MARCH 27 - APRIL 5, 1944
MONDAY, MARCH 27, 1944
At least one long chapter on our life in hiding should be about politics, but I've been avoiding the subject, since it interests me so little. Today, however, I'll devote an entire letter to politics.
Of course, there are many different opinions on this topic, and it's not surprising to hear it frequently discussed in times of war, but . . . arguing so much about politics is just plain stupid! Let them laugh, swear, make bets, grumble and do whatever they want as long as they stew in their own juice. But don't let them argue, since that only makes things worse. The people who come from outside bring us a lot of news that later proves to be untrue; however, up to now our radio has never lied. Jan, Miep, Mr. Kleiman, Bep and Mr. Kugler go up and down in their political moods, though Jan least of all.
Here in the Annex the mood never varies. The end- less debates over the invasion, air raids, speeches, etc., etc., are accompanied by countless exclamations such as "Oh, for heaven’s sake”. If they're just getting started now, how long is it going to last! It's going splendidly, But, great!" Optimists and pessimists -- not to mention the realists -- air their opinions with unflagging energy, and as with everything else, they're all certain that they have a monopoly on the truth. It annoys a certain lady that her spouse has such supreme faith in the British, and a certain husband attacks his wife because of her teasing and disparaging remarks about his beloved nation!
And so it goes from early in the morning to late at night; the funny part is that they never get tired of it. I've discovered a trick, and the effect is overwhelming, just like pricking someone with a pin and watching them jump. Here's how it works: I start talking about politics.
All it takes is a single question, a word or a sentence, and before you know it, the entire family is involved!
As if the German "Wehrmacht News" and the English BBC weren't enough, they've now added special air-raid announcements. In a word, splendid. But the other side of the coin is that the British Air Force is operating around the clock. Not unlike the German propaganda machine, which is cranking out lies twenty-four hours a day! So the radio is switched on every morning at eight (if not earlier) and is listened to every hour until nine, ten or even eleven at night. This is the best evidence yet that the adults have infinite patience, but also that their brains have turned to mush (some of them, I mean, since I wouldn't want to insult anyone). One broadcast, two at the most, should be enough to last the entire day. But no, those old nincompoops . . . never mind, I've already said it all! "Music While You Work," the Dutch broadcast from England, Frank Phillips or Queen Wilhelmina, they each get a turn and find a willing listener. If the adults aren't eating or sleeping, they're clustered around the radio talking about eating, sleeping and politics. Whew! It's getting to be a bore, and it's all I can do to keep from turning into a dreary old crone myself! Though with all the old folks around me, that might not be such a bad idea!
Here's a shining example, a speech made by our beloved Winston Churchill.
Nine o'clock, Sunday evening. The teapot, under its cozy, is on the table, and the guests enter the room.
Dussel sits to the left of the radio, Mr. van D. in front of it and Peter to the side.
Mother is next to Mr. van D., with Mrs. van D. behind them. Margot and I are sitting in the last row and Pim at the table. I realize this isn't a very clear description of our seating arrangements, but it doesn't matter. The men smoke, Peter's eyes close from the strain of listening, Mama is dressed in her long, dark negligee, Mrs. van D. is trembling because of the planes, which take no notice of the speech but fly blithely on toward Essen, Father is slurping his tea, and Margot and I are united in a sisterly way by the sleeping Mouschi, who has taken possession of both our knees. Margot's hair is in curlers and my nightgown is too small, too tight and too short. It all looks so intimate, cozy and peaceful, and for once it really is. Yet I await the end of the speech willing dread. They're impatient, straining at the leash to start another argument! Pst, pst, like a cat luring a mouse from its hole, they goad each other into quarrels and dissent.
TUESDAY, MARCH 28, 1944
My dearest Kitty,
As much as I'd like to write more on politics, I have lots of other news to report today. First, Mother has virtually forbidden me to go up to Peter's, since, according to her, Mrs. van Daan is jealous. Second, Peter's invited Margot to join us upstairs. Whether he really means it or is just saying it out of politeness, I don't know. Third, I asked Father if he thought I should take any notice of Mrs. van Daan's jealousy and he said I didn't have to.
What should I do now? Mother's angry, doesn't want me going upstairs, wants me to go back to doing my homework in the room I share with Dussel. She may be jealous herself. Father doesn't begrudge us those few hours and thinks it's nice we get along so well. Margot likes Peter too, but feels that three people can't talk about the same things as two.
Furthermore, Mother thinks Peter's in love with me. To tell you the truth, I wish he were. Then we'd be even, and it'd be a lot easier to get to know each other. She also claims he's always looking at me. Well, I suppose we do give each other the occasional wink. But I can't help it if he keeps admiring my dimples, can I? I'm in a very difficult position. Mother's against me and I'm against her. Father turns a blind eye to the silent struggle between Mother and me. Mother is sad, because she still loves me, but I'm not at all unhappy, because she no longer means anything to me. As for Peter. . . I don't want to give him up. He's so sweet and I admire him so much. He and I could have a really beautiful relationship, so why are the old folks poking their noses into our business again? Fortunately, I'm used to hiding my feelings, so I manage not to show how crazy I am about him. Is he ever going to say anything? Am I ever going to feel his cheek against mine, the way I felt Petel's cheek in my dream? Oh, Peter and Petel, you're one and the same! They don't understand us; they'd never understand that we're content just to sit beside each other and not say a word. They have no idea of what draws us together! Oh, when will we overcome all these difficulties? And yet it's good that we have to surmount them, since it makes the end that much more beautiful. When he lays his head on his arms and closes his eyes, he's still a child; when he plays with Mouschi or talks about her, he's loving; when he carries the potatoes or other heavy loads, he's strong; when he goes to watch the gunfire or walks through the dark house to look for burglars, he's brave; and when he's so awkward and clumsy, he's hopelessly endearing. It's much nicer when he explains something to me than when I have to teach him. I wish he were superior to me in nearly every way! What do we care about our two mothers? Oh, if only he'd say something.
Father always says I'm conceited, but I'm not, I'm merely vain! I haven't had many people tell me I was pretty, except for a boy at school who said I looked so cute when I smiled. Yesterday Peter paid me a true compliment, and just for fun I'll give you a rough idea of our conversation.
Peter often says, "Smile!" I thought it was strange, so yesterday I asked him, "Why do you always want me to smile?"
"Because you get dimples in your cheeks. How do you do that?"
"I was born with them. There's also one in my chin. It's the only mark of beauty I possess."
"No, no, that's not true!"
"Yes it is. I know I'm not beautiful. I never have been and I never will be!"
"I don't agree. I think you're pretty."
"I am not."
"I say you are, and you'll have to take my word for it." So of course I then said the same about him.
Yours, Anne M. Frank
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 29, 1944
Mr. Bolkestein, the Cabinet Minister, speaking on the Dutch broadcast from London, said that after the war a collection would be made of diaries and letters dealing with the war. Of course, everyone pounced on my diary. Just imagine how interesting it would be if I were to publish a novel about the Secret Annex. The title alone would make people think it was a detective story.
Seriously, though, ten years after the war people would find it very amusing to read how we lived, what we ate and what we talked about as Jews in hiding. Although I tell you a great deal about our lives, you still know very little about us. How frightened the women are during air raids; last Sunday, for instance, when 350 British planes dropped 550 tons of bombs on Ijmuiden, so that the houses trembled like blades of grass in the wind. Or how many epidemics are raging here. You know nothing of these matters, and it would take me all day to describe everything down to the last detail. People have to stand in line to buy vegetables and all kinds of goods; doctors can't visit their patients, since their cars and bikes are stolen the moment they turn their backs; burglaries and thefts are so common that you ask yourself what's suddenly gotten into the Dutch to make them so light-fingered. Little children, eight- and eleven- year-olds, smash the windows of people's homes and steal whatever they can lay their hands on. People don't dare leave the house for even five minutes, since they're liable to come back and find all their belongings gone. Every day the newspapers are filled with reward notices for the return of stolen typewriters, Persian rugs, electric clocks, fabrics, etc. The electric clocks on street corners are dismantled, public phones are stripped down to the last wire. Morale among the Dutch can't be good. Everyone's hungry; except for the ersatz coffee, a week's food ration doesn't last two days. The invasion's long in coming, the men are being shipped off to Germany, the children are sick or undernourished, everyone's wearing worn-out clothes and run-down shoes. A new sole costs 7.50 guilders on the black market. Besides, few shoemakers will do repairs, or if they do, you have to wait four months for your shoes, which might very well have disappeared in the meantime.
One good thing has come out of this: as the food gets worse and the decrees more severe, the acts of sabotage against the authorities are increasing. The ration board, the police, the officials-they're all either helping their fellow citizens or denouncing them and sending them off to prison. Fortunately, only a small percentage of Dutch people are on the wrong side.
FRIDAY, MARCH 31, 1944
Just imagine, it's still fairly cold, and yet most people have been without coal for nearly a month. Sounds awful, doesn't it? There's a general mood of optimism about the Russian front, because that's going great guns! I don't often write about the political situation, but I must tell you where the Russians are at the moment. They've reached the Polish border and the Prut River in Romania. They're close to Odessa, and they've surrounded Ternopol. Every night we're expecting an extra communique from Stalin.
They're firing off so many salutes in Moscow, the city must be rumbling and shaking all day long. Whether they like to pretend the fighting's nearby or they simply don't have any other way to express their joy, I don't know!
Hungary has been occupied by German troops.
There are still a million Jews living there; they too are doomed.
Nothing special is happening here. Today is Mr. van Daan's birthday. He received two packets of tobacco, one serving of coffee, which his wife had managed to save, lemon punch from Mr. Kugler, sardines from Miep, eau de cologne from us, lilacs, tulips and, last but not least, a cake with raspberry filling, slightly gluey because of the poor quality of the flour and the lack of butter, but delicious anyway.
All that talk about Peter and me has died down a bit. He's coming to pick me up tonight. Pretty nice of him, don't you think, since he hates doing it! We're very good friends. We spend a lot of time together and talk about every imaginable subject. It's so nice not having to hold back when we come to a delicate topic, the way I would with other boys. For example, we were talking about blood and somehow the conversation turned to menstruation, etc. He thinks we women are quite tough to be able to withstand the loss of blood, and that I am too. I wonder why? My life here has gotten better, much better. God has not forsaken me, and He never will.
Yours, Anne M. Frank
SATURDAY, APRIL 1, 1944
My dearest Kitty,
And yet everything is still so difficult. You do know what I mean, don't you? I long so much for him to kiss me, but that kiss is taking its own sweet time. Does he still think of me as a friend? Don't I mean anything more?
You and I both know that I'm strong, that I can carry most burdens alone. I've never been used to sharing my worries with anyone, and I've never clung to a mother, but I'd love to lay my head on his shoulder and just sit there quietly.
I can't, I simply can't forget that dream of Peter's cheek, when everything was so good! Does he have the same longing? Is he just too shy to say he loves me? Why does he want me near him so much? Oh, why doesn't he say something?
I've got to stop, I've got to be calm. I'll try to be strong again, and if I'm patient, the rest will follow. But -- and this is the worst part -- I seem to be chasing him. I'm always the one who has to go upstairs; he never comes to me. But that's because of the rooms, and he understands why I object. Oh, I'm sure he understands more than I think.
Yours, Anne M. Frank
MONDAY, APRIL 3, 1944
My dearest Kitty,
Contrary to my usual practice, I'm going to write you a detailed description of the food situation, since it's become a matter of some difficulty and importance, not only here in the Annex, but in all of Holland, all of Europe and even beyond.
In the twenty-one months we've lived here, we've been through a good many "food cycles" -- you'll understand what that means in a moment. A "food cycle" is a period in which we have only one particular dish or type of vegetable to eat. For a long time we ate nothing but endive. Endive with sand, endive without sand, endive with mashed potatoes, endive-and-mashed potato casserole. Then it was spinach, followed by kohlrabi, salsify, cucumbers, tomatoes, sauerkraut, etc., etc.
It's not much fun when you have to eat, say, sauerkraut every day for lunch and dinner, but when you're hungry enough, you do a lot of things. Now, however, we're going through the most delightful period so far, because there are no vegetables at all. Our weekly lunch menu consists of brown beans, split-pea soup, potatoes with dumplings, potato kugel and, by the grace of God, turnip greens or rotten carrots, and then it's back to brown beans. Because of the bread shortage, we eat potatoes at every meal, starting with breakfast, but then we fry them a little. To make soup we use brown beans, navy beans, potatoes, packages of vegetable soup, packages of chicken soup and packages of bean soup. There are brown beans in everything, including the bread. For dinner we always have potatoes with imitation gravy and -- thank goodness we've still got it -- beet salad. I must tell you about the dumplings. We make them with government-issue flour, water and yeast. They're so gluey and tough that it feels as if you had rocks in your stomach, but oh well!
The high point is our weekly slice of liverwurst, and the jam on our unbuttered bread.
But we're still alive, and much of the time it still tastes good too!
Yours, Anne M. Frank
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 5, 1944
My dearest Kitty,
For a long time now I didn't know why I was bothering to do any schoolwork. The end of the war still seemed so far away, so unreal, like a fairy tale. If the war isn't over by September, I won't go back to school, since I don't want to be two years behind.
Peter filled my days, nothing but Peter, dreams and thoughts until Saturday night, when I felt so utterly miserable; oh, it was awful. I held back my tears when I was with Peter, laughed uproariously with the van Daans as we drank lemon punch and was cheerful and excited, but the minute I was alone I knew I was going to cry my eyes out. I slid to the floor in my nightgown and began by saying my prayers, very fervently. Then I drew my knees to my chest, lay my head on my arms and cried, all huddled up on the bare floor. A loud sob brought me back down to earth, and I choked back my tears, since I didn't want anyone next door to hear me. Then I tried to pull myself together, saying over and over, "I must, I must, I must. . . " Stiff from sitting in such an unusual position, I fell back against the side of the bed and kept up my struggle until just before ten-thirty, when I climbed back into bed. It was over!
And now it's really over. I finally realized that I must do my schoolwork to keep from being ignorant, to get on in life, to become a journalist, because that's what I want! I know I can write. A few of my stories are good, my descriptions of the Secret Annex are humorous, much of my diary is vivid and alive, but . . . it remains to be seen whether I really have talent.
"Eva's Dream" is my best fairy tale, and the odd thing is that I don't have the faintest idea where it came from. Parts of "Cady's Life" are also good, but as a whole it's nothing special. I'm my best and harshest critic. I know what's good and what isn't. Unless you write yourself, you can't know how wonderful it is; I always used to bemoan the fact that I couldn't draw, but now I'm overjoyed that at least I can write. And if I don't have the talent to write books or newspaper articles, I can always write for myself. But I want to achieve more than that. I can't imagine having to live like Mother, Mrs. van Daan and all the women who go about their work and are then forgotten. I need to have something besides a husband and children to devote myself to! I don't want to have lived in vain like most people. 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?
I hope so, oh, I hope so very much, because writing allows me to record everything, all my thoughts, ideals and fantasies.
I haven't worked on "Cady's Life" for ages. In my mind I've worked out exactly what happens next, but the story doesn't seem to be coming along very well. I might never finish it, and it'll wind up in the wastepaper basket or the stove. That's a horrible thought, but then I say to myself, "At the age of fourteen and with so little experience, you can't write about philosophy."
So onward and upward, with renewed spirits. It'll all work out, because I'm determined to write!
Yours, Anne M. Frank