Monday, April 12, 2010

Anne Frank's Diary: A letter to my grandkids

Anne Frank, a happy 13-year-old girl.

Hi Heroes,

I want to tell you about one of my other heroes. Anne Frank lived with her family in Amsterdam while Hitler was running things in Germany. Hitler didn't like Jewish people, so he spread rumors about them and got people all riled up against them. His armies went to different countries and started tormenting Jews all over Europe.

The Jews were told to wear these yellow stars sewn to their clothes so people could tell who they were. Then, even if they were little children, people in the towns had permission to spit on them, trip them in the mud, push them down, kick them out of school. The Jews weren't allowed in restaurants, or public bathrooms, or movies, even though they were some of the most successful families in the neighborhoods. It became stylish to hate Jews. So almost everybody did.

When Anne turned thirteen she got a red-plaid diary for her birthday. She wrote in it that first day, and named it "Kitty."

"I hope I will be able to confide everything in you, as I have never been able to confide in anyone, and I hope you will be a great source of comfort and support."

This is the first entry in Anne Frank's diary, June 12, 1942 . She wanted to tell her new best-friend Kitty everything in her heart, even the stuff she couldn't tell her sister Margo, or her parents. She started writing in it every single day. Pretty soon it was all filled up, so she got new diaries. They were her pride and joy. She said she didn't feel scared when she was writing.

Anne had lots of reason to be scared. Her sister Margo was only sixteen, but the soldiers were coming to take her away to a work camp (it was really a concentration camp where they killed Jews.) Anne's parents took their girls to some hidden rooms above the dad's office in this blue building. They had to be perfectly quiet when the workers were there all day, and at night their friends brought them food and library books.

They thought it would only be for a couple of weeks but they stayed there a long time. Pretty soon, another family came, and then a man who was a dentist joined them in hiding. They had to stay there for two whole years, never going outside, always with the same people.

Anne wrote it all down in her dairy. She dreamed of having it published some day.

On a hidden radio they heard the news that the British and American armies were coming to save them soon. Every day they got more and more excited. Anne actually re-wrote her diaries so she could take them to a book-company and turn them into real books when she got out.

One horrible day, August 1, 1944, the Nazi soldiers discovered the family's hiding place in Amsterdam. The eight people who had hidden for two years were all arrested and sent to concentration camps all over Europe. Anne left her diaries in their hiding place.

The saddest part of the story is that they all died in the concentration camps. Anne, and her sister, her mother, their friends . . . all but Anne's father. After the war he went back to their hiding place and found Anne's diaries and read them. He remembered that she'd wanted to get them published so people would know what it was like to be Jewish during World War II, when Hitler and his armies were terrorizing and killing millions of Jews.

Anne's father, Otto, took the diaries to several publishing companies who all said "No." They thought a thirteen-year-old girl's diaries would be silly and unimportant. Finally, someone read one. He said, "This is an extraordinary document of the human spirit."

In her second-to-last entry she wrote,

"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."

Anne Frank

Tonight we watched the Masterpiece presentation of a new Anne Frank movie. It was so incredible it should be seen by everyone. It's a tender story, ultimately a sad story, but totally true and hopeful.

In this movie, Anne seems just like every thirteen-year-old girl and we see some of the normal family angst going on between teens and parents, all in close contact with other people who were living in intimate surroundings for two years without a break. The new movie is riveting and although I knew the end, I was caught up in it so much that I was surprised that they were found.

I cannot recommend it highly enough. I bought it so you can borrow it from Oma's Travelin Library.

The Anne Frank exhibit is in the Salt Lake City library right now as it tours the country, and it, too, is an absolute must-see for anyone over ten or so. We saw it in Amsterdam with our kids, and it is touching to see how the human spirit survives, and even thrives under horrific circumstances. It's an important history lesson that can not be lost to the next generations.

Here are some ideas for A Visit With Anne Frank. Grandparents, families, or friends could remember and learn about her:
  1. Have a pajama party for eight people (sleep-over optional) in a crowded room. (There were eight people hidden in their small annex above the dad's office.) Serve a baked potato bar, and cabbage salad. (That's all they had to eat.) Serve strawberries for dessert. (Once they got strawberries for a special treat.) Each person could bring a sleeping bag (or a large quilt) plus a copy of "Diary of Anne Frank."
  2. Have a game of tag outside and later talk about how the Nazi's were after the Jews, chased them down, caught them, and then hauled them off.
  3. Tell the true story of the Holocaust using details that would be meaningful, but don't terrorize the kids you're dealing with. Go on-line for info, or just read and discover points in the diary.
  4. Prepare some underlined parts of the book that are funny and human: what they ate, the cat getting lost, how she got in trouble, etc. When everyone is comfy on their pillow with their books, skip through and tell the story using Anne's diary and her more personal, humorous perspective.
  5. Ask thought questions "What would you have done if you had to share your room with an old man?" "What if you couldn't go outside for two years." "Would you have been bugged by your parents, siblings, etc. if you never saw anyone else?" "How would you keep learning?"
  6. Provide popcorn and then watch the movie.
  7. Visit the exhibit in Salt Lake City (it's here until May) or whenever it gets to your town.
  8. Present everyone with a diary and explain how important it will be for them to write about their life experiences, record thoughts, feelings, and even drawings.
  9. Take pictures of each person, and send them each their photo with a quick note saying how they are a hero to you.
The Anne Frank exhibit is worth visiting and celebrating. It may be too mature a subject for the under-ten crowd, but I think it will open up a new world to everyone who sees it. It's a reminder of the faith and courage of children (and everyone) in hard times.

It also reminds us why it's worthwhile to write our life's story in a blog, in day-timers, in a scrapbook, in a diary, whatever, and the joy obeying this counsel brings to us throughout our lives.

Time Capsule

Is there a special dessert or meal that brings back memories to you for some reason? Serve it and tell about your memory.

Make a time capsule to open in a few years. Have everybody write a memory, stick in a photo or drawing and make plans for the big unveiling. Tell them you'll send invitations in five years, and put it on YOUR calendar so you'll remember to follow through.

Time Capsule

Most important, write in your journal. Describe your friends, the foods you like, the feelings, frustrations you have, your clothes or your hairstyle. Commit to writing about your life regularly. You're the only one who can do it.

I could finish this post with a bunch of ways a diary has made a difference for an individual or a family, but I see some hands raised already to share a personal story. Go for it! Everybody read the comments today, since they're part of the post.

Now, what did you want to say?

* Homework:

~Join in the class discussion, or write a post (tell us where to find it) on how someone keeping a journal has made a difference to you.

~Don't worry about catching up the last 5 months, (or 5 years.) Just pick up your diary and write about yourself today.


Shanel said...

beautiful post...I am going to definitely check out the movie... how tragic but she was a beautiful soul

Raejean said...

A man named Barry Spanjaard visited my Jr. High school when I was a teenager. He wrote a book called "Don't Fence Me In". It was his experience of being locked in one of the concentration camps. Among all the fascinating things he told us, was that he briefly met Anne Frank in the camp before she died.

kenju said...

Wonderful post. I will be copying it to send on in email.

Diane said...

I saw the SLC library exhibit on the news last night. I thought it would be wonderful to see, now I won't miss it.

I have had a fascination with Anne Frank since I first read her diary when I was in Junior High. It classifies as one of the "Would I have it in me to be able to do that?" books in my life. Maybe it was the first book I read where I posed that question to myself.

I'm going to pass on your ideas to my family and friends. Then I'm going to hunt down the movie.

the wrath of khandrea said...

i know i'm missing the entire point here, but i can't get past the fact that you have T.O. travelin' library. honestly, could there possibly be a more amazing grandmother on this earth? how can i get my kids into your family?

Christie said...

Andrea, there is no more amazing grandma. She is the best and my kids are so in love with her it's not even funny. We'll share, but only for you.

Thanks for the heads-up Omie. I think this would be right up my WWII loving kids' alley.

Kay Dennison said...

Wonderful!!!! A true heroine. I recall reading her book and at about the same as she was whem she wrote and crying. It really is a portrait of one of the most frightening times in history.

Travelin'Oma said...

I have to say things sound better on my blog than they actually happen in real life.

The Oma Travelin Library was invented by two-year-old twins having a tantrum because they wanted to take books home from Oma's house.

I said it could be like a library. They could take them home, and when they brought them back, they could take some others. One of the big sisters asked, "Will there be fines?"

When I said "no" she started jumping around happily. "Mom! There are no fines!"

Olive's Granddaughter said...

Marty, Wonderful post, as always. The movie last night made me cry (again).

I am such a ditz. On my Grandma Stitches post for the Ancestor Approved Award, I forgot to post comments to the 10 people I nominated! I wondered why no one "picked" up their award. I don't see a place to comment on your Heritage Associates blog, but I want you to know I read it and love the stories you tell. You deserve every blogging award there is to give!

Love ya.

Judith Richards Shubert said...

What wonderful memories you are giving those grandkids! We have a library, too, but it's not a traveling one. It's actually inside a large cedar walk-in closet. When our granddaughters visited from North Carolina when they were very young, they told their mother (my daughter) that they were anxious to get here. They were excited about going to the library. Their mother thought they meant that they remembered their Papa taking them to the public library, until they went straight to the closet when they arrived in Texas!

Beck said...

I have five hard-cover journals, three of which are filled completly, and numerous notebooks scattered all over my house that served as temporary journals as the need/assignment arose. I came across a journal entry the other day that got me teary all over again. Mostly its been great to look back over them and remember things I had forgotten and to see the progess (or lack thereof) that I've made in my life.

Anonymous said...

i definitely going yo check out that beautiful movie <3