I wrote this piece a few years ago when I had a “happy thoughts” blog, and felt the need to resurrect it for Anne Frank’s birthday today. She would have been 85 years old.
Anne Frank. She may seem like an odd subject for my Happy Thoughts blog.
Today I watched a made-for-television movie called “The Diary of Anne Frank” on Netflix. It was produced by the BBC in 2009 and was excellent. By far the best portrayal of the story that I’ve ever seen.
The story, as most know, ends in tragedy. That is obviously not a happy thought.
The part of Anne Frank’s story that is happy, to me, is simply that she existed.
It makes me happy that Anne Frank was placed on this earth and chose to write in a diary. She is the reason I was inspired to start keeping a journal myself and to write honestly. I dedicated my first journal to her for these reasons.
My eighth grade English teacher taught a unit on the Holocaust. We read books and watched movies about it, and were assigned to complete a paper on an aspect of it. I read Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl for the first time when I was 13, Anne’s age when she started her diary.
After reading Frank’s diary and a few other books, I decided to write my unit paper on children of the Holocaust (it ended up being 20 pages long- the only other time I wrote papers that length was during college).
I read other diary entries by children of the Holocaust in addition to Frank’s, but Frank’s was certainly the most compelling.
Because she was me.
While Anne and I certainly did not have the same experiences growing up and she came from a completely different culture from halfway across the globe, we felt the same way. About family, boys, life, and so much more.
Anne mourned her grandmother, who she missed dearly. I was still getting over losing mine. She dreamed of being a movie star, then decided that she would rather be a writer. I did the same. She looked up to her father. Very familiar. She (rightfully) complained about being cooped up and longed to be outside, to be free. While I was never forced to live in hiding, I felt cooped up at school eight hours a day, and would often find myself looking out the window, daydreaming like Anne did.
I often wonder where Anne Frank would be if she had survived. Would she have chosen to publish her diary, and if so, what parts would she have left out? I wonder if she could have touched as many lives with her story if she had survived? Perhaps she still would have. I think it’s even likely she would have become a famous journalist or novelist.
Either way, I am glad that Anne existed. Reading her diary was like finding a best friend at a time when I felt like nobody understood me.
Some of Anne Frank’s last words were, “Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart.” It is amazing that she could feel this way even though she lived in a time and place where you would be killed or interned in a concentration camp just for being Jewish.
But in a strange way, I understand. Perhaps because I experienced that same youthful optimism and maintain the notion that all people have the capacity to be good, even if they act in ways that are inexplicably evil. I believe everyone is born good and has the capacity for goodness within them. I believe that it is mostly environment and experience that makes people evil.
If we could only remember when we were born, when we had no experiences that would draw us to darkness.
Since Anne Frank was closer to birth than most of us, perhaps she was much closer to understanding the truth that deep down, all people are good.
It is because she existed that we are reminded of this truth.