Diary of a Young Girl
July 11, 1942–October 9, 1942
Margot and Mr. and Mrs. Frank cannot get used to the chiming of the clock in the annex, but Anne feels reassured by it. She tells her diary that living in the annex is similar to being on vacation in a strange boarding house, and she thinks that the annex is probably the most comfortable hiding place in all of Holland. Anne’s father had brought her movie posters to the attic in advance, so she plasters her bedroom walls with them. Anne looks forward to the arrival of the van Daans, the other family who will live with them in the annex. In a comment added to this section several months later, however, Anne expresses how upset she is about not being able to go outside and that she is terrified that they will be discovered and shot.
Anne begins to argue with her mother more frequently. She feels that she does not fit in with her mother or sister, who are both very sentimental. Anne thinks that her father is the only one who understands her. She knows that she will not be able to leave the annex until after the war and that only a few people will be able to visit them. However, she is still hopeful and dreams of many things.
The van Daan family arrives on July 13, 1942. They come one day ahead of schedule because German call-up notices are being sent out with increasing frequency and causing unrest. Mr. van Daan explains what happened after the Franks’ disappearance. The Franks had deliberately spread false rumors to throw the Gestapo off their trail, so most of their friends think they went to Switzerland.
Mr. Voskuijl, the father of one of Mr. Frank’s coworkers, builds a bookcase in front of the door to the annex to conceal it. Anne’s mother and Mrs. van Daan argue a lot, and Peter van Daan annoys the Franks with his hypochondria. Anne adds that Mrs. van Daan and her mother both speak abominable Dutch but that she will properly transcribe it in her diary. Anne is also studying French and memorizes five irregular verbs each day. She complains that Mrs. van Daan criticizes her even though Anne is not her daughter.
Anne and the others in the annex must take turns using the hot water to take baths, and when the plumber visits the building, they must sit completely still. Every time the doorbell rings, Anne is terrified because she thinks it is the Gestapo. Later, Anne imagines that she is in Switzerland and has 150 guilders to spend. She hears only bad news about the fates of the Franks’ many Jewish friends and begins to tackle the issue of her identity, since she is both a German and a Jew.
At first, Anne sees her new life in hiding as an adventure of sorts. Though the two families live in constant fear of capture, they spend their time thinking about simpler, more immediate problems. They often try to think of ways to escape boredom. Because they are in such close quarters, the residents begin to get annoyed with one another’s quirks. Peter is a hypochondriac, Mrs. van Daan is critical, and Anne’s mother and Peter’s mother fight a lot and speak improper Dutch. At first Anne focuses on figuring out ways to avoid getting frustrated with the others or ways to stay quiet while the plumber is visiting. Anne’s initial pleasure with the novelty of the annex quickly fades, as she becomes restless and frustrated at her inability to go outside or even open the curtains during daylight hours. Even Anne’s pervasive optimism cannot keep her from feeling dread each time the doorbell rings. The mundane routines of daily life are not quite able to mask the constant ring of terror and fear in the annex.
The war causes Anne to struggle with her identity as both a German and a Jew. She initially identifies herself with the Germans, writing, “Fine specimens of humanity . . . and to think I’m actually one of them!” However, she immediately refutes her own statement, writing “No, that’s not true, Hitler took away our nationality long ago. And besides, there are no greater enemies on earth than the Germans and the Jews.” Anne’s words demonstrate her contempt for the Nazis and her confusion at the fact that they are in fact fellow Germans. Anne feels a stronger connection to the Dutch, but her first instinct is to identify herself as German. She quickly rethinks this notion, realizing that the Nazis no longer consider Jews to be Germans.
The adults in the annex likely share Anne’s confusion about their national and ethnic identity. Having lived in Germany for most of their lives, the Frank and the Van Daan adults have significant roots there. Thirty years earlier, Anne’s father and other German Jews had fought for the German army in World War I. Likewise, in the Netherlands, Dutch Jews and non-Jews lived side by side, considering themselves members of a unified and integrated community. However, the Nazi regime’s rise to power brought the painful realization that both Nazis and many other German people considered Jews foreign or different. As we see in Anne’s identity crisis, the Nazi regime killed not only Jewish people but also the Jewish community’s collective connection to its past. While the Nazis forced Jews to wear stars to mark their identity, they simultaneous stripped the Jews of their identity as members of society.
Anne’s diary demonstrates the impact the Holocaust has on a single girl, which personalizes this sprawling historical horror. Anne becomes preoccupied with questions about who she is and whom she wants to become, and her once innocent perspective changes considerably. The Holocaust forces Anne to grow up and come to terms with her own identity—her role as a member of her family, as a Jew, and as a young woman in a dangerous, threatening world.