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.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Ms. Anne Frank



Yeah, that's a no-camera icon in the upper right hand corner, but those bright spots aren't the image of some kind of flash. I snapped this without, but I snapped it nonetheless because I just had to take a picture of the real diary of Anne Frank, the actual book.  Me and tons of others, by the way. It's not sacred, but somehow it's hard to believe that the manuscript itself is not alive.

It's not difficult to determine just why the crowds outside the Anne Frank House were so long, even though the first edition of Anne Frank's diary came out so long ago, in 1947. The Anne Frank story is something of a love story--love of life at least--and it's lined up against a gargantuan human tragedy and horror: a girl, barely more than a child, up against the intensity of Nazi jackboots. She dies, after all.  Finally, Hitler loses, but the girl who dies wins, big time.

What's hard, even today, is to get one's mind around what Hitler actually did. Have a look at the plans for Auschwitz someday. Look closely. It's an immense engineering and construction project, undertaken by hundreds, if not thousands of workers of all kinds, all of it aimed at one sure-as-death purpose, to kill, to murder, to exterminate. I find it hard to use that word, really--because exterminate is what one does to roaches, to grease ants, to whatever kind of unwelcome bug one finds infesting one's cupboards. We exterminate.

How on earth could people sign up to build such a place? Surely they had to know. They simply drank the kool aid.

And inside all of that horror--just one of the 100,000 Dutch Jews who never returned from the camps in Germany--was a slight, dark-haired child who grew up in the annex, a hiding place behind her father's factory, where she hid with her family, hoping to outlive the war.

Someone turned them in--the entire Frank family. Even today no one knows who. Only the father returned after the war, and was then given the diary by Miep Gees, who'd been one of the righteous Gentiles to help the Frank family.

Mr. Frank said he couldn't believe his daughter had written what she did, as if the daughter on the pages of that diary was someone other than the daughter he thought he knew so well, having lived in that cramped little upstairs hiding place as long as they had. It was as someone else altogether had been let loose on those pages.

Maybe she was. "The nicest thing about writing down all my thoughts and feelings," this child wrote, "is that otherwise I'd suffocate."

Maybe it was therapy for her, but it's been much more for the hundreds who, once again, lined up in front of that otherwise indistinguishable Amsterdam address today, children and old men and women, families, singles, every color imaginable, all to visit Anne's secret annex.

She could never have known, never have guessed that her little diary would become one of the world's best sellers. But it has.

We visited there again a couple of months ago, upstairs in an annex that seemed just about as crowded as it did for her once upon a time--before the Nazis came one morning at 10:30, before the Frank family was shipped out to Westerbork, then, finally, Germany. The whole family--save the father--would never return.

"How wonderful it is," she wrote in that diary, "that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world."

An incredible story. An incredible girl. An incredible inspiration.

Yeah, that's a no camera icon in the upper right hand corner, but those bright spots aren't the image of some kind of flash. I snapped this without, but I snapped it nonetheless because I just had to take a picture of the real diary of Anne Frank. Me and tons of others, by the way. It's not sacred, but somehow I can't believe it's not alive.

It's not difficult to determine just why the crowds outside the Anne Frank House were so long, even though the first edition of Anne Frank's diary came out in 1947. The story is something of a love story--love of life at least--and it's lined up against a gargantuan human tragedy and horror: a girl, barely more than a child, up against jackboots. She wins, but dies. Hitler loses, even though, finally, the girl wins, big time.

What's hard, even today, is to get one's mind around what Hitler actually did. Have a look at the plans for Auschwitz someday. Look closely. It's an immense engineering and construction project, undertaken by hundreds, if not thousands of workers of all kinds, all of it aimed at one sure as death purpose, to kill, to murder, to exterminate. I find it hard to use that word, really--because exterminate is what one does to roaches, to fire ants, to whatever kind of unwelcome bug one finds infesting one's cupboards. We exterminate.

How on earth could people sign up to build such a place? Surely they had to know. They simply drank the kool aid.

And inside all of that horror--just one of the 100,000 Dutch Jews who never returned from the camps in Germany--was a slight, dark-haired child who grew up in the annex, a hiding place behind her father's factory, where she hid with her family, hoping to outlive the war.

Someone turned them in--the whole Frank family. Even today no one knows who. Only the father returned after the war, and was then given the diary by Miep Gees, who'd been one of the righteous gentiles to help the Frank family.

Mr. Frank said he couldn't believe his daughter had written what she did, as if the daughter on the pages of that diary was someone other than the daughter he thought he knew so well, having lived in that cramped little upstairs hiding place as long as they had. It was as someone else altogether had been let loose on those pages.

Maybe she was. "The nicest thing about writing down all my thoughts and feelings," this child wrote, "is that otherwise I'd suffocate."

Maybe it was therapy for her, but it's been much more for the hundreds who, once again, lined up in front of that otherwise indistinguishable Amsterdam address today, children and old men and women, families, singles, every color imaginable, all to visit Anne's secret annex.

She could never have known, never have guessed that her little diary would become one of the world's best sellers. But it has.



But on the day we visited the Anne Frank House, there were just as many people at that otherwise indistinguishable apartment at 263 Prisengracht, waiting in line to stand for just a minute upstairs in a hiding place where a young lady waited patiently for the end of the war, all the time using her own blood to write her heart out over the pages of her diary.

Maybe the most beautiful thing I saw in the Netherlands earlier this summer was a room where a girl--hardly a woman--dreamed of blue skies and a walk in a park and yet told the rest of us she hoped we were loving what she couldn't. Hers was the darkest days of Dutch history, not the Golden Age.

William of Orange is more important to Dutch history, but Anne Frank is the very heart of the human story.

"I know exactly how I'd like to be, how I am...on the inside [...] I'm guided by the pure Anne on the inside, but outside I'm nothing but a frolicsome little goat tugging at its tether [...]  If I'm being completely honest, I'll have to admit that it does matter to me, that I'm trying very hard to change myself, but that I'm always up against a more powerful enemy [...] if I'm quiet and serious, everyone thinks I'm putting on a new act and I have to save myself with a joke [...] I get cross, then sad, and finally end up turning my heart inside out, the bad part on the outside and the good part on the inside, and keep trying to find a way to become what I'd like to be and what I could be if ... there were no other people in the world.

"Yours, Anne M. Frank."

Sixty-seven years ago today, July 31, 1944, Ms. Anne Frank, once again, poured out her heart, but these words are the very last words of that most famous--because most human--diary.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

That was a "long walk" for a little girl.

Anonymous said...

Thanks,-- a part of her keeps comming Home.