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Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl


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Book Review

This book has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine.

Plot Summary

From June 1942 to August 1944, a Jewish girl named Anne Frank kept a diary of her experiences in Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands, after the Netherlands fell to Nazi control during World War II.

Anne begins her diary entries by talking about her 13th birthday party, the day when she received the diary. Anne says she is keeping a diary because she doesn’t have any true friends and feels alone, despite having a loving family. She does not feel that she can confide in her parents or her 16-year-old sister, Margot, although she cares for them. Anne decides to give her diary a name, Kitty, and to write to Kitty as if the diary is the close friend she has always wanted.

Anne provides information about the social situation in Amsterdam. The Nazi party of Germany has extended its influence to Amsterdam, and Anne’s family is subject to a series of laws restricting the behavior of Jews. Anne is disheartened by the restrictions, but she still finds enjoyment by spending time with her friends.

In July of 1942, Anne’s family receives a call-up notice for Margot, which means that Margot will either be imprisoned or taken to a concentration camp. Rather than send Margot away with the SS (the German defense corps), the entire family decides to go into hiding.

Miep and Jan Gies are non-Jewish friends of the Frank family, and they help hide the Franks in secret rooms in Otto’s office building. Only four workers remain in Otto Frank’s office, and all of them are aware of the Franks moving in. Anne calls the hidden rooms the “Secret Annex.” The Franks share the space with another Jewish family, the van Daans, who have a 15-year-old son named Peter.

Many small domestic disagreements characterize the Franks’ and van Daans’ life in hiding. Mrs. van Daan does not want to share her linen sheets with the Frank family, and Mrs. Frank does not want to share her china dishes with the van Daan family. Mrs. van Daan avoids doing her share of the housework, and Anne annoys Mrs. van Daan with her constant chatter.

September of 1942 marks the start of Anne’s first school year in hiding. In October, she hears news that all of her Jewish friends and their families have been sent to concentration camps and now live under horrible conditions. An eighth resident of the Secret Annex, Albert Dussel, arrives in November. Anne does not get along with Mr. Dussel, with whom she must share a room, but she treats him with respect to keep the peace in their cramped home.

In the following months, the residents of the Secret Annex try to live as normally as possible, although they constantly fear their hiding place will be discovered. Anne begins to enjoy her studies, particularly Greek and Roman mythology, but interpersonal tensions in the Secret Annex are still increasing. Meals are growing sparser; Mr. Dussel hoards his private stash of food and refuses to share.

June of 1943 brings Anne’s 14th birthday. Her father writes her an encouraging poem, and the rest of the people in the Secret Annex give her small presents. Mr. Voskuijl, a friend of the family, is diagnosed with cancer and can no longer bring news of the outside world to the Secret Annex. In July, the warehouse below the Secret Annex is burgled and many of the Franks’ and van Daans’ food supplies are stolen. Air raids on Amsterdam continue throughout the summer. In September, Anne hears news of Italy surrendering to Allied forces.

In October of 1943, the van Daans run out of money, which further strains the relationships in the Secret Annex and causes the van Daans to fight even more frequently. In January of 1944, Anne begins to have romantic dreams about a boy named Peter whom she used to know, and at the same time she begins pursuing a friendship with Peter van Daan. Gradually, Anne becomes fonder of Peter van Daan, whom she disliked when they first went into hiding. Anne becomes more sympathetic to Mr. and Mrs. van Daan because she realizes her mother is the reason for many of the harsh inter-family squabbles.

In February 1944, Anne learns that Britain may invade the Netherlands. The residents of the Secret Annex discuss what they will do if the Germans evacuate Holland. Anne begins to visit Peter regularly, and the two of them often talk in his room.

In March, Anne reflects on her time spent in the Secret Annex and concludes she has grown into a wiser and kinder person as a result of her circumstances. Anne believes that she was a silly child before she came to the Secret Annex, and she is glad she has grown less superficial. Also in March, one of the men who brings food to the Secret Annex is arrested, depriving them of important supplies.

Peter and Anne’s friendship gradually becomes romantic. Anne worries that her sister, Margot, might also be in love with Peter, but Margot tells Anne that she is not jealous of their relationship. The adults in the Secret Annex tease Peter and Anne about their frequent visits, but they allow them to keep meeting.

Anne begins to make longer entries in her diary, and in late March of 1944, she hears a Dutch radio broadcast which says that after the war is over, diaries and journals kept during the war will be collected as valuable writings. Anne writes with renewed dedication because she dreams of becoming a journalist and knows she must hone her composition skills. In April, there is another break-in at the warehouse below the Secret Annex, and Anne fears they have been discovered. In May, the men of the household expect that England will invade the Netherlands, but the anticipated invasion doesn’t happen.

On D-Day, June 6, 1944, Anne hears a broadcast about the Allied forces landing in Normandy, France. Later in June, Anne celebrates her 15th birthday. She determines that Peter van Daan likes her more as a friend than as a girlfriend, but they remain close and enjoy each other’s company. Mrs. van Daan and Mr. Dussel grow more and more agitated with Anne and argue with her about the flaws they perceive in her character. In August, Anne again grows hopeful the war will end because an attempt has been made to assassinate Hitler. Anne’s diary ends in August 1944, just before the Secret Annex is discovered and its residents are sent to concentration camps.

Christian Beliefs

Anne mentions that the anti-Jewish laws in Amsterdam prohibit Jews from visiting Christian homes. Anne’s father has given her mother’s bicycle to Christian friends for safekeeping since Jews are not allowed to use bicycles.

Mr. Dussel lived with a Christian woman out of wedlock.

Anne says Christians in the Netherlands are also living in fear because many of their sons are sent to fight for Germany.

Mrs. van Daan is prone to exaggeration, and she says she will be baptized as a Christian when the war is over. Shortly thereafter, she says that she wants to go to Jerusalem because she’s only comfortable around other Jews.

Anne’s father decides to buy Anne a children’s Bible so she can learn something about the New Testament. He determines he will need to give it to her on St. Nicholas’ Day instead of Chanukah because stories about Jesus do not seem like an appropriate Chanukah present.

Peter says that life would be easier for him if he were a Christian. He does not plan to convert to Christianity after the war because he would never feel like a true Christian, but he plans to hide his Jewish identity in the future.

Anne quotes a phrase that one Christian’s actions reflect only on that Christian, while one Jew’s actions reflect on all Jewish people.

Other Belief Systems

Anne and her family are Jewish. Anne attends school at the Jewish Lyceum. She describes one of her schoolmates as very Orthodox. Anne says that her family’s life has been full of tension because they’ve been worried about their relatives in Germany, who have been oppressed by the anti-Jewish laws instituted by the Nazi party. Anne says that two Jewish uncles fled to North America after the 1938 Kristallnacht pogrom in Germany.

Anne lists many anti-Jewish laws in Amsterdam. Since 1940, Jews were required to wear yellow stars on their clothing to identify themselves as Jews. They were not allowed to ride bicycles or streetcars or to drive their own vehicles. They were only permitted to shop between 3 and 5 p.m. and were not allowed outside in public between the hours of 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. They were not allowed in movie theaters or other places of entertainment, and they were prohibited from playing sports of any kind. Jewish children were segregated into Jewish-only schools.

Anne’s mother makes Anne read from Jewish prayer books written in German, but Anne is not interested in the prayers and wonders why she must be so devout.

The residents of the Secret Annex have a small Chanukah celebration where they exchange gifts and briefly light a menorah.

Anne says nightly prayers. She once refers to herself as the Benjamin of the Secret Annex, referring to the biblical character that was the youngest of Jacob’s sons.

Anne writes that she sometimes feels God is testing her to make her stronger and turn her into a better person through many trials. Anne prays to God to help her captured Jewish friend Hanneli. Anne wonders whether Hanneli ever truly believed in God.

Anne begins to worry that despite all the hardship she has endured, she still does not have enough faith in God. Anne believes that God is sending her dreams of her old friend Peter to relieve her troubles. Anne says that all frightened, lonely or unhappy people should go outside somewhere and be alone with God and nature for a while. She says that if a person enjoys nature’s simplicity, the person will understand that God wants people to be happy. Anne asserts that God has not forsaken her and never will. She says she is grateful to God for giving her the ability to write and express herself.

Anne longs for the day when she and her family will be seen as human beings and not only as Jews. Anne says that God has allowed the Jews to endure affliction but that He will also lift them up again. God has never deserted the Jews, Anne says.

Anne believes any type of religious belief will keep a person morally accountable for their actions.

Peter mentions that the Jews are God’s chosen people.

The residents of the Secret Annex hold a non-religious celebration of St. Nicholas’ Day.

Authority Roles

Anne says her parents love her. Anne describes her father as the most adorable father she’s ever seen. She says her parents are more interested in her general health and happiness than her academic success.

Anne’s father, Otto Frank, takes special care to provide his family with as many comforts as he can. He transports many of Anne’s favorite belongings to the Secret Annex before they go into hiding. Anne later says that her father understands her completely. Anne adores her father and often feels jealous of his approval of her sister, Margot, who never seems to cause any trouble for the family. Anne says that she tries to model her behavior after her father’s, because he is the person she loves most in the world. When Anne’s father tells her to stop seeing Peter in private, she writes him a spirited letter telling him to leave her alone and allow her to make her own decisions. Her father tells her that he does not deserve to be spoken to so harshly, and Anne grows ashamed of her own angry attitude.

While in hiding, Anne feels that she is growing more distant from her mother, who seems to find fault with Anne while treating Margot with extra gentleness and understanding. Anne is embarrassed by the fact that she often bursts into tears when having disagreements with her mother. Anne feels like she is a stranger to her mother, who does not know Anne’s thoughts and feelings on even the most basic subjects. Anne frequently remarks about her mother’s criticism of her, though she rarely mentions what aspect of her behavior has upset her mother. Anne gets so angry with her mother that she writes about wanting to slap her and yell at her.

Mr. Frank suggests that Anne should help her mother more with the household chores, but Anne decides not to help because she despises her mother. Anne says she can easily envision her mother’s death, but she cannot bear to think about her father ever dying. Anne eventually reads her earlier journal entries and is ashamed of talking about hating her mother.

After more than a year in hiding, Anne and her mother go through a brief phase with no major disagreements. Anne attributes their more peaceful relationship to her own maturity and to her mother’s steady nature.

Anne is disappointed in her mother’s assertion that her mother sees her daughters more as her friends than offspring. Anne wishes her mother would not try to be her friend but would instead fulfill a true motherly role and show her a good parental example of how to behave.

Anne mentions that she loves and misses her grandmother, who passed away a few months before Anne received her diary.
Mr. and Mrs. van Daan have frequent arguments and sometimes shout at each other. Their son, Peter, seems embarrassed by them. Mr. van Daan yells at Peter when he disobeys.

Mrs. van Daan hits Peter’s arm when he makes a sarcastic remark. Peter hits her arm in return before receiving another punch from his mother. Peter roughly pulls his mother around the room by her wrists to keep her from hitting him again. Mrs. van Daan says that in their old home, she would have hit him with a belt for being so insolent.

Profanity & Violence

Anne says that Peter scoffs at Jesus Christ and takes God’s name in vain.

A rat bites Peter’s arm, and the wound bleeds heavily.

Anne hears that Jews in concentration camps are put to death by poisonous gas. In Amsterdam, the German Gestapo is known for shooting innocent people whenever they cannot find the particular person they are seeking.

Sexual Content

Anne mentions that she has many male admirers at school. Anne has heard rumors that a boy in her neighborhood, Sallie, has already had sex with someone. Anne says that several of the boys in her class have filthy minds, but she does not give examples of their behavior.

The adults are angry when they learn that Peter has read a book intended for adults only. Anne never says if the book has any sexual content, but she refers to the book as forbidden fruit.

Mrs. van Daan wears tight dresses and pats and touches Mr. Frank to flirt with him. Mr. Frank does not respond.

Everyone in the Secret Annex teases Anne for lying down on the same bed as Mr. van Daan, but Anne is quick to say in her diary that she would never want to sleep with Mr. van Daan in the way they were suggesting.

Anne reads a book called Eva’s Youth by Nico van Suchtelen, which contains mentions of prostitutes. The book also mentions menstruation, which causes Anne to long for her own menstrual cycle to start so that she can be a “true” adult. Anne discovers white smears in her underwear. Her mother says this indicates that her period will start soon. Anne wishes she could use sanitary napkins, but they are no longer available for purchase, and she says that her mother’s tampons are not intended for women to use until after they have had a baby. Later, when Anne reads her own early writings, she is embarrassed by her open discussion of such indelicate subjects.

Mr. Dussel is said to have lived with a Christian woman, and their sexual relationship is implied.

Anne is supposed to write new words she learns, and she makes note of brothel and coquette but does not define them.

When Anne enters puberty, she is somewhat self-conscious about the changes in her body, but she is also proud of becoming a woman and says that her monthly period is like a sweet secret. Anne says she has the urge to touch her own breasts. Anne has had discussions about sex with her father, who has told her that she is too young to understand physical desire, but when Anne has romantic dreams about a boy named Peter Schiff, she believes that she understands adult desires well.

Anne writes about spending the night with her female friend Jacque and being curious about her friend’s body, which she had never seen. Jacque refuses Anne’s request that they seal their friendship by touching each other’s breasts, but she allows Anne to kiss her. Anne says that she feels ecstatic when she sees nude female drawings in art books.

Anne says that sex has only been a topic she has heard discussed in hushed and horrified tones. Anne’s mother once told her never to discuss sex with boys, and Anne wishes her mother would give her a more thorough explanation of the facts of life.

In January of 1944, Anne and Peter van Daan begin a friendship tinged with romantic desires. Anne dreams of kissing Peter. By April, Peter and Anne sit with their arms around each other, and Peter kisses Anne’s cheek. They kiss each other’s cheeks several more times before kissing on the lips in May 1944. They spend time alone every evening and always kiss goodnight.

Mrs. van Daan says she has never explained sex or reproduction to Peter, and she assumes that her husband has not. Neither parent knows where Peter has obtained any knowledge of sex. Anne has learned a few details about human reproduction from a sex education book.

Peter shows Anne that his cat Boche is a male by pointing out the cat’s sexual organ. Anne knows the Dutch word for vagina, but neither she nor Peter is sure of the word for penis. Peter says he plans to ask his parents to tell him the word for the male sexual organ.

Anne says that loving someone in the romantic sense will eventually include physical love. She says that if two people are really in love, they do not have to be married so long as they are committed to each other for life. Anne believes that purity before marriage is a silly concept and says that it wouldn’t be a problem for a man to enter a marriage with some previous sexual experience.

Peter is more knowledgeable about sex than Anne is, and she asks him many questions about sex, although she doesn’t discuss his answers in detail. Anne wonders if Peter actually knows how female genitals look because the way he talks makes it seem like he still lacks some key knowledge of the female form. Anne writes about how she used to think that urine flowed from a woman’s clitoris and how her mother feigned ignorance when Anne asked her about what her clitoris was. Anne writes a detailed description of female genitals in her diary, describing how their outward appearance changes while standing and while sitting. Later, Anne describes female genitals to Peter who is surprised to learn the details.

Discussion Topics

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Additional Comments

Alcohol: Anne receives a bottle of grape juice for her 13th birthday. She comments that it tastes like wine. Anne says that in the Secret Annex, alcohol is only used for medicinal purposes. Mr. Dussel receives a bottle of wine for his birthday.

Smoking: Peter receives a lighter for his 16th birthday, although he does not smoke. Mr. van Daan smokes frequently.

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