The story of Anne Frank and her family could have gone untold, just like countless stories of Jewish families during World War II. Instead, because of Anne’s diary, she has touched the hearts of millions of people all over the world. Anne and her family were Jews living in Germany until Hitler’s rise to power and growing anti-semitism made them feel it was necessary to move to the Netherlands. Once the Nazis invaded the Netherlands, it was not long before the family made the decision to go into hiding. They hid in the rear annex of the building housing Otto Frank’s business. For more than two years, Anne’s family lived with a few other refugees in the tiny space dubbed the “Secret Annex” while friends of the family assisted in smuggling food and supplies to them, all while business continued in the building below. During this time, Anne poured her heart out to a diary. When the family was betrayed and discovered by the Nazis in 1944, Anne was sent to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where she died of Typhus in 1945. Her diary, however, was rescued by one of the family’s “helpers,” Miep Gies. After the war, Miep returned the diary to Otto Frank, who published the writings so that the world could understand the ravages of war, the pain of families torn apart, and lost dreams of little children. Today, The Diary of a Young Girl has been published in close to 70 languages.

Portrait of Miep Gies c. 1930s

The ordeal that Anne and her family endured, certainly tested their faith and courage. In reading Anne’s thoughts, it is clear that she is conflicted about how people can treat others so cruelly, and how God can allow this suffering to happen. But her faith in others is never truly destroyed. She writes, “Human greatness does not lie in wealth or power, but in character and goodness. People are just people, and all people have faults and shortcomings, but all of us are born with a basic goodness.” It is possible that this faith was encouraged by the ongoing support of the “helpers” who risked their lives to protect the Frank family. In June 1996 in Washington, DC Miep Gies received a lifetime achievement award from the Anti-Defamation League. She begins her acceptance speech, “People often ask where I found the courage to help the Frank family. Yes, it certainly takes some courage, some discipline and also some sacrifice to do your human duty. But that is true for so many things in life! Therefore, this question surprises me, because I simply cannot think of doing anything else.” She goes on to explain that people “in trouble” are not necessarily at fault, and that we should always be ready to call out injustice, even if it does not directly affect us, “if injustice happens to your neighbor, there is no guarantee that it will not come to your home, that it will stop at your doorstep! Therefore, we should never be bystanders, because, as we have seen 50 years ago, that can be very dangerous for ourselves as well!” Read the full text

Diary on display at the Anne Frank Museum (photo credit Heather Cowper)

So how can we draw inspiration from the words of Anne Frank for our lives of faith today? Near the end of the diary, Anne writes “I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I’ve never met. I want to go on living even after my death! And that’s why I’m so grateful to God for having given me this gift, which I can use to develop myself and to express all that’s inside me! When I write I can shake off all my cares. My sorrow disappears, my spirits are revived! But, and that’s a big question, will I ever be able to write something great, will I ever become a journalist or a writer?” It is heartbreaking to read of Anne’s dreams that were cut short by violence and brutality. But after her death, her dreams lived on just as she hoped. Her story has the power to change us. Her words inspire others around the world even to this day. Because of us, her voice and her story can continue when we show compassion to others and advocate for the oppressed. By continuing the work of Jesus, we work for a world free from war, oppression, and injustice. And in our own lives, we work toward healing our brokenness from God and one another. In this way, Anne’s legacy inspires us to reach out a hand to those in need. To be an unambiguous witness for Christ’s love in the world.

Anne Frank Memorial, Amsterdam (photo credit Hakan Dahlstrom)

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