Everyone knows the story of Anne Frank, (1929-1945) the young Jewish girl who kept a diary while hiding from the Nazis in Amsterdam from her thirteenth birthday (June 12, 1942) until August 4, 1944, shortly after her 15th birthday, when she and her family were betrayed, discovered, and sent to concentration camps. Anne Frank died of a typhus epidemic that spread through Bergen-Belsen. The camp was liberated April 12, 1945. If she had lived until her 16th birthday, she might still be living today. The Anne Frank Museum, created at the Frank family’s war-time hiding location in Amsterdam, has an award-winning website in which you can visit the annex where Anne lived and learn much more about her life and times.
My own mother, Barbara Ann Hess Hershey Becker, was born February 27, 1927, on a farm near Lancaster, PA. She is living today! She too kept a diary during WWII. Though she was two years older than Anne Frank, her teenage diary overlaps with Anne’s because it was begun when Mother was “14 years, 3 months, 13 days” old. It ends on her sixteenth birthday, the birthday Anne never reached.
As I read the two journals, Anne’s and Barbara Ann’s, together, several amazing coincidences jump out at me. First, both diarists begin their journals on the same day–June 12–just one year apart. Anne starts her diary in 1942 Barbara Ann in 1941.
Between June 12, 1942 (when Anne begins) and Feb. 27, 1943 (when Barbara Ann’s diary ends) there are 47 entries in Anne’s diary. Some of these entries are written on the same day!
But two significant differences stand out (in addition to the slight difference in age). One is obvious–Anne is a Jew living during the Holocaust. Mother is living safely in the arms of her Mennonite family in America, but she nevertheless experiences fear about the war.
Another is less obvious. Anne hopes to reach the rest of the world with her journal. Barbara Ann warns any potential readers that her diary is her “personal property and private journal” (see warning on the cover below).
Anne Frank, sometime in 1944, hears an underground broadcast from London saying that letters and diaries will be collected and possibly published after the war. She goes back, amends her private journal and begins new entries with the intent of contributing them to the cause described on the radio. She therefore finds in her diary more than ordinary teenage solace for angst; she is also trying on the vocation of writer. Writing keeps her spirit alive.
Today it’s time for my weekly call to my mother. Her voice will seem even more precious to me after studying these two journals.
If she gives me permission to quote from her “personal property and private journal,” would you like to read some excerpts here? Would you like to see them side-by-side with Anne’s?