Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Anne Frank, 1929-1945

Had she lived, today Anne Frank would be 80 years old. She didn't, of course. Like millions of others--and hundreds of thousands of Dutch Jews--Anne Frank didn't survive the Holocaust, but died, along with her sister, of typhus, just a few weeks before the Brits liberated the Nazi concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen, in northern Germany.

Anne--and her family--were far more German than Dutch. They'd fled Hitler in 1934, taking up residence in the Netherlands, where Otto Frank, her father, had business connections. When the Nazis occupied Holland, trouble followed, of course; and Otto took his family into hiding in July of 1942.

Just about everyone knows about The Diary of Anne Frank. Millions have read it. Think of the incredible stories of World War II--the flag-raising at Iwo Gima, the selfless heroism of hundreds of thousands on Omaha Beach on D-Day, the horror and frozen of the German assault at the Battle of the Bulge. Think of the histories of WWII already written, the novels--Catch-22, A Bridge too Far, think of the movies, South Pacific, Casablanca. So many stories, so much sadness, so much heart.

Only one non-fiction book in the history of the publishing has outsold The Diary of Anne Frank--the Bible. Who could have ever imagined that the diary of a girl in occupied Holland would be read by more people than any of the immense array of choices to have come out of World War II?

But it did. Why? I think William Faulkner had it right:

I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet's, the writer's, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet's voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.
Anne Frank likely never knew Faulkner, whose Nobel Prize Speech wasn't delivered until 1950. But Faulkner has it right. Ms. Frank's Diary has no blood and guts, but it has soul. For sixty years the immense pillars of that young lady's little diary--its hope and love and soul--have helped all of us to endure and prevail.

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