I just visited the Anne Frank museum in Amsterdam – it’s a sobering and powerful reminder of the systemic cruelty humans are capable of inflicting on each other. But the most salient point of the experience, for me, is the humanity of it all. You are not left with an abstract reading of the events of WWII, instead, you sense what it felt like to live in fear.
But for the sake of this post, I was struck by some of her writing – mind you, this is from a 13-15 year old girl, albeit a very smart and clearly well educated one.
So imagine she’s living in an attic, hidden, with seven other people – for two years. Not only can she not leave the hiding space, the windows are blacked out so she can’t even see outside. And yet…
I’m paraphrasing here, but she makes the point that “writing is freedom. When I’m writing I can go anywhere, be anything, and do whatever I please.”
When I read this, I thought yes! This is exactly what writing is! You create whatever world you want, making up your own rules (or not) as you see fit. It is the ultimate in simple human expression. I say simple because everyone who is literate can write, so you already have the basic tools needed at your disposal. As opposed to, say, music; where getting to the level of self-expression requires quite a bit of study and practice – there’s a pretty steep learning curve.
I guess my main point here is that everyone should write. In her case, the decision to write something everyday about her existence turned into a historical document. It is certainly one of the most powerful and remarkable written records of a child facing the great horror of the twentieth century. She annotated the last two years of life on her own, simply to express her humanity. It is an innocent child staring into the gaping maw of the abyss, unable to fully comprehend her own existential threat (or worse yet – understanding it).
She died of typhus at the age of fifteen in the Bergen-Belson concentration camp in Germany, 1944. It is believed she died within weeks of the Allies liberation of the camp.
Her voice will never be forgotten because she took the trouble to write it down.