Last week was the 84th birthday of Anne Frank, as well as anniversary of the first post in her diary in which she famously wrote, “I hope I will be able to confide everything to you, as I have never been able to confide in anyone, and I hope you will be a great source of comfort and support.”
First published in 1947, “The Diary of A Young Girl,” was an immediate sensation — not only for the impressive writing, but for the stark description of life in hiding. The book has had a storied history since then, winning a Pulitzer Prize, earning worldwide accolades, and drawing royalty to performances of the stage version. Not everyone was enthused by the performance, however. In 1957, Parisian officials would not allow the play to run for fear that Germans would feel slighted by the performance. Moreover, the play became a lightning rod for anti-Semitism, attracting neo-Nazis throughout the world to disrupt performances.
Still, the book has become a staple of school curricula, though even this has sparked controversy. In the United States, the religious right found the book offensive for portraying different religions in a pluralistic manner. Some parents went so far as to pull their children from class the days the diary would be read. In 2009, Hezbollah pressured a private school in Beirut to remove snippets of the diary from its curriculum.
Perhaps most interestingly, the diary was used by prosecutors to convict the Nazi officers who deported Jews out of Holland to concentration camps.
With time, Anne Frank became a universal symbol of hope and the desire for freedom. In 1961, President Kennedy honored Anne Frank and explained that she gave the world …
… a gift that will survive her enemies…Of the multitude who throughout history have spoken for human dignity in times of great suffering and loss, few are more compelling than that of Anne Frank. Her humor, her humanity and her hope illuminate the hearts of men heavily clouded by the apparent willingness of those who seek power and domain over the soul of man to again deprive people of the right to live in peace, tolerance and freedom.
In 1994, appearing at the opening here of an exhibition about the life of Anne Frank, South African President Nelson Mandela said: “The victory of the democratic forces in South Africa is a contribution to this worldwide effort to rid humanity of the evil of racism. It is Anne Frank’s victory. It is an achievement of humanity as a whole.”