On the morning of August 4, 1944, a teenage girl living in Amsterdam was arrested by Nazi soldiers and sent to a concentration camp. She was one of 107,000 Jews deported from the Netherlands between 1942 and 1944; only 5,000 survived. She did not, dying of typhus eight months later.
She was one of six million victims of the Shoah (as Jews often refer to the Holocaust). Her father was the only member of her family to survive; many of her friends were murdered as well. A family friend gathered up the scattered papers of her diary after her arrest, and gave them to her father when he returned. Her diary was published in the Netherlands in 1947, in Germany and France in 1950, and in the U.K. and America in 1952.
The world knows it as The Diary of a Young Girl. Its author was Anne Frank.
Her story nearly defies belief: as Nazi oppression escalated, the family pretended to flee to Switzerland before hiding in secret rooms they entered behind a bookcase. In total, eight people hid from the authorities for more than two years before they were betrayed by an informer. Anne and her sister were taken to Bergen-Belsen, where they died just a few weeks before British troops liberated the camp. Their bodies were buried in a mass grave at an unknown location.
Her diary has now been translated into 70 languages and published in over 60 countries. More than 30 million copies have been sold. It has introduced generations of young people to the reality and horrors of the Holocaust. In 1999, Time magazine selected her as one of the 100 most important people of the century.
Reading parts of her diary is an extremely emotional experience. She describes her mounting despair: “I’ve reached the point where I hardly care whether I live or die. The world will keep turning without me, and I can’t do anything to change events anyway.” But she refused to abandon hope. Just two weeks before she was captured, Anne 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. It’s utterly impossible for me to build my life on a foundation of chaos, suffering and death. I see the world being slowly transformed into a wilderness, I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too, I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty too shall end, that peace and tranquility will return once more.”
Anne Frank was right: it is impossible to build our lives on a foundation of chaos, suffering and death. Seventy years after she was arrested, Jesus still offers “liberty to the captives” (Luke 4:18). Why do you need his freedom and hope today? How will you share them with the world?