The Diary of a Young Girl (10 page)

BOOK: The Diary of a Young Girl
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Really, it’s not easy being the badly brought-up center of attention of a family of nitpickers.

In bed at night, as I ponder my many sins and exaggerated shortcomings, I get so confused by the sheer amount of things I have to consider that I either laugh or cry, depending on my mood. Then I fall asleep with the strange feeling of wanting to be different than I am or being different than I want to be, or perhaps of behaving differently than I am or want to be.

Oh dear, now I’m confusing you too. Forgive me, but I don’t like crossing things out, and in these times of scarcity, tossing away a piece of paper is clearly taboo. So I can only advise you not to reread the above passage and to make no attempt to get to the bottom of it, because you’ll never find your way out again!

Yours, Anne

M
ONDAY
, D
ECEMBER
7, 1942

Dearest Kitty
,

Hanukkah and St. Nicholas Day nearly coincided this year; they were only one day apart. We didn’t make much of a fuss with Hanukkah, merely exchanging a few small gifts and lighting the candles. Since candles are in short supply, we lit them for only ten minutes, but as long as we sing the song, that doesn’t matter. Mr. van Daan made a menorah out of wood, so that was taken care of too.

St. Nicholas Day on Saturday was much more fun. During dinner Bep and Miep were so busy whispering to Father that our curiosity was aroused and we suspected they were up to something. Sure enough, at eight o’clock we all trooped downstairs through the hall in pitch darkness (it gave me the shivers, and I wished I was safely back upstairs!) to the alcove. We could switch on the light, since this room doesn’t have any windows. When that was done, Father opened the big cabinet.

“Oh, how wonderful!” we all cried.

In the corner was a large basket decorated with colorful paper and a mask of Black Peter.

We quickly took the basket upstairs with us. Inside was a little gift for everyone, including an appropriate verse. Since you’re familiar with the kinds of poems people write each other on St. Nicholas Day, I won’t copy them down for you.

I received a Kewpie doll, Father got bookends, and so on. Well anyway, it was a nice idea, and since the eight of us had never celebrated St. Nicholas Day before, this was a good time to begin.

Yours, Anne

PS. We also had presents for everyone downstairs, a few things left over from the Good Old Days; plus Miep and Bep are always grateful for money.

Today we heard that Mr. van Daan’s ashtray, Mr. Dussel’s picture frame and Father’s bookends were made by none other than Mr. Voskuijl. How anyone can be so clever with his hands is a mystery to me!

T
HURSDAY
, D
ECEMBER
10, 1942

Dearest Kitty
,

Mr. van Daan used to be in the meat, sausage and spice business. He was hired for his knowledge of spices, and yet, to our great delight, it’s his sausage talents that have come in handy now.

We ordered a large amount of meat (under the counter, of course) that we were planning to preserve in case there were hard times ahead. Mr. van Daan decided to make bratwurst, sausages and mettwurst. I had fun watching him put the meat through the grinder: once, twice, three times. Then he added the remaining ingredients to the ground meat and used a long pipe to force the mixture into the casings. We ate the bratwurst with sauerkraut for lunch, but the sausages, which were going to be canned, had to dry first, so we hung them over a pole suspended from the ceiling. Everyone who came into the room burst into laughter when they saw the dangling sausages. It was such a comical sight.

The kitchen was a shambles. Mr. van Daan, clad in his wife’s apron and looking fatter than ever, was working away at the meat. What with his bloody hands, red face and spotted apron, he looked like a real butcher. Mrs. van D. was trying to do everything at once: learning Dutch out of a book, stirring the soup, watching the meat, sighing and moaning about her broken rib. That’s what happens when old (!) ladies do such stupid exercises to get rid of their fat behinds! Dussel had an eye infection
and was sitting next to the stove dabbing his eye with camomile tea. Pim, seated in the one ray of sunshine coming through the window, kept having to move his chair this way and that to stay out of the way. His rheumatism must have been bothering him because he was slightly hunched over and was keeping an eye on Mr. van Daan with an agonized expression on his face. He reminded me of those aged invalids you see in the poor-house. Peter was romping around the room with Mouschi, the cat, while Mother, Margot and I were peeling boiled potatoes. When you get right down to it, none of us were doing our work properly, because we were all so busy watching Mr. van Daan.

Dussel has opened his dental practice. Just for fun, I’ll describe the session with his very first patient.

Mother was ironing, and Mrs. van D., the first victim, sat down on a chair in the middle of the room. Dussel, unpacking his case with an air of importance, asked for some eau de cologne, which could be used as a disinfectant, and vaseline, which would have to do for wax. He looked in Mrs. van D.’s mouth and found two teeth that made her wince with pain and utter incoherent cries every time he touched them. After a lengthy examination (lengthy as far as Mrs. van D. was concerned, since it actually took no longer than two minutes), Dussel began to scrape out a cavity. But Mrs. van D. had no intention of letting him. She flailed her arms and legs until Dussel finally let go of his probe and … it remained stuck in Mrs. van D.’s tooth. That really did it! Mrs. van D. lashed out wildly in all directions, cried (as much as you can with an instrument like that in your mouth), tried to remove it, but only managed to push it in even
farther. Mr. Dussel calmly observed the scene, his hands on his hips, while the rest of the audience roared with laughter. Of course, that was very mean of us. If it’d been me, I’m sure I would have yelled even louder. After a great deal of squirming, kicking, screaming and shouting, Mrs. van D. finally managed to yank the thing out, and Mr. Dussel went on with his work as if nothing had happened. He was so quick that Mrs. van D. didn’t have time to pull any more shenanigans. But then, he had more help than he’s ever had before: no fewer than two assistants; Mr. van D. and I performed our job well. The whole scene resembled one of those engravings from the Middle Ages entitled “A Quack at Work.” In the meantime, however, the patient was getting restless, since she had to keep an eye on “her” soup and “her” food. One thing is certain: it’ll be a while before Mrs. van D. makes another dental appointment!

Yours, Anne

S
UNDAY
, D
ECEMBER
13, 1942

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

T
UESDAY
, D
ECEMBER
22, 1942

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

W
EDNESDAY
, J
ANUARY
13, 1943

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.

BOOK: The Diary of a Young Girl
9.61Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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