by Sara Javed Rathore
The holocaust is something that changed the history of the world in a way that will live on as a gaping wound for aeons; it was a brutal massacre, a policy of hatred and spite driven by Nazi Germany and took away the lives of almost 6 million Jews across Europe. There were mothers, sisters, daughters, fathers and sons, who were a victim to the vile anti-semitism spewed by Adolf Hitler and willingly accepted by followers of the German Reich. But most of all, these people who were exposed to death and disease in the most horrid of circumstances were human beings. It was as if all humanity had been drained from the bodies of these terrible fascists. If I were to relate the history of the crimes against Jewish people in Nazi Germany’s horrifying legacy, my eyes would fill up with tears. I can not fathom such utter, terrifying lack of empathy.
One of the many victims of Nazi Germany, whose name resonates across the world to date and who has kept alive the memory of this cruel massacre and brutality is Anne Frank. Her work, titled the “Diary of a Young Girl”, is the Dutch-language diary kept by Anne while she was in hiding for two years with her family during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. As did most lives during this period of brutality, Anne’s too, would be snuffed out too soon. On the morning of 4 August 1944, the Achterhuis was stormed by a group of German uniformed police. Anne and her family as well as the others in hiding including the Van Pelses, and Pfeffer having been arrested in hiding, were considered criminals and sent to the Punishment Barracks for hard labour. Anne Frank died of typhus in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945.
The “Diary of a Young Girl” has perhaps resonated with people since its publication because we can see Anne as a person; not as a victim or a number that we see Holocaust victims in history often be reduced to. Anne was a young girl, beautiful and full of vigour and life, with interests that lit up her world, her fair share of interests and most of all, a bright, beaming optimism that lit up the world around her, even in the harshest of times. Anne was a young girl who deserved to explore the world and live out all the dreams she wanted to. In this very personal diary we can see her as an individual, who had her life brutally snuffed out. She was just like you me; a person with dreams and aspirations and a life ahead of her. Yet, due to this absurd hatred for her ethnic and religious background, she was treated differently. She had to, for two years, live in a confined space in hiding when she should have had the ability to go to school, make friends and interact with society just as her other peers could. She had to see her mother and sister die a brutal death from starvation and disease. She had her father’s presence ripped away from her.
In addition to providing a narrative of events as they occurred, she wrote about her feelings, beliefs, dreams and ambitions, subjects she felt she could not discuss with anyone. As she wrote in her first diary entry: “I hope I shall be able to confide in you completely, as I have never been able to do in anyone before, and I hope that you will be a great support and comfort to me.”
As her confidence in her writing grew, and as she began to mature, she wrote of more abstract subjects such as her belief in God, and how she defined human nature. Frank aspired to become a journalist. She found solace in writing, saying:
“When I write I can shake off all my cares. My sorrow disappears, my spirits are revived! But, and that’s a big question, will I ever be able to write something great, will I ever become a journalist or a writer?”
The diary is a testament of Anne’s growth as a person, her interpersonal relationships with the ones around her, her as a person, which is why it is all the more heart wrenching. She was a believer of the goodness of human kind, no matter what her circumstances.
“Human greatness does not lie in wealth or power, but in character and goodness. People are just people, and all people have faults and shortcomings, but all of us are born with a basic goodness.”
What we can learn from Anne’s work is just what she believed in; the inherent goodness of human beings. Why her work is still relevant to date is because we, as people, somehow still judge each other not for character or morals, but for wealth, ethnicity, race and religion. We still commit horrible acts of violence against each other based on our differences. But what makes us human, what gives this world technicolour are in fact our differences as human beings and how we are not cookie cutter facets of the same person. What we need to learn from Anne is to keep hope alive, to keep striving to sow more good in the world and cultivate kindness, to accept and love all that exists on earth, and to never forget the horrors of the Holocaust, but to learn from them. To live as a community that is kind, generous and good is all that I can hope for to come out of this in the future.