professions was causing great financial hardship for many Jewish families. Gradually most of them were sinking into poverty. The fathers of many households were without work. The Nazis tricked about how to deport the Jews from Holland to German Concentration camps. German wanted to make Holland an integral part of Germany. Holland had many attractions for the Germans, but chief among them was the superior’ racial quality of Dutch people, Nazis ideology was observed with the so-called superiority of Germanic people. Of the 900,000 people living in Holland some 140,000 of them were Jewish. If Holland could eventually become a part of Germany then Holland’s Jewish problem would diminish in some way. So Nazis policy of boycotting the Jews was similar in Holland as in other German occupied places.
Along with the implementation of their anti-Jewish policy in Holland, they announced for the deportation of Jews from Holland to Germany. In Holland, there was no peace; anything would happen in any time. The German police raided the places wherever they liked. The Jews were unsafe even in their residence. Every minute they fearfully expected the call-up notice. Receiving the call up notice was another form of the invitation of death. The anarchy had been spreading throughout country as well as throughout the Europe. Anne mentioned her experiences when her sister received call-up notice. She trembled from top to toe and said, “I was stunned. A call-up, every one knows what that means. Visions of concentration camps and lonely cells raced through my head” (19). Once the Jews got call-up notice, they had no hope life. The Jews who were aware of Nazis’ terrorism, and who had money to support, started to search secret places so that they could save themselves from cruelty of Nazis. But many of the Jews had no way to escape from the German’s clutches. Mr. Van Daans arrived a day earlier to hide with Anne’s family; Mr. Van Daans arrived in hiding before his scheduled time because of the horrific situation of the outside world. Anne was afraid from Van Daan’s earlier arrival.
Every time the door knocked, she could not open the door thinking that the door was knocked by the German police. She could not go outside and feared that her hiding place would be discovered very soon and they would be shot. A kind of horror was increasing in the mind and body of Jewish people. The Jewish people had no future. Everybody, whether young or old, women or men all were the victim of the Nazis’ inhuman treatment. The world was beyond their favor; nobody listened to their pain. The Nazis rather celebrated their happiness with the blood of Jewish people. Anne shows Jewish people’s compulsion to surrender themselves into Nazis clutched through these lines: “No one is spared. The sick, the elderly, children, babies and pregnant women all are marched to their death” (73). Hitler’s policy to extinct Jews from the world did not leave any Jews from the clutches of death. These cruelest monsters, the heartless creatures swarm into the blood of those kind hearted intelligent Jews. Such inhuman activities made the world as grave.
The Germans no longer sent call-up notices as they changed their methods. They caught the Jews from any places without any notice. If the German saw the Jews, the Jews were caught and deported to the camp. In regards to the place of Jews keeping, they created a mythical story, but the reality was unbearable. The Jews once deported never returned. The Jews began to guess about what Germans had done to their relatives. After the stoppage of the formality of call-up notices, German entered any part of Jewish residence and arrested the Jews apartment by apartment. For their convenience ease in identifying the Jewish people they looked upon the yellow star that the Jews were wearing. The night raid was activated by the Germans. So, Jews no longer slept at night. They have the fear that the Nazi could arrest them any time. They did not have rest in their mind during the day and night. Neither they could work during daytime nor could they sleep during the night. Even the small voice of people was enough to scare the Jews. The sound of the bombs added the more scare and pain in the Jewish family. It seemed that the Jews were living in between the monsters and the dead bodies. The sound of bombs made Jewish people wailing time and again. Anne presents that difficult life situation of Jewish people through these lines:
At two- third, Margot had finished her office work and was just gathering her things together when the sirens began wailing again. So she and I trooped back upstairs. No one too soon it seems, for less than five minutes later the guns were booming so loudly that we went and stood in the passage. The house shook and the bomb kept falling. I was clutching my ‘escape bag’ more because I wanted to run away. I know we can’t leave here, but if we had to, been Jeen on the streets would be just as dangerous as getting caught in as air raid. (116)
The escape from the house was as dangerous as the fighting in the battle field. The war heroes were rewarded but the Jews were murdered mercilessly in the Camp. As a result, the German deported 110,000 Jews out of Holland. Only some 5,000 people survived the war. All in all 35,000 Jews in Holland survived the war. More than 70% of all Jews in Holland were lost in the Holocaust.
Anne tries to capture the contemporary life situation of Jewish people in Holland as she herself represents the condition of the Jews in the Holland under German’s occupation. As previously mentioned men were unable to narrate the gender-specific experiences of women. The voice of female witness of Holocaust is different from the voices of male witnesses of the Holocaust. So the Holocaust experience written by male differs from the Holocaust experiences written by female. Among the topics absent in male writing are the always female sexuality and the motherhood, the cooperative networks women prisoners developed, and the manner in which female cooperation and interdependence contributed to survival. Lillian Kremer in the journal MELUS writes about the women’s specific Holocaust writing. She writes: “Some women’s holocaust writing manifest the feminist tradition of privileging the dynamics of the mother-daughter holocaust-ravaged relationship and parent-child role reversal, and others are in the mode of female peer bonding and support” (241). By writing own experiences women tried to be conscious about their position during the Holocaust.
Anne’s writing was also affected by the Holocaust. What she wrote in her dairy was the mirror of that time. Since literature is the mirror of the society; every writer’s writing affected by the situation of the society and the situation of the country. The political, cultural and the economical situation of the country directly affect any piece of literary writing. Though Anne was writing a diary, means she recorded everyday events. The events that she recorded in her diary were the reflection of the then political, social, cultural and economical condition of the Jewish community of Europe. Women were a step back from men and superstitions like woman is the cause of longer or shorter life of man, woman should tolerate difficulties for the betterment of her husband’s future prevailed in the society which blocked the path of any woman who wants to develop her intellectuality.
People who desired for equal treatment for both sexes were badly treated even by their family. These women had to face different difficulties. They had to start revolt against their family at first. The ruler determined the rights of the people in any country. If the ruler is liberal, people have the opportunity to get more freedom. But if the ruler is tyrant then people are deprived from the minimum rights. Jewish people’s condition under Nazis’ terrorism was miserable. Anne sometimes became absurd that there was nobody to understand her psychology and difficulty. She annoyed and wants to live alone which was impossible. Sometimes she felt misbalanced and wants to scream so that her tension would be lessened. So, she writes:
I’m seething with rage, yet I can’t show it. I’d like to scream, stamp my foot, give mother a good shaking cry and I don’t know what else because of the nasty words, mocking looks and accusations that she hurls at me day after day, piercing me like arrows from a tightly strong bow, which are nearly impossible to pull from my body. I’d like to scream at mother, Margot and Vaan Dans Dussel and father too: leave me alone, let me have at least one night where I don’t cry myself to sleep my eyes burning and my head pounding. Let me get away, away from everything, away from this world’; but I can’t do that. I can’t let them see doubts, or the wounds they inflicted on me. I could not bear their sympathy or their good derision. It would only make me want to scream even more. (84)
Anne reflects her psychology through the above lines. She was a girl having different qualities than her family members and the women in general. The lack of understanding Anne’s inner potentially, she always ridiculed by the family members, especially from own mother who stood for bourgeoisie model of woman.
The holocaust female survivors such as Charlotte Delbo, Ida Fink and Isabella Leitmer also emphasized on the woman’s marginality in the male dominated society. They also revealed the masculine bias and introducing the particularities of the feminine experiences. Similarly, Anne always took her writing as a mean of resistance of her mother’s bourgeoisie ideology, of patriarchal society in general and her writing is also the resistance of Nazis exploitation of Jews. She wanted freedom in every sector of life and wants to be a person having something special. From her writing we realize that our life is not only for eat and sleep. But it is more than that. Once, we have in the earth, we are never reborn, that’s why we should struggle in our life. Anne wanted to different from common personality that has been possessed by her family members. To make clear her vision of life, she writes:
If I don’t have the talent to write books or newspaper articles, I can always write for myself. But I want to achieve more than that, I can’t imagine having to live like Mother, Mrs. Van Dann and all the women who go about their work and are then forgotten. I need to have something besides husband and children to devote myself to; I don’t want to have lived in vain like most people. I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people even I’ve never met. I want to go on living even after my death; and that’s why I so grateful to God for having given me gift, which I can used to develop myself and to express all that’ inside me. (248)
Anne advocated the value of human life. Birth and death are natural process, we can’t handle them but we can do our best through out our life so that many generations would remind us. She emphasized on good work with the philosophy of ‘Simple living and high thinking’ that matches with her way of living. So she is remembered by many though she died in early ago of her life.
Anne also emphasized on equation of different races. Nazis’ policy to eliminate so-called inferior race affected in her teenage psychology. She knew all the injustices and prejudices of Nazis upon Jewish people and she has the optimistic look that one day Nazis would fail to lose the Jews and war will be over. Anne did not like the racial system but she was compelled to tolerate Nazi’s anti-Jewish policy. She was waiting for the day of equality, the day of freedom and the day of reward for good work and punishment for evil.
But the days to live in the Annexe were limited. Soon, they were discovered, probably due to some burglars, who came in the night to rob the house, or one of the outdoor helper of the Franks betrayed them. They were seized and send to the concentration camp in Holland. But, when the Russians threatened to conquer the camp, Margot and Anne were sent to the Bergen-Belsen, where they perished. Of the eight persons in hideout, only Otto Frank survived to tell the world the horrible incidents of the hideout. He died in 1980, but, not telling the world through the famous diary, the horrible sufferings in the hideout.
Such pathetic situations were innumerable in the life of young Anne, and the eight Jews members in which they were living in. It was a man-made tragedy of sorrow that had eclipsed the lives of the Franks and the other residents. They were hurt, mentally, physically and much more beyond that.
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