This month, I’m celebrating the feminine. I’m taking a look at a few women who’ve changed the course of history with their art, writing and voice. I plan to feature the footprint these women have left behind. By looking at the gift they’ve left, may it inspire you to consider what type of gift you will leave for others.
Anne Frank is the first woman I want to shine a light upon. I love Anne. I read her diary when I was a teenager and was taken with her bravery, truth and hope in light of the German occupation which preyed upon Jews throughout Europe in the 1930’s/40’s. Anne was 13 when she began her diary in June 1942 and wrote for two years until her arrest in August 1944. Here are a few excerpts of the bone-chilling, beautiful words she left behind:
June 20, 1942: “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.”
August 21st 1942: “Now our Secret Annex has truly become secret. Because so many houses are being searched for hidden bicycles, Mr. Kugler thought it would be better to have a bookcase built in front of the entrance to our hiding place. It swings out on its hinges and opens like a door. Mr. Voskuijl did the carpentry work. (Mr. Voskuijl has been told that the seven of us are in hiding, and he’s been most helpful.) Now whenever we want to go downstairs we have to duck and then jump. After the first three days we were all walking around with bumps on our foreheads from banging our heads against the low doorway. Then Peter cushioned it by nailing a towel stuffed with wood shavings to the doorframe. Let’s see if it helps!”
November 19th 1942: “Mr. Dussel has told us much about the outside world we’ve missed for so long. He had sad news. Countless friends and acquaintances have been taken off to a dreadful fate. Night after night, green and gray military vehicles cruise the streets. They knock on every door, asking whether any Jews live there. If so, the whole family is immediately taken away. If not, they proceed to the next house. It’s impossible to escape their clutches unless you go into hiding. They often go around with lists, knocking only on those doors where they know there’s a big haul to be made. They frequently offer a bounty, so much per head. It’s like the slave hunts of the olden days… I feel wicked sleeping in a warm bed, while somewhere out there my dearest friends are dropping from exhaustion or being knocked to the ground. I get frightened myself when I think of close friends who are now at the mercy of the cruelest monsters ever to stalk the earth. And all because they’re Jews.”
July 19, 1943: “North Amsterdam was very heavily bombed on Sunday. There was apparently a great deal of destruction. Entire streets are in ruins, and it will take a while for them to dig out all the bodies. So far there have been two hundred dead and countless wounded; the hospitals are bursting at the seams. We’ve been told of children searching forlornly in the smouldering ruins for their dead parents. It still makes me shiver to think of the dull, distant drone that signified the approaching destruction.”
January 7, 1944: “I’m such an idiot. I forgot that I haven’t yet told you the story of my one true love. When I was a little girl, way back in nursery school, I took a liking to Sally Kimmel. His father was gone, and he and his mother lived with an aunt. One of Sally’s cousins was a good-looking, slender, dark-haired boy named Appy, who later turned out to look like a matinee idol and aroused more admiration than the short, comical, chubby Sally. For a long time we went everywhere together, but aside from that, my love was unrequited until Peter crossed my path. I had an absolute crush on him. He liked me too, and we were inseparable for one whole summer. I can still see us walking hand in hand through our neighborhood, Peter in a white cotton suit and me in a short summer dress. At the end of the summer holidays he moved up a form to the next school, while I stayed in the sixth form. He’d collect me on the way home, or I’d pick him up. Peter was the ideal boy: tall, slim and good-looking, with a serious, quiet and intelligent face. He had dark hair, beautiful brown eyes, ruddy cheeks and a nicely pointed nose. I was crazy about his smile, which made him look so boyish and mischievous.”
July 15, 1944: “It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.
It’s utterly impossible for me to build my life on a foundation of chaos, suffering and death. I see the world being slowly transformed into a wilderness, I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too, I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty too shall end, that peace and tranquility will return once more”
Despite the desperate circumstances, Anne was still able to find humor, love and hope in midst of her story. Consider where humor, love and hope reside in your story amid difficult happenings.