Anne Frank would have turned 90 today. Still hiding in the secret annexe behind a bookcase that now decorated her own diaries, still scared of the modern holocaust inflicted by wars on the environment and humankind, shaking her head while narrating to a bunch of foster great grandchildren how the Germans may’ve been far better than our entire race today is.
This birthday, a new volume of her previously unpublished writings sees fresh print. ‘I'd like to publish a book called The Secret Annex,’ she wrote on May 11, 1944. ‘It remains to be seen whether I'll succeed, but my diary can serve as the basis.’ It has been 75 years that her diary has been serving tirelessly as an important reminder of the atrocities of war, and finally the manuscript she would have liked to publish is being released in German under the title Liebe Kitty (Dear Kitty), as letters to an imaginary friend. This is the book she would have liked to really publish, this is the dream that defined the 13-year-old with incredible courage and talent as the Second World War raged through the globe. And then, on June 25, another tribute, Anne Frank: The Collected Works (Bloomsbury), will go out to the world.
There is perhaps no better time to hole up with the little girl in her tiny corner and feel again all that she went through, all that we would face soon again if we do not check our hatred and greed for power in time. And this time, the raging fires as in Markus Zusak’s Book Thief would be large enough to wipe out our children and their diaries too, leaving no great literature behind.
As Anne saw it coming…
July 13, 1943
‘Yesterday afternoon Father gave me permission to ask Dussel whether he would please be so good as to allow me (see how polite I am?) to use the table in our room two afternoons a week, from four to five-thirty. I already sit there every day from two-thirty to four while Dussel takes a nap, but the rest of the time the room and table are off-limits to me. It's impossible to study next door in the afternoon, because there's too much going on. Besides, Father sometimes likes to sit at the desk during the afternoon.
So it seemed like a reasonable request, and I asked Dussel very politely. What do you think the learned gentleman's reply was? "No." Just plain "No!"
I was incensed and wasn't about to let myself be put off like that. I asked him the reason for his "No," but this didn't get me anywhere. The gist of his reply was: "I have to study too, you know, and if I can't do that in the afternoons, I won't be able to fit it in at all. I have to finish the task I've set for myself; otherwise there's no point in starting. Besides, you aren't serious about your studies. Mythology--what kind of work is that? Reading and knitting don't count either. I use that table and I'm not going to give it up!"’
“I’ve reached the point where I hardly care whether I live or die. The world will keep on turning without me, and I can’t do anything to change events anyway. I’ll just let matters take their course and concentrate on studying and hope that everything will be all right in the end.”
July 9th 1942
‘Here’s a description of the building… A wooden staircase leads from the downstairs hallway to the third floor. At the top of the stairs is a landing, with doors on either side. The door on the left takes you up to the spice storage area, attic and loft in the front part of the house. A typically Dutch, very steep, ankle-twisting flight of stairs also runs from the front part of the house to another door opening onto the street. The door to the right of the landing leads to the Secret Annex at the back of the house. No one would ever suspect there were so many rooms behind that plain grey door. There’s just one small step in front of the door, and then you’re inside. Straight ahead of you is a steep flight of stairs. To the left is a narrow hallway opening onto a room that serves as the Frank family’s living room and bedroom. Next door is a smaller room, the bedroom and study of the two young ladies of the family. To the right of the stairs is a windowless washroom with a sink. The door in the corner leads to the toilet and another one to Margot’s and my room… Now I’ve introduced you to the whole of our lovely Annex!’
July 15th 1944
‘It’s utterly impossible for me to build my life on a foundation of chaos, suffering and death. I see the world being slowly transformed into a wilderness, I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too, I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty too will end, that peace and tranquillity will return once more. In the meantime, I must hold on to my ideals. Perhaps the day will come when I’ll be able to realize them.’
[Excerpts from Anne Frank’s diary, written between 1942-1944 in Amsterdam. The Franks were deported to Auschwitz on August 4, 1944]