Novel Discussion – Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl

by Anne Frank, 1st edition published 1947

“In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.” ~ Anne Frank

Topics covered:

Racism, Prejudice & Discrimination

Hiding in Isolation in our Homes to Prevent Invasion of a Deadly Enemy

Sound familiar?

Racism, prejudice and discrimination are constant themes that permeate our media today.

Hiding in isolation in our own homes to prevent the invasion of a deadly enemy has been forced on us much of the past year by the COVID-19 pandemic.

I am reminded of the reflections of a young girl written over 75 years ago. She was facing racism, prejudice and discrimination at its worst, while she and her family hid, isolated in their cramped home to prevent invasion of a deadly enemy that threatened their very lives. Anne Frank’s diary shares her intimate thoughts, emotions and experiences and have stood the test of time. Her words are as relevant today as they were 3/4 of a century ago. Translated into over 70 languages, her diary is still a best seller to this day.

What can we learn from her words in our world today?

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl

During World War II, a young Jewish girl, her family and four others, hid from Nazi persecution in hidden rooms at the rear of a 17th century canal house in Amsterdam, Netherlands, known as the Secret Annex. While Anne Frank did not survive the war, her diary did. She died in a Nazi concentration camp early 1945, three months shy of her 16th birthday; her diary was published in 1947.

Much of what we know of Anne Frank – and the impact of the persecution of Jews in Europe before and during World War II – comes from this diary. It documents two intense, painful and eventful years in the life of a young girl who is today considered an international symbol for the victims of oppression and discrimination. It provides the reader with insight into the mind and heart of anyone who is experiencing racism and persecution at any time and place in history. For this alone, it is a must-read for us all.

Anne’s diary ends suddenly on August 1, 1944, when she and her fellow housemates were discovered, arrested, and deported. Only her father, Otto Frank, survived the war, devastated to learn that Anne and her sister Margot both died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany in February or March 1945. Their mother, Edith, died of starvation in Auschwitz, sneaking her food to her daughters. The diary had been retrieved by Miep Gies, the woman who risked her life by hiding and providing for them, who gave it to Anne’s father.

Travel to Amsterdam

Anne Frank House

Anne Frank is today one of Amsterdam’s most well known residents. Opened in 1960, the Anne Frank House has been preserved, located in the city center of Amsterdam, at Prinsengracht 263-267 and is open to visitors. After the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum, it is the third most visited museum in the city

The Anne Frank Foundation was established in 1957 to protect the property from demolition by developers. It not only preserves the hiding place as permanent exhibition on the life and times of Anne Frank, but also exhibition space about all forms of persecution and discrimination.

This sculpture of Anne Frank in Amsterdam is one of many statues honoring her around the world.

Visitor information at annefrank.org

Info on traveling to the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam in my travel blog post discussion

Why read Anne’s Diary: “The Story of a Young Girl?

There are many reasons, reasons that are still relevant for us today.

Right to live in Freedom

Most important is that all people have a right to live in freedom. Her story emphasizes that just because people are a different race or religion, does not mean that they should be treated differently.

It is History

Not only a well-written and emotional novel, it is history. Anne and her family represent millions who died unjustly in this horrible war at the hands of the Nazis. Her family and her story make the reality of the persecution of the Jewish race come to life through her eyes, through the lives of real people. We must not erase history; we must learn from it so as not to repeat its mistakes.

Important “stuff” in Life

Anne’s story challenges us to think about what really is important in life, especially the stuff we think we need – TV, smartphones, etc. – and realize that we really do not need it at all. Anne enjoyed the smallest bits of life: the sun, the sound of birds, sitting outside in the fresh air.

This year, I have enjoyed some of the smallest bits of life that I had taken for granted before the isolation put upon me during the pandemic.

Anne’s story for Today’s Teens–& all of us.

We too have been forced into isolation and hiding to escape a seemingly insurmountable enemy. We miss interacting face-to-face with our family and friends.

Adolescence Lost

Anne longs for adolescence which seems to have been taken from her while she is in hiding, apart from friends and a “normal” life.

Fighting the Enemy

Anne wants to fight the enemy causing all the difficulty in her life – in her case, the Nazis – but feels helpless.

And she is a Winner…

In 1999, Time named Anne Frank among the heroes and icons of the 20th century on their list The Most Important People of the Century, stating: “With a diary kept in a secret attic, she braved the Nazis and lent a searing voice to the fight for human dignity.”

This should be an inspiration to us all.

Seeking Good in the Bad

Anne seeks out the good in the bad. She is not entirely sorry they went into hiding. She tries to make lemonade out of the sour lemons life has thrown at her. If we take only one thing away from this book, it is this–and to encourage each and every one of us to “believe that people are really good at heart.”

Anne’s Legacy lives beyond Her Original Diary

Film: 1959 Academy and Golden Globe Award Winning Drama, starring Millie Perkins and Shelly Winters; Directed by George Stevens. Other films have followed. Discover more about this film in my related blog – Film Discussion: Anne Frank, the Diary of a Young Girl.

Blog Discussion on 1959 Film.

Plays: 1956 Pulitzer Prize winning play by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett has been performed countless times.

Books to numerous to mention have been written on her life and her story including: “The Last Seven Months of Anne Frank” (1988) by Willy Lindwer, based on interviews with former inmates, and haunting accounts of their lives, in the three camps of Westerbork, Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen who had interacted with Anne in the final months of her life.

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