The Diary of a Young Girl (6 page)

BOOK: The Diary of a Young Girl
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Father and I are currently working on our family tree, and he tells me something about each person as we go along.

I’ve begun my schoolwork. I’m working hard at French, cramming five irregular verbs into my head every
day. But I’ve forgotten much too much of what I learned in school.

Peter has taken up his English with great reluctance. A few schoolbooks have just arrived, and I brought a large supply of notebooks, pencils, erasers and labels from home. Pim (that’s our pet name for Father) wants me to help him with his Dutch lessons. I’m perfectly willing to tutor him in exchange for his assistance with French and other subjects. But he makes the most unbelievable mistakes!

I sometimes listen to the Dutch broadcasts from London. Prince Bernhard recently announced that Princess Juliana is expecting a baby in January, which I think is wonderful. No one here understands why I take such an interest in the Royal Family.

A few nights ago I was the topic of discussion, and we all decided I was an ignoramus. As a result, I threw myself into my schoolwork the next day, since I have little desire to still be a freshman when I’m fourteen or fifteen. The fact that I’m hardly allowed to read anything was also discussed. At the moment, Mother’s reading
The House of Tavelinck
, and of course I’m not allowed to read it (though Margot is!). First I have to be more intellectually developed, like my genius of a sister. Then we discussed my ignorance of philosophy, psychology and physiology (I immediately looked up these big words in the dictionary!). It’s true, I don’t know anything about these subjects. But maybe I’ll be smarter next year!

I’ve come to the shocking conclusion that I have only one long-sleeved dress and three cardigans to wear in the winter. Father’s given me permission to knit a white wool sweater; the yarn isn’t very pretty, but it’ll be warm, and that’s what counts. Some of our clothing was
left with friends, but unfortunately we won’t be able to get to it until after the war. Provided it’s still there, of course.

I’d just finished writing something about Mrs. van Daan when she walked into the room. Thump, I slammed the book shut.

“Hey, Anne, can’t I even take a peek?”

“No, Mrs. van Daan.”

“Just the last page then?”

“No, not even the last page, Mrs. van Daan.”

Of course, I nearly died, since that particular page contained a rather unflattering description of her.

There’s something happening every day, but I’m too tired and lazy to write it all down.

Yours, Anne

F
RIDAY
, S
EPTEMBER
25, 1942

Dearest Kitty
,

Father has a friend, a man in his mid-seventies named Mr. Dreher, who’s sick, poor and deaf as a post. At his side, like a useless appendage, is his wife, twenty-seven years younger and equally poor, whose arms and legs are loaded with real and fake bracelets and rings left over from more prosperous days. This Mr. Dreher has already been a great nuisance to Father, and I’ve always admired the saintly patience with which he handled this pathetic old man on the phone. When we were still living at home, Mother used to advise him to put a gramophone in front of the receiver, one that would repeat every three minutes, “Yes, Mr. Dreher” and “No, Mr. Dreher,” since the old man never understood a word of Father’s lengthy replies anyway.

Today Mr. Dreher phoned the office and asked Mr. Kugler to come and see him. Mr. Kugler wasn’t in the
mood and said he would send Miep, but Miep canceled the appointment. Mrs. Dreher called the office three times, but since Miep was reportedly out the entire afternoon, she had to imitate Bep’s voice. Downstairs in the office as well as upstairs in the Annex, there was great hilarity. Now each time the phone rings, Bep says “That’s Mrs. Dreher!” and Miep has to laugh, so that the people on the other end of the line are greeted with an impolite giggle. Can’t you just picture it? This has got to be the greatest office in the whole wide world. The bosses and the office girls have such fun together!

Some evenings I go to the van Daans for a little chat. We eat “mothball cookies” (molasses cookies that were stored in a closet that was mothproofed) and have a good time. Recently the conversation was about Peter. I said that he often pats me on the cheek, which I don’t like. They asked me in a typically grown-up way whether I could ever learn to love Peter like a brother, since he loves me like a sister. “Oh, no!” I said, but what I was thinking was, “Oh, ugh!” Just imagine! I added that Peter’s a bit stiff, perhaps because he’s shy. Boys who aren’t used to being around girls are like that.

I must say that the Annex Committee (the men’s section) is very creative. Listen to the scheme they’ve come up with to get a message to Mr. Broks, an Opekta Co. sales representative and friend who’s surreptitiously hidden some of our things for us! They’re going to type a letter to a store owner in southern Zeeland who is, indirectly, one of Opekta’s customers and ask him to fill out a form and send it back in the enclosed self-addressed envelope. Father will write the address on the envelope himself. Once the letter is returned from Zeeland, the form can be removed and a handwritten message confirming that Father is alive can be inserted in the envelope. This
way Mr. Broks can read the letter without suspecting a ruse. They chose the province of Zeeland because it’s close to Belgium (a letter can easily be smuggled across the border) and because no one is allowed to travel there without a special permit. An ordinary salesman like Mr. Broks would never be granted a permit.

Yesterday Father put on another act. Groggy with sleep, he stumbled off to bed. His feet were cold, so I lent him my bed socks. Five minutes later he flung them to the floor. Then he pulled the blankets over his head because the light bothered him. The lamp was switched off, and he gingerly poked his head out from under the covers. It was all very amusing. We started talking about the fact that Peter says Margot is a “buttinsky.” Suddenly Daddy’s voice was heard from the depths: “Sits on her butt, you mean.”

Mouschi, the cat, is becoming nicer to me as time goes by, but I’m still somewhat afraid of her.

Yours, Anne

S
UNDAY
, S
EPTEMBER
27, 1942

Dearest Kitty
,

Mother and I had a so-called “discussion” today, but the annoying part is that I burst into tears. I can’t help it. Daddy is
always
nice to me, and he also understands me much better. At moments like these I can’t stand Mother. It’s obvious that I’m a stranger to her; she doesn’t even know what I think about the most ordinary things.

We were talking about maids and the fact that you’re supposed to refer to them as “domestic help” these days. She claimed that when the war is over, that’s what they’ll want to be called. I didn’t quite see it that way. Then she added that I talk about “later” so often and that I act as if
I were such a lady, even though I’m not, but I don’t think building sand castles in the air is such a terrible thing to do, as long as you don’t take it too seriously. At any rate, Daddy usually comes to my defense. Without him I wouldn’t be able to stick it out here.

I don’t get along with Margot very well either. Even though our family never has the same kind of outbursts they have upstairs, I find it far from pleasant. Margot’s and Mother’s personalities are so alien to me. I understand my girlfriends better than my own mother. Isn’t that a shame?

For the umpteenth time, Mrs. van Daan is sulking. She’s very moody and has been removing more and more of her belongings and locking them up. It’s too bad Mother doesn’t repay every van Daan “disappearing act” with a Frank “disappearing act.”

Some people, like the van Daans, seem to take special delight not only in raising their own children but in helping others raise theirs. Margot doesn’t need it, since she’s naturally good, kind and clever, perfection itself, but I seem to have enough mischief for the two of us. More than once the air has been filled with the van Daans’ admonitions and my saucy replies. Father and Mother always defend me fiercely. Without them I wouldn’t be able to jump back into the fray with my usual composure. They keep telling me I should talk less, mind my own business and be more modest, but I seem doomed to failure. If Father weren’t so patient, I’d have long ago given up hope of ever meeting my parents’ quite moderate expectations.

If I take a small helping of a vegetable I loathe and eat potatoes instead, the van Daans, especially Mrs. van Daan, can’t get over how spoiled I am. “Come on, Anne, eat some more vegetables,” she says.

“No, thank you, ma’am,” I reply. “The potatoes are more than enough.”

“Vegetables are good for you; your mother says so too. Have some more,” she insists, until Father intervenes and upholds my right to refuse a dish I don’t like.

Then Mrs. van D. really flies off the handle: “You should have been at our house, where children were brought up the way they should be. I don’t call this a proper upbringing. Anne is terribly spoiled. I’d never allow that. If Anne were my daughter …”

This is always how her tirades begin and end: “If Anne were my daughter …” Thank goodness I’m not.

But to get back to the subject of raising children, yesterday a silence fell after Mrs. van D. finished her little speech. Father then replied, “I think Anne is very well brought up. At least she’s learned not to respond to your interminable sermons. As far as the vegetables are concerned, all I have to say is look who’s calling the kettle black.”

Mrs. van D. was soundly defeated. The pot calling the kettle black refers of course to Madame herself, since she can’t tolerate beans or any kind of cabbage in the evening because they give her “gas.” But I could say the same. What a dope, don’t you think? In any case, let’s hope she stops talking about me.

It’s so funny to see how quickly Mrs. van Daan flushes. I don’t, and it secretly annoys her no end.

Yours, Anne

M
ONDAY
, S
EPTEMBER
28, 1942

Dearest Kitty
,

I had to stop yesterday, though I was nowhere near finished. I’m dying to tell you about another one of our clashes, but before I do I’d like to say this: I think it’s odd
that grown-ups quarrel so easily and so often and about such petty matters. Up to now I always thought bickering was just something children did and that they outgrew it. Of course, there’s sometimes a reason to have a “real” quarrel, but the verbal exchanges that take place here are just plain bickering. I should be used to the fact that these squabbles are daily occurrences, but I’m not and never will be as long as I’m the subject of nearly every discussion. (They refer to these as “discussions” instead of “quarrels,” but Germans don’t know the difference!) They criticize everything, and I mean everything, about me: my behavior, my personality, my manners; every inch of me, from head to toe and back again, is the subject of gossip and debate. Harsh words and shouts are constantly being flung at my head, though I’m absolutely not used to it. According to the powers that be, I’m supposed to grin and bear it. But I can’t! I have no intention of taking their insults lying down. I’ll show them that Anne Frank wasn’t born yesterday. They’ll sit up and take notice and keep their big mouths shut when I make them see they ought to attend to their own manners instead of mine. How dare they act that way! It’s simply barbaric. I’ve been astonished, time and again, at such rudeness and most of all … at such stupidity (Mrs. van Daan). But as soon as I’ve gotten used to the idea, and that shouldn’t take long, I’ll give them a taste of their own medicine, and then they’ll change their tune! Am I really as bad-mannered, headstrong, stubborn, pushy, stupid, lazy, etc., etc., as the van Daans say I am? No, of course not. I know I have my faults and shortcomings, but they blow them all out of proportion! If you only knew, Kitty, how I seethe when they scold and mock me. It won’t take long before I explode with pent-up rage.

But enough of that. I’ve bored you long enough with
my quarrels, and yet I can’t resist adding a highly interesting dinner conversation.

Somehow we landed on the subject of Pim’s extreme diffidence. His modesty is a well-known fact, which even the stupidest person wouldn’t dream of questioning. All of a sudden Mrs. van Daan, who feels the need to bring herself into every conversation, remarked, “I’m very modest and retiring too, much more so than my husband!”

Have you ever heard anything so ridiculous? This sentence clearly illustrates that she’s not exactly what you’d call modest!

Mr. van Daan, who felt obliged to explain the “much more so than my husband,” answered calmly, “I have no desire to be modest and retiring. In my experience, you get a lot further by being pushy!” And turning to me, he added, “Don’t be modest and retiring, Anne. It will get you nowhere.”

Mother agreed completely with this viewpoint. But, as usual, Mrs. van Daan had to add her two cents. This time, however, instead of addressing me directly, she turned to my parents and said, “You must have a strange outlook on life to be able to say that to Anne. Things were different when I was growing up. Though they probably haven’t changed much since then, except in your modern household!”

This was a direct hit at Mother’s modern child-rearing methods, which she’s defended on many occasions. Mrs. van Daan was so upset her face turned bright red. People who flush easily become even more agitated when they feel themselves getting hot under the collar, and they quickly lose to their opponents.

The nonflushed mother, who now wanted to have the matter over and done with as quickly as possible,
paused for a moment to think before she replied. “Well, Mrs. van Daan, I agree that it’s much better if a person isn’t overmodest. My husband, Margot and Peter are all exceptionally modest. Your husband, Anne and I, though not exactly the opposite, don’t let ourselves be pushed around.”

Mrs. van Daan: “Oh, but Mrs. Frank, I don’t understand what you mean! Honestly, I’m extremely modest and retiring. How can you say that I’m pushy?”

Mother: “I didn’t say you were pushy, but no one would describe you as having a retiring disposition.”

BOOK: The Diary of a Young Girl
7.53Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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