The Constant Feeling of Fear in the Diary of Anne Frank
Fear. Defined in the dictionary as “a feeling of agitation and anxiety caused by the presence or imminence of danger,” it is a feeling recognizable to almost everyone. Extreme levels of fear and the other emotions it may give way to are rarely felt by most for significant stretches of time, much less by a girl as young as Anne Frank. Frank, being a typical teenage girl, was incredibly emotional, swaying between multiple thoughts and feelings at an incredible rate. Unfortunately, the circumstance in which she recorded these sentiments where such that they were always overshadowed by her immense fear.
In the first few diary entries written in the Annex, it is clear that, although slightly afraid, Frank does not realize the true level of danger she is in and therefore fills page after page with detailed but mundane descriptions of daily life in the Annex. As Frank matures, however, in that present situation, she begins to empathize with the apprehensiveness felt by the adults and, as a result, the fear begins to increase. On Monday, November 8, 1943 (142) Frank writes “At night in bed I see myself alone in a dungeon, without father and mother. Or I’m roaming the streets, or the Annex is on fire, or they come in the middle of the night to take us away and I crawl under my bed in desperation…” In this entry, as well as many others, she discusses her constant fears of being caught by the Germans while hiding in the secret annex with her family. This entry is especially powerful because it sheds light on the fact that, in such small cramped conditions, there is little to do but let your mind wander. When put in a situation where you can not talk or laugh too loudly for fear of capture, all that one is left with is his or her thoughts and for a young girl, this can cause immense fright. As she points out on this same page of her diary, everything she says or does leads her back to thoughts of fear. She claims that the reason she is depressed at this point stems from her “cowardice which confronts (her) at every turn” (142).
This constant fear is exacerbated by the fact that the office in which the Annex is located continuously falls victim to random break-ins. As Frank points out, the break-ins are particularly terrifying for them because it could lead to their discovery and ultimately their capture. This apprehension resonates throughout Anne’s days and nights in the Annex and regardless of the other events of the attic, whether exciting or upsetting, the dread of discovery never leaves her mind and she mentions it in little tidbits throughout the journal. For example, on May 26, 1944 (303), she writes about how nerve racking just going downstairs to use the bathroom can be. After all the previous burglaries, both in the office and throughout the neighborhood, the chance of someone else being in the building is always plausible. As she explains, she “always feel(s) safer upstairs than in that huge, silent house” and when she’s “alone with those mysterious muffled sounds from upstairs and the honking of horns in the street” she has to snap out of her day dream and remind herself where she is and hurry back upstairs to “keep from getting the shivers” (303).
A month earlier, on April 11, 1944 (249), the members of the Annex received the greatest scare they ever had during their stay in the Annex. Trying to scare away burglars prowling downstairs, Mr. van Daan yelled “Police!” but managed to also draw attention to themselves. When police came to search the warehouse and the office Frank and the others had to stay completely still and without uttering a single sound. At this point Frank’s mind begins to fill with visions of Nazi sympathizers reporting their hiding place and of the Gestapo coming to the Annex and taking them away to their execution. Frank writes “That night I really thought I was going to die. I waited for the police and I was ready for death, like a soldier on a battlefield” (259).
Frank distracts herself from her fears by attempting to occupy her mind in other ways. However, every time so much as a doorbell or knock to the door is heard, fear permeates through the Annex, and it shows in the tone of her diary. She consistently describes exact conversations occurring between those in the Annex and writes in great detail about the habits and behaviors of each member of the household. By talking about every facet of her life in the Annex, Frank is clearly trying to create some sort of comforting routine which will take her mind off the constant nervousness and terror that surrounds her in the Annex and outside, in Hitler’s realm. The relative security created by her diary allows Anne to escape the harsh realities that terrorize her every time she allows her mind to wander.
Furthermore, Frank is confronted by many types of fear. The fear that is most obvious is the immediate fears she describes in her diary. This fear, which is of being caught by the Nazis, stems from a fear of suffering. Between listening to the radio for news about the war and the stories told to the members of the Annex by Jan and the other office workers, Frank is constantly bombarded by tales of the horrors going on outside the Annex. These stories of other Jews in hiding being found and dragged away, and the torments inflicted upon them, as well as those who helped hide them, cause her to be in an almost constant state of paranoia, jumping at the sound of every unfamiliar knock. Many times, she describes air raids so loud and in such seemingly close proximity that cause her to be too scared to sleep alone in her own bed. On July 26, 1943 she recounts a day which was full of air raids, explosions, and bombs and claims that she was shaking the whole day, clutching an “escape bag.” On this day she realized the situation was like a double edged sword; if they got caught in an air raid, the office building could be bombed but if they ran outside, they would surely be captured and taken away. Although she does not say so directly, Frank fears that the result of being captured would be a torturous stay in a concentration camp. As she says on November 19, 1942 (67), she “gets frightened (herself) when she think(s) of close friends who are now at the mercy of the cruelest monsters ever to stalk the earth.”
Moreover, Frank claims that death is not something that concerns her too much. As a child living in that situation, Frank needs to be able to feel brave, as if she overcame something so she takes the one fear that is the most intangible and pushes it as far from her mind as possible. This fear is death. Surely Frank is afraid of being caught and dying in a concentration camp but this is only because of the stories she has heard from the adults around her. In a child’s mind, death is not a feasible occurrence and she can therefore allow herself to believe that she does not fear it.
At night Frank dreams of past friends and acquaintances that are being captured and herded to the concentration camps to face their certain death. In many an entry Frank describes dreams in which she conjures up her past and it begins to haunt her. After a year of hearing horrid descriptions of the tortures being inflicted on the Jewish people who were not quite as lucky as she to have found a place to hide, Frank begins to feel an enormous guilt for having seemingly escaped. On November 27, 1943 (147) Frank recounts a dream she had the night before about Hanneli, one of her childhood companions who, that same year, was sent to a concentration camp. In her dream Hanneli appears sickly, dressed in nothing but dirty rags and she cries “Oh, Anne, why have you deserted me? Help me, help me, rescue me from this hell!” This dream stems from the steady news of friends being lost to the Nazis. Frank is terrified of being caught and feels terrible that she can not do anything to rescue her friends. Subconsciously she also fears being held responsible for surviving and, in a sense, deserting her people when they were most in need of help.
Spending her teen years hiding in the Annex, in a constant state of dread, shaped the development of Anne Frank and it is observable in the progression of her diary entries. When she began to write, Frank was a naïve and innocent young girl who did not truly grasp the horrors of the Holocaust. Although she did know what was going on, capture and death were both abstract notions that do not become tangible until much later in her writing. As life in the Annex progresses, Frank describes in great length, not only the day by day occurrences of the household, but also the various feelings and emotions she goes through, all of which are overshadowed by fear. Knowing that surrounding areas are growing increasingly Anti-Semitic and hearing the news describing various tortures being brought upon Jews only increases Frank’s fear of this anguish continuing even after the war, if she would have survived.
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