From 1942-1944, teenage Anne Frank, along with her Jewish family and four friends, hid in a secret annex in Amsterdam. During the day, they kept as silent as possible so as not to be heard in the rooms below. They stepped around creaky floorboards, kept from flushing the one toilet, and spoke in whispers if they spoke at all. All the time, Anne kept a diary.
At the end of those two years, someone betrayed them and Anne and the others were arrested and sent to Auschwitz, a German concentration camp. Only her father, Otto Frank, survived the camp and the war. When he returned to their hiding place, a friend gave him his daughter’s diary, found the day they were arrested.
Last week, I toured Anne Frank’s house. I ducked behind the bookcase which opened to the narrow stairway leading to their hidden rooms. Following the long line of solemn visitors, I listened to words from Anne’s diary on a headset. Although the furniture was gone, the windows and walls remained just as they had been in August 1944. The windows still blackened, and photographs Anne placed on the wall above her bed were dimly lit in her small room.
I was taken back to the days Anne sat in this room quietly writing in her diary. Had the end of her story been a happy one, I would have felt very different. But Anne died in the concentration camp at sixteen of typhus – just weeks before the end of the war.
After the tour, I sat in a cafe watching tourists amble by and grieved for Anne. I imagined the sorrow and guilt her father must have felt having survived while his wife and two daughters didn’t. A friend of the family found Anne’s diary and gave it to Otto after the war. Anne’s words not only opened her father’s eyes to the thoughts and emotions of his daughter, it also provided a window for all of us.
You may say, lots of young people die of sickness and tragedy, what makes Anne’s story so special?
Her story is significant because it sheds light on the reality of the holocaust. It is a true testimony. It gives us a perspective from which we may determine good and evil, right from wrong. Some people would like us to believe the holocaust never took place – despite the many testimonies of survivors.
But when we read Anne’s diary, we get a glimmer of truth.
Jesus claimed to be truth as well as the light of the world (John 8:12 ESV). He said, nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light (Luke 8:17). When Jesus returns, he will bring light to those things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of our hearts (I Corinthians 4:5 ESV).
Despite the sadness I feel for the tragic loss of young life in our world’s history, I am encouraged by the words of Christ. There will be justice. Horrible things done in the darkest places of our world will be exposed by the light of Jesus Christ. We should tremble, but for the grace of Jesus extended to us at the cross.
Light will cast out darkness. All tears and sorrow will fade into history. There will be no night – only light and life. Come to the cross today and accept the grace offered, so you may never face the wrath of the one who sees and will one day judge our hearts.
“Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness.” Anne Frank
Frank, Anne, et al. Anne Frank: the Diary of a Young Girl. Puffin, 2015.