“Writing in a diary is a really strange experience for someone like me. Not only because I’ve never written anything before, but also because it seems to me that later on neither I nor anyone else will be interested in the musings of a thirteen-year-old schoolgirl. Oh well, it doesn’t matter. I feel like writing, and I have an even greater need to get all kinds of things off my chest.
“Paper has more patience than people.” I thought of this saying on one of those days when I was feeling a little depressed and was sitting at home with my chin in my hands, bored and listless, wondering whether to stay in or go out. I finally stayed where I was, brooding.
Yes, paper does have more patience, and since I’m not planning to let anyone else read this stiff-backed notebook grandly referred to as a “diary” unless I should ever find a real friend, it probably won’t make a bit of difference.
Now I’m back to the point that prompted me to keep a diary in the first place: I don’t have a friend.
Let me put it more clearly, since no one will believe that a thirteen-year-old girl is completely alone in the world. And I’m not. I have loving parents and a sixteen-year-old sister, and there are about thirty people I can call friends. I have a throng of admirers who can’t keep their adoring eyes off me and who sometimes have to resort to using a broken pocket mirror to try and catch a glimpse of me in the classroom. I have a family, loving aunts and a good home.
No, on the surface I seem to have everything, except my one true friend. All I think about when I’m with friends is having a good time. I can’t bring myself to talk about anything but ordinary everyday things. We don’t seem to be able to get any closer, and that’s the problem. Maybe it’s my fault that we don’t confide in each other. In any case, that’s just how things are, and unfortunately they’re not liable to change. This is why I’ve started the diary.
To enhance the image of this long-awaited friend in my imagination, I don’t want to jot down the facts in this diary the way most people would do, but I want the diary to be my friend, and I’m going to call this friend Kitty.
Since no one would understand a word of my stories to Kitty if I were to plunge right in, I’d better provide a brief sketch of my life, much as I dislike doing so.
My father, the most adorable father I’ve ever seen, didn’t marry my mother until he was thirty-six and she was twenty-five. My sister Margot was born in Frankfurt am Main in Germany in 1926. I was born on June 12, 1929. I lived in Frankfurt until I was four. Because we’re Jewish, my father immigrated to Holland in 1933, when he became the Managing Director of the Dutch Opekta Company, which manufactures products used in making jam. My mother, Edith Holländer Frank, went with him to Holland in September, while Margot and I were sent to Aachen to stay with our grandmother. Margot went to Holland in December, and I followed in February, when I was plunked down on the table as a birthday present for Margot.
I started right away at the Montessori nursery school. I stayed there until I was six, at which time I started first grade. In sixth grade my teacher was Mrs. Kuperus, the principal. At the end of the year we were both in tears as we said a heartbreaking farewell, because I’d been accepted at the Jewish Lyceum, where Margot also went to school.
Our lives were not without anxiety, since our relatives in Germany were suffering under Hitler’s anti-Jewish laws. After the pogroms in 1938 my two uncles (my mother’s brothers) fled Germany, finding safe refuge in North America. My elderly grandmother came to live with us. She was seventy-three years old at the time.
After May 1940 the good times were few and far between: first there was the war, then the capitulation and then the arrival of the Germans, which is when the trouble started for the Jews. Our freedom was severely restricted by a series of anti-Jewish decrees: Jews were required to wear a yellow star; Jews were required to turn in their bicycles; Jews were forbidden to use streetcars; Jews were forbidden to ride in cars, even their own; Jews were required to do their shopping between 3 and 5 P.M.; Jews were required to frequent only Jewish-owned barbershops and beauty parlors; Jews were forbidden to be out on the streets between 8 P.M. and 6 A.M.; Jews were forbidden to go to theaters, movies or any other forms of entertainment; Jews were forbidden to go rowing; Jews were forbidden to take part in any athletic activity in public; Jews were forbidden to sit in their gardens or those of their friends after 8 P.M.; Jews were forbidden to visit Christians in their homes. Jews were required to attend Jewish schools, etc. You couldn’t do this and you couldn’t do that, but life went on. Jacque always said to me, “I don’t dare do anything anymore, ’cause I’m afraid it’s not allowed.”
In the summer of 1941 Grandma got sick and had to have an operation, so my birthday passed with little celebration. In the summer of 1940 we didn’t do much for my birthday either, since the fighting had just ended in Holland. Grandma died in January 1942. No one knows how often I think of her and still love her. This birthday celebration in 1942 was intended to make up for the others, and Grandma’s candle was lit along with the rest.
The four of us are still doing well, and that brings me to the present date of June 20, 1942, and the solemn dedication of my diary.”
Prayer: Thank you Lord for the diary of Anne Frank, showing us the realities of the past from such a fresh and heart-rending perspective. Her life and memory are precious to all, and yet we long for the healing of the the memories of the past, and true repentance, reconciliation and restoration between those who are alienated from one another. Lord, establish your kingdom in our days, we pray, in Yeshua’s name. Amen.