The diary of a young gir.., p.8
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       The Diary of a Young Girl, p.8

           Anne Frank
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  Yours, Anne


  Dearest Kitty,

  I’m sitting here nice and cozy in the front office, peering out through a chink in the heavy curtains. It’s dusky, but there’s just enough light to write by.

  It’s really strange watching people walk past. They all seem to be in such a hurry that they nearly trip over their own feet. Those on bicycles whiz by so fast I can’t even tell who’s on the bike. The people in this neighborhood aren’t particularly attractive to look at. The children especially are so dirty you wouldn’t want to touch them with a ten-foot pole. Real slum kids with runny noses. I can hardly understand a word they say.

  Yesterday afternoon, when Margot and I were taking a bath, I said, “What if we took a fishing rod and reeled in each of those kids one by one as they walked by, stuck them in the tub, washed and mended their clothes and then …”

  “And then tomorrow they’d be just as dirty and tattered as they were before,” Margot replied.

  But I’m babbling. There are also other things to look at: cars, boats and the rain. I can hear the streetcar and the children and I’m enjoying myself.

  Our thoughts are subject to as little change as we are. They’re like a merry-go-round, turning from the Jews to food, from food to politics. By the way, speaking of Jews, I saw two yesterday when I was peeking through the curtains. I felt as though I were gazing at one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It gave me such a funny feeling, as if I’d denounced them to the authorities and was now spying on their misfortune.

  Across from us is a houseboat. The captain lives there with his wife and children. He has a small yapping dog. We know the little dog only by its bark and by its tail, which we can see whenever it runs around the deck. Oh, what a shame, it’s just started raining and most of the people are hidden under their umbrellas. All I can see are raincoats, and now and again the back of a stocking-capped head. Actually, I don’t even need to look. By now I can recognize the women at a glance: gone to fat from eating potatoes, dressed in a red or green coat and worn-out shoes, a shopping bag dangling from their arms, with faces that are either grim or good-humored, depending on the mood of their husbands.

  Yours, Anne


  Dearest Kitty,

  The Annex was delighted to hear that we’ll all be receiving an extra quarter pound of butter for Christmas. According to the newspaper, everyone is entitled to half a pound, but they mean those lucky souls who get their ration books from the government, not Jews in hiding like us who can only afford to buy four rather than eight ration books on the black market. Each of us is going to bake something with the butter. This morning I made two cakes and a batch of cookies. It’s very busy upstairs, and Mother has informed me that I’m not to do any studying or reading until all the household chores have been finished.

  Mrs. van Daan is lying in bed nursing her bruised rib. She complains all day long, constantly demands that the bandages be changed and is generally dissatisfied with everything. I’ll be glad when she gets back on her feet and can clean up after herself because, I must admit, she’s extraordinarily hardworking and neat, and as long as she’s in good physical and mental condition, she’s quite cheerful.

  As if I don’t hear “shh, shh” enough during the day because I’m always making “too much” noise, my dear roommate has come up with the idea of saying “shh, shh” to me all night too. According to him, I shouldn’t even turn over. I refuse to take any notice of him, and the next time he shushes me, I’m going to shush him right back.

  He gets more exasperating and egotistical as the days go by. Except for the first week, I haven’t seen even one of the cookies he so generously promised me. He’s particularly infuriating on Sundays, when he switches on the light at the crack of dawn to exercise for ten minutes.

  To me, the torment seems to last for hours, since the chairs I use to make my bed longer are constantly being jiggled under my sleepy head. After rounding off his limbering-up exercises with a few vigorous arm swings, His Lordship begins dressing. His underwear is hanging on a hook, so first he lumbers over to get it and then lumbers back, past my bed. But his tie is on the table, so once again he pushes and bumps his way past the chairs.

  But I mustn’t waste any more of your time griping about disgusting old men. It won’t help matters anyway. My plans for revenge, such as unscrewing the lightbulb, locking the door and hiding his clothes, have unfortunately had to be abandoned in the interests of peace.

  Oh, I’m becoming so sensible! We’ve got to be reasonable about everything we do here: studying, listening, holding our tongues, helping others, being kind, making compromises and I don’t know what else! I’m afraid my common sense, which was in short supply to begin with, will be used up too quickly and I won’t have any left by the time the war is over.

  Yours, Anne


  Dearest Kitty,

  This morning I was constantly interrupted, and as a result I haven’t been able to finish a single thing I’ve begun.

  We have a new pastime, namely, filling packages with powdered gravy. The gravy is one of Gies & Co.’s products. Mr. Kugler hasn’t been able to find anyone else to fill the packages, and besides, it’s cheaper if we do the job. It’s the kind of work they do in prisons. It’s incredibly boring and makes us dizzy and giggly.

  Terrible things are happening outside. At any time of night and day, poor helpless people are being dragged out of their homes. They’re allowed to take only a knapsack and a little cash with them, and even then, they’re robbed of these possessions on the way. Families are torn apart; men, women and children are separated. Children come home from school to find that their parents have disappeared. Women return from shopping to find their houses sealed, their families gone. The Christians in Holland are also living in fear because their sons are being sent to Germany. Everyone is scared. Every night hundreds of planes pass over Holland on their way to German cities, to sow their bombs on German soil. Every hour hundreds, or maybe even thousands, of people are being killed in Russia and Africa. No one can keep out of the conflict, the entire world is at war, and even though the Allies are doing better, the end is nowhere in sight.

  As for us, we’re quite fortunate. Luckier than millions of people. It’s quiet and safe here, and we’re using our money to buy food. We’re so selfish that we talk about “after the war” and look forward to new clothes and shoes, when actually we should be saving every penny to help others when the war is over, to salvage whatever we can.

  The children in this neighborhood run around in thin shirts and wooden shoes. They have no coats, no socks, no caps and no one to help them. Gnawing on a carrot to still their hunger pangs, they walk from their cold houses through cold streets to an even colder classroom. Things have gotten so bad in Holland that hordes of children stop passersby in the streets to beg for a piece of bread.

  I could spend hours telling you about the suffering the war has brought, but I’d only make myself more miserable. All we can do is wait, as calmly as possible, for it to end. Jews and Christians alike are waiting, the whole world is waiting, and many are waiting for death.

  Yours, Anne


  Dearest Kitty,

  I’m seething with rage, yet I can’t show it. I’d like to scream, stamp my foot, give Mother a good shaking, cry and I don’t know what else because of the nasty words, mocking looks and accusations that she hurls at me day after day, piercing me like arrows from a tightly strung bow, which are nearly impossible to pull from my body. I’d like to scream at Mother, Margot, the van Daans, Dussel and Father too: “Leave me alone, let me have at least one night when I don’t cry myself to sleep with my eyes burning and my head pounding. Let me get away, away from everything, away from this world!” But I can’t do that. I can’t let them see my doubts, or the wounds they’ve inflicted on me. I couldn’t bear their sympathy or their good
-humored derision. It would only make me want to scream even more.

  Everyone thinks I’m showing off when I talk, ridiculous when I’m silent, insolent when I answer, cunning when I have a good idea, lazy when I’m tired, selfish when I eat one bite more than I should, stupid, cowardly, calculating, etc., etc. All day long I hear nothing but what an exasperating child I am, and although I laugh it off and pretend not to mind, I do mind. I wish I could ask God to give me another personality, one that doesn’t antagonize everyone.

  But that’s impossible. I’m stuck with the character I was born with, and yet I’m sure I’m not a bad person. I do my best to please everyone, more than they’d ever suspect in a million years. When I’m upstairs, I try to laugh it off because I don’t want them to see my troubles.

  More than once, after a series of absurd reproaches, I’ve snapped at Mother: “I don’t care what you say. Why don’t you just wash your hands of me—I’m a hopeless case.” Of course, she’d tell me not to talk back and virtually ignore me for two days. Then suddenly all would be forgotten and she’d treat me like everyone else.

  It’s impossible for me to be all smiles one day and venomous the next. I’d rather choose the golden mean, which isn’t so golden, and keep my thoughts to myself. Perhaps sometime I’ll treat the others with the same contempt as they treat me. Oh, if only I could.

  Yours, Anne


  Dearest Kitty,

  Though it’s been ages since I’ve written to you about the squabbles, there’s still no change. In the beginning Mr. Dussel took our soon-forgotten clashes very seriously, but now he’s grown used to them and no longer tries to mediate.

  Margot and Peter aren’t exactly what you’d call “young”; they’re both so quiet and boring. Next to them, I stick out like a sore thumb, and I’m always being told, “Margot and Peter don’t act that way. Why don’t you follow your sister’s example!” I hate that.

  I confess that I have absolutely no desire to be like Margot. She’s too weak-willed and passive to suit me; she lets herself be swayed by others and always backs down under pressure. I want to have more spunk! But I keep ideas like these to myself. They’d only laugh at me if I offered this in my defense.

  During meals the air is filled with tension. Fortunately, the outbursts are sometimes held in check by the “soup eaters,” the people from the office who come up to have a cup of soup for lunch.

  This afternoon Mr. van Daan again brought up the fact that Margot eats so little. “I suppose you do it to keep your figure,” he added in a mocking tone.

  Mother, who always comes to Margot’s defense, said in a loud voice, “I can’t stand that stupid chatter of yours a minute longer.”

  Mrs. van D. turned red as a beet. Mr. van D. stared straight ahead and said nothing.

  Still, we often have a good laugh. Not long ago Mrs. van D. was entertaining us with some bit of nonsense or another. She was talking about the past, about how well she got along with her father and what a flirt she was. “And you know,” she continued, “my father told me that if a gentleman ever got fresh, I was to say, ‘Remember, sir, that I’m a lady,’ and he’d know what I meant.” We split our sides laughing, as if she’d told us a good joke.

  Even Peter, though he’s usually quiet, occasionally gives rise to hilarity. He has the misfortune of adoring foreign words without knowing what they mean. One afternoon we couldn’t use the toilet because there were visitors in the office. Unable to wait, he went to the bathroom but didn’t flush the toilet. To warn us of the unpleasant odor, he tacked a sign to the bathroom door: “RSVP—gas!” Of course, he meant “Danger—gas!” but he thought “RSVP” looked more elegant. He didn’t have the faintest idea that it meant “please reply.”

  Yours, Anne


  Dearest Kitty,

  Pim is expecting the invasion any day now. Churchill has had pneumonia, but is gradually getting better. Gandhi, the champion of Indian freedom, is on one of his umpteenth hunger strikes.

  Mrs. van D. claims she’s fatalistic. But who’s the most afraid when the guns go off? None other than Petronella van Daan.

  Jan brought along the episcopal letter that the bishops addressed to their parishioners. It was beautiful and inspiring. “People of the Netherlands, stand up and take action. Each of us must choose our own weapons to fight for the freedom of our country, our people and our religion! Give your help and support. Act now!” This is what they’re preaching from the pulpit. Will it do any good? It’s definitely too late to help our fellow Jews.

  Guess what’s happened to us now? The owner of the building sold it without informing Mr. Kugler and Mr. Kleiman. One morning the new landlord arrived with an architect to look the place over. Thank goodness Mr. Kleiman was in the office. He showed the gentlemen all there was to see, with the exception of the Secret Annex. He claimed he’d left the key at home and the new owner asked no further questions. If only he doesn’t come back demanding to see the Annex. In that case, we’ll be in big trouble!

  Father emptied a card file for Margot and me and filled it with index cards that are blank on one side. This is to become our reading file, in which Margot and I are supposed to note down the books we’ve read, the author and the date. I’ve learned two new words: “brothel” and “coquette.” I’ve bought a separate notebook for new words.

  There’s a new division of butter and margarine. Each person is to get their portion on their own plate. The distribution is very unfair. The van Daans, who always make breakfast for everyone, give themselves one and a half times more than they do us. My parents are much too afraid of an argument to say anything, which is a shame, because I think people like that should always be given a taste of their own medicine.

  Yours, Anne


  Dearest Kitty,

  Mrs. van D. has a new nickname—we’ve started calling her Mrs. Beaverbrook. Of course, that doesn’t mean anything to you, so let me explain. A certain Mr. Beaverbrook often talks on the English radio about what he considers to be the far too lenient bombardment of Germany. Mrs. van Daan, who always contradicts everyone, including Churchill and the news reports, is in complete agreement with Mr. Beaverbrook. So we thought it would be a good idea for her to be married to him, and since she was flattered by the notion, we’ve decided to call her Mrs. Beaverbrook from now on.

  We’re getting a new warehouse employee, since the old one is being sent to Germany. That’s bad for him but good for us because the new one won’t be familiar with the building. We’re still afraid of the men who work in the warehouse.

  Gandhi is eating again.

  The black market is doing a booming business. If we had enough money to pay the ridiculous prices, we could stuff ourselves silly. Our greengrocer buys potatoes from the “Wehrmacht” and brings them in sacks to the private office. Since he suspects we’re hiding here, he makes a point of coming during lunchtime, when the warehouse employees are out.

  So much pepper is being ground at the moment that we sneeze and cough with every breath we take. Everyone who comes upstairs greets us with an “ah-CHOO.” Mrs. van D. swears she won’t go downstairs; one more whiff of pepper and she’s going to get sick.

  I don’t think Father has a very nice business. Nothing but pectin and pepper. As long as you’re in the food business, why not make candy?

  A veritable thunderstorm of words came crashing down on me again this morning. The air flashed with so many coarse expressions that my ears were ringing with “Anne’s bad this” and “van Daans’ good that.” Fire and brimstone!

  Yours, Anne


  Dearest Kitty,

  We had a short circuit last night, and besides that, the guns were booming away until dawn. I still haven’t gotten over my fear of planes and shooting, and I crawl into Father’s bed nearly every night for comfort. I know it sounds childish, but wait till it happens to you! Th
e ack-ack guns make so much noise you can’t hear your own voice. Mrs. Beaverbrook, the fatalist, practically burst into tears and said in a timid little voice, “Oh, it’s so awful. Oh, the guns are so loud!”—which is another way of saying “I’m so scared.”

  It didn’t seem nearly as bad by candlelight as it did in the dark. I was shivering, as if I had a fever, and begged Father to relight the candle. He was adamant: there was to be no light. Suddenly we heard a burst of machine-gun fire, and that’s ten times worse than antiaircraft guns. Mother jumped out of bed and, to Pim’s great annoyance, lit the candle. Her resolute answer to his grumbling was, “After all, Anne is not an ex-soldier!” And that was the end of that!

  Have I told you any of Mrs. van D.’s other fears? I don’t think so. To keep you up to date on the latest adventures in the Secret Annex, I should tell you this as well. One night Mrs. van D. thought she heard loud footsteps in the attic, and she was so afraid of burglars, she woke her husband. At that very same moment, the thieves disappeared, and the only sound Mr. van D. could hear was the frightened pounding of his fatalistic wife’s heart. “Oh, Putti!” she cried. (Putti is Mrs. van D.’s pet name for her husband.) “They must have taken all our sausages and dried beans. And what about Peter? Oh, do you think Peter’s still safe and sound in his bed?”

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