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Cover of Anne Frank's diary

Diaries are private written conversations with oneself, shared with smooth paper bound in a leather book that is secured with a tiny key and a clasp. Often a birthplace decides how many years a fountain pen will completely fill an annual.

Anne Frank was born June 12, 1929. Amsterdam was home. My mother, born in New York City, was twenty-one years old and didn’t marry until March 2, 1930. What if she and my dad were Europeans? Would my sisters and I have grown up?


January 21, 1947, Tuesday. I wrote: “Dear Diary, Today was a pretty full day. First school. At 5:30 p.m. I had a piano lesson (which ended at 6:30 p.m.). I had dinner and at 8:00 p.m. I went to the Bayside Jewish Center to a club meeting. The name of the club is Chicklets. It is now 10:20 p.m. and so diary Goodnight.”

Page from the author’s diary

My actual diary’s script was written in my special color: South Seas Blue. At school I had been told to only use blue or black ink. Since, as the anti-Semitic elementary school principal reminded me, I was “different” because of my religious practices, why shouldn’t my fountain pen’s color be different as well?

June 20, 1942, Anne Frank penned: “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.”

She eventually wrote uplifting philosophic phrases, yet was introspective.

July 6, 1944, “We have many reasons to hope for great happiness, but… we have to earn it. And that’s something you can’t achieve by taking the easy way out. Earning happiness means doing good and working, not speculating and being lazy. Laziness may look inviting, but only work gives you true satisfaction.”

Her work ethic was documented in sentences, yet she was also declaring her values.

February 18, 1947, Tuesday, I wrote: “PERFECT DAY. Dear Diary, Our class (and many others) went to the movies (free) at 1:15 p.m. today to see a brotherhood show. It was wonderful. It told how both Jews and Catholics worked, and fought together. At 5:00 p.m. I went to the Prospect Theatre to see ‘The Jolson Story’. Carole sang on the stage in a contest.”

That pre-teen day was perfect. I believed that all faiths could work together someday. I so imagined a setting, once I’d leave the awful elementary school, which would be one big friendship circle and the whole world would hold hands. And I liked seeing my older sister, with her good voice, competing onstage at a local movie theatre.

May 26, 1944, Anne Frank wrote: “I’ve asked myself again and again whether it wouldn’t have been better if we hadn’t gone into hiding, if we were dead now and didn’t have to go through this misery, especially so that the others could be spared the burden. But we all shrink from this thought. We still love life, we haven’t yet forgotten the voice of nature, and we keep hoping, hoping for . . . everything.”

Pafe from Anne’s diary

I wanted to be able to wear red lip pomade. Once I’d get to high school, might I use real lipstick? I looked at my reflection in the triple mirror of my dressing table; its frilly skirt was handmade by my mother, just like she handmade my curtains and bedspread and taught me more sewing than anything I could learn in school. Death was as abstract as war. All three of my mother’s brothers were in uniform, and the V-mail they sent from foreign places often had black lines through the writing. Did my letters to them have things so marked-up? Every photo showed them smiling and so neat in the clothes they got free from the government. My Shabbos “uniform” in summer overnight camp was white shorts, white shirt, white socks, white sneakers, and my mother not only had to buy those but hand-sew labels with my name in every item as well. My uncles were someplace special in clothes that my grandma didn’t have to wash, starch and iron!

April 5, 1944, Anne Frank inked: “I don’t want to live in vain like most people. I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I’ve never met. I want to go on living even after my death!”

January 2, 1948, I wrote: “Dear Diary, Last night we had another storm. Wires and trees are down in the streets. This snow on Dec. 27, 1947 was 25.8″ deep so now it’s about 29.6″ deep. I stayed home and read. I got an invitation to go to a sleighing party for Jan. 10.”

I cheered in 1948 when Israel became a state, but didn’t know what I was really marching around for; it was like the Simchas Torah marching. It was fun to be loud in a place I had to be quiet most of the time. No one around me had ever talked about pogroms or why my parents had no grandparents. And all my uncles came back from overseas.

March 7, 1944, Anne Frank noted: “I want friends, not admirers. People who respect me for my character and my deeds, not my flattering smile. The circle around me would be much smaller, but what does that matter, as long as they’re sincere?”

Sorting through my boxes of memorabilia so carefully preserved by my mother long ago, I, a grandmother of fifteen and a great-grandmother of three, began reading my leather diaries. I had “perfect days,” piano/ballet/singing lessons, clubs, education, parties, bicycle riding, ice skating, and watched my sister Carole perform with professionals in a summer-stock theatre-playhouse in the Pocono Mountains. I went to college, grad school, got married…. I was aware that I wanted to be liked and respected for who I was, and my circle of friends is still small. But I had no idea that a young girl across the Atlantic had those feelings as well until her diary was available to share.

Anne Frank. Born somewhat earlier than my older sister, Anne died February 1945 in a camp that had no friendship circles or Shabbos clothes. She wasn’t allowed to grow up, be educated, marry, have children. She wrote the following entry in her diary on December 24, 1943: “I long to ride a bike, dance, whistle, look at the world, feel young and know that I’m free, and yet I can’t let it show. Just imagine what would happen if all eight of us were to feel sorry for ourselves or walk around with the discontent clearly visible on our faces. Where would that get us?”

I wouldn’t have had the chance to write in South Seas blue ink, and get days recorded as they happened, if my birth certificate hadn’t the official stamp of New York. Bergen-Belsen brought Anne Frank’s breathing to a halt.


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