This Memorial Day weekend, I had the opportunity to do something I’ve wanted to do for years: Visit the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. It felt particularly poignant that I did so over Memorial Day weekend, an American holiday weekend intended to honor those who fell while in service to our country.
Anne Frank was born to a Jewish family in Germany in 1929 but moved to the Netherlands in 1934 to escape Nazi-controlled Germany. When she was 13 years old, she and her family went into hiding in the annex of her father’s company’s building, where they hid for over two years. She diligently kept a diary during this time; since the family was unable to leave the annex to go outside, her diary was often her only escape.
Anne was a remarkable and precocious young woman — and I believe her to be one of the most powerful women in history simply due to her passion to take up her pen and her talent at capturing the horrors of World War II.
After Anne’s family was discovered by the Gestapo in 1944, Anne was eventually sent to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where she died in early 1945. Her father Otto published her diary in 1947 with the title The Diary of a Young Girl.
Anne’s writing included simple, yet powerful, lines such as these:
How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world! (March 26, 1944)
I want to go on living even after my death! (April 5, 1944)
It’s difficult in times like these: ideals, dreams and cherished hopes rise within us, only to be crushed by grim reality. It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart. (July 15, 1944)
However, although I usually find strength and inspiration in these passages, another passage sprung to mind as I toured Anne’s hidden home over this particular weekend. The diary entry below was written just two months before she and her family were found and arrested by the Gestapo:
Is this really the beginning of the long-awaited liberation? The liberation we’ve all talked so much about, which still seems too good, too much of a fairy tale ever to come true? Will this year, 1944, bring us victory? We don’t know yet. But where there’s hope, there’s life. It fills us with fresh courage and makes us strong again. (June 6, 1944)
In this passage, Anne was referencing the Allied invasion of Normandy, which took place that same day — June 6, 1944. It was the hope of Anne, and many living in Nazi-controlled territory, that the invasion would lead to a swift end to the war and its religious persecution and genocide.
The Allied forces included American, British, Canadian, and Free French forces. It has been estimated the Allies suffered as many as 10,000 casualties on D-Day alone; 4,414 were confirmed dead, and the U.S. National D-Day Memorial Foundation has verified at least 2,499 Americans died on that day.
And, though estimates of total WWII fatalities vary, the National WWII Museum states that 416,800 American soldiers died during the war.
Anne’s passage is a beautiful example of how soldiers battling evil can provide hope, courage, and strength. It’s a reminder that soldiers who died in battle did not die in vain, because their efforts helped to make the world a better place.
On this Memorial Day, I remember the soldiers who gave their lives throughout history to stop evils such as the Holocaust and to try to save innocent lives such as that of Anne Frank. May they all rest in peace and may their memories never be forgotten.
The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent those of any other individual or entity. Follow Sarah on Twitter: @sarahmquinlan.