She just knew that she needed some place to express her inner-most thoughts and, later, to document life in incredibly challenging circumstances.
In doing so, she made the Holocaust personal for millions.
When I was young, the Holocaust seemed like ancient history. Now, I realize only a few short years separate Anne’s death in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp from my birth into a middle-class family in the United States.
But Anne was born at the wrong time in the wrong place.
By the time she was four-years old, the Nazi government was in power and had organized a massive propaganda campaign to win the loyalty and cooperation of Germans. This included taking control of newspapers, magazines, books, music, movies and radio. Any point of view that even appeared to threaten Nazi beliefs was censored.
During the spring of 1933, Nazi student organizations, professors and librarians developed lists of books they thought were threatening. On May 10, 1933, Nazis raided libraries and bookstores and threw books into huge bonfires. More than 25,000 books were burned. Some were works of Jewish writers, including Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud. Most of the books were by non-Jewish writers, including Americans Jack London, Helen Keller, Ernest Hemingway and Sinclair Lewis.
Ironically, decades later, there were efforts to ban The Diary of Anne Frank from American schools and libraries.
I’m just glad the words in her diary were louder than the protests.
That always makes me smile.
Day 83: The Diary of Anne Frank
Day 82: In Cold Blood Day 81: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry Day 80: The Outsiders Day 79: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Day 78: The First Amendment Day 77: People Who Touch Our Lives Day 76: The Rewards of Parenting Day 75: Improvements Day 74: Family Traditions Day 73: Learning From Our Mistakes Day 72: Live Music Day 71: Sleeping In Day 70: Grover Day 69: A Good Hair Day Day 68: A Sense of Community Day 67: Kindness Day 66: Living in a Place You Love Day 65: Gifts from the Heart Day 64: The Arrival of Fall Day 63: To Kill a Mockingbird Day 62: Green Lights Day 61: My Canine Friends Day 60: Differences Day 59: A New Box of Crayons Day 58: Bookworms Day 57: Being Oblivious Day 56: Three-day Weekends Day 55: A Cat Purring Day 54: Being a Unique Individual Day 53: Children’s Artwork Day 52: Lefties Day 51: The Neighborhood Deer Day 50: Campfires Day 49: Childhood Crushes Day 48: The Words “Miss You” Day 47: Birthday Stories Day 46: Nature’s Hold on Us Day 45: Play-Doh Day 44: First Day of School Pictures Day 43: Calvin and Hobbes Day 42: Appreciative Readers Day 41: Marilyn Monroe’s Best Quote Day 40: Being Silly Day 39: Being Happy Exactly Where You Are Day 38: Proud Grandparents Day 37: Chocolate Chip Cookies Day 36: Challenging Experiences that Make Great Stories Day 35: You Can’t Always Get What You Want Day 34: Accepting the Fog Day 33: I See the Moon Day 32: The Stonehenge Scene from This is Spinal Tap Day 31: Perspective Day 30: Unlikely Friendships Day 29: Good Samaritans Day 28: Am I a Man or Am I a Muppet? Day 27: Shadows Day 26: Bike Riding on Country Roads Day 25: When Harry Met Sally Day 24: Hibiscus Day 23: The Ice Cream Truck Day 22: The Wonderful World of Disney Day 21: Puppy love Day 20 Personal Theme Songs Day 19: Summer Clouds Day 18: Bartholomew Cubbin’s Victory Day 17: A Royal Birth Day 16: Creative Kids Day 15: The Scent of Honeysuckle Day 14: Clip of Kevin Kline Exploring His Masculinity Day 13: Random Text Messages from My Daughter Day 12: Round Bales of Hay Day 11: Water Fountains for Dogs Day 10: The Rainier Beer Motorcycle Commercial Day 9: Four-Leaf Clovers Day 8: Great Teachers We Still Remember Day 7: Finding the missing sock Day 6: Children’s books that teach life-long lessons Day 5: The Perfect Photo at the Perfect Moment Day 4: Jumping in Puddles Day 3: The Ride Downhill after the Struggle Uphill Day 2: Old Photographs Day 1: The Martians on Sesame Street
I’m rarely at a loss for words, yet I had nothing to say last week when my daughter asked me the simple question “why?”
Instead of answering, I stood silent as a single tear rolled down my cheek.
I’d been there previously, but my daughter hadn’t. She’s been studying the Holocaust in school, so I thought she was mature enough to fully appreciate the exhibits and the message.
For the most part, she was, and we took our time going from floor to floor as the timeline of events leading up to the Holocaust unfolded. Then we got to the floor with evidence of the Holocaust and all its atrocities.
We stood inside one of the small, bare and unheated railroad cars that transported up to 100 people to the concentration camps. We stuck our heads into one of the actual bunks from Auschwitz. And we stood next to piles and piles of shoes that were taken from prisoners right before they were gassed.
But nothing affected my daughter more than a photograph of braids in a larger pile of hair the Nazis had collected. (They stuffed mattresses with the hair collected at concentration camps.)
The photo and her reaction struck me too. They reminded me of how incredibly precious my daughter is, and how incredibly precious all the daughters that died in the Holocaust were.
And because of that, I just couldn’t answer her question “why?”
How can you explain to an 11 year-old girl that some people need to point fingers and find someone to blame for difficult times? She lives in a world where that happens on a daily basis. People find it simpler to blame a person or a group of people than they to understand that situations are complicated and are rarely the fault of one person or group.
How can you explain to an 11 year-old girl that some people will simply accept what they read, see or hear when that message justifies their own belief system? She lives in a world where people spew “facts” that are completely inaccurate just because they were presented as the truth.
How can you explain to an 11 year-old girl that some people place their material possessions and personal bank accounts above the health and safety of others? She lives in a world in which people complain that their tax dollars are being used to help those in need.
How can you explain to an 11 year-old girl that some people are comforted by the belief that there is only one legitimate faith. She lives in a world were so-called Christians condemn other religions while claiming ownership of a morality.
How can you explain to an 11 year-old girl that people are comfortable condemning those with different political beliefs and world views? She lives in a world when people use nasty words to define anyone who thinks differently than they do.
And how can explain to an 11 year-old girl that people who loved each other were killed simply for who they loved? She lives in a world where people still claim that some love is an abomination and sinful.
Any explanation I could provide as to why the Holocaust occurred would simply reflect a world in which she lives. And I didn’t want to scare her.
Instead, I scared myself. And no matter how many tears I cry about the Holocaust, I know they aren’t enough to stop the hate that still exists in the world.