Wednesday, August 12, 2009

World War II through memoirs

I waited until my late-twenties to read Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl. Having not experienced the book in my early teens leaves me slightly embarrassed; however, reading it as an adult allowed for deeper enjoyment and amazement of Anne’s writing, spirit, and elevated perception. Upon completing the diary and being absolutely blown away, I began to consider the pragmatics. How did two families remain hidden in central Amsterdam for more than two years? The Franks believed each day they survived was a victory. These daily victories were achieved through belief, but also through the tireless work of a handful of Amsterdammers dedicated to the Frank’s survival.

Miep Gies was one of these resisters. She appears throughout Anne’s diary: having sleepovers with the Frank girls, bringing vital news, and most importantly, ensuring food. Gies remains adamant that she did nothing special, saying: “I am not a hero but did what seemed necessary at the time.” Her humility is certainly admirable but the day-to-day risks she encountered were heroic. After decades of refusals, Miep Gies fortunately agreed to depict her time during the war. Her memoir is titled Anne Frank Remembered and is an excellent companion to The Diary of a Young Girl. Gies tells of the constant struggle to find enough food, yet never flinches in her devotion to the preservation of the Franks.

After reading these two memoirs I began seeking out other World War II memoirs and found an excellent one in Philip Freiherr von Boeselager’s Valkyrie. Von Boeselager passed away in 2008 and was the last survivor of the 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler. This memoir reveals the conflict felt by von Boeselager and his comrades: how do you serve the country you love yet destroy the apparatus committing genocide? Von Boeselager and his conspirators answer was to assassinate the Nazi leadership.

World War II was horrendous, but I am enjoying learning through the memories of its victims and its participants.

The Diary of a Young Girl

Anne Frank Remembered


1 comment:

Becky said...

I remember reading "The Diary of Ann Frank," as a teenager and have been hooked on Memoirs of the past ever since. Recently I stumbled across another great World War II memoir titled, "Abandoned and Forgotten." The author, Evelyne Tannehill, writes a very heart felt story about her experience of living in Germany as a little girl and experiencing the terror of that time. I think the thing that captivated me most about this book is that I hadn't really read a lot of books that focus on the perspective of the German people.. mostly the Jews. It was very educational for me to learn that a lot of the people in Germany, who went against Hitler's regime, also suffered and feared extensively.