A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit the home of Anne Frank in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. I was excited at the time because I thought t was a great opportunity to visit the home of such a famous person. After being home, I have though some more about her and feel grateful that I understand more about her life and learned from the horrors of the Holocaust.
Before visiting her home, I learned a bit about her on Wikipedia. This gave me the main story. I then learned, no, understood a lot more about her life at her home, which has been converted into a museum. My initial thoughts were that her life was sad, but surely there are far more tragic life stories than hers. For example, think of all of the Jews that were not able to escape into hiding and went straight to the concentration camps and suffered deprivation for years. Surely Annie’s life was better than all of theirs. Hiding out in a home with your family, even though you had to be extremely quiet during the day and could only go out a little at night has to be better than living in a concentration camp. So what is the big deal about Anne Frank? Is the big deal that she kept a diary? Is it because we know about her life and not others? Is it because her diary was so well written?
So, I didn’t read every sign in the museum, nor do I know all about Anne’s life, but I can speak for myself in saying what all of this means to me. First of all, Anne did not have the worst life ever, not even close. Her diary was also not the greatest work of literature, not even close. She was, however, a young woman that wanted to live and laugh and love like us. She had drams like us. She wanted to be a writer like many of us. She kept a diary of her life like many of us. So, this is the point, other than the circumstances of her environment, which are important, she was like us. When World War II finally ended and the British troops liberated her concentration camp, it was discovered that she had just died of Typhus a few weeks before. If she could of held on, she might have survived her incarceration. The only member of her family that did survive was her father. Upon returning to Amsterdam, he was given Anne’s diary by friends that had held on to it. Because he knew her dream to be a writer, he proceeded to fulfill this dream for her and get the diary published. Well, from here, you know the rest.
So what does the diary and he home mean to me? It not only made me realize that she was like one of us, but it made the life of one girl real. By putting a picture and a home and a diary to the name, she became real and the horrible injustice she lived became more real. (I say more real because I would not want in any way to diminish the experiences of those that lived through the war in similar circumstances that I cannot come close to understanding.) And this is what I think it is all about – to make this horrible event real to all of us that have glimpsed into her life, so it will never, so we will never let it happen again. This is the specialness of Anne Frank’s life – to make this point to me and the millions of others that wait in long lines every day of the week, year after year to have this experience.
And in all of this, maybe there is a poorly kept secret of how wars might be stopped and peace be had– that is as the communists or the scum or the slaves or the enemy gain faces and become real to us, that we will no longer want to hurt, but instead help.