Paid a visit to your house this morning, along with a few thousand other folks, the one where you hid for two years during the German occupation in World War 2, until one of your neighbors ratted you out to the Nazis and they shipped you all off like cattle to Bergen-Belsen.
I saw the rooms in which you lived behind shuttered, darkened curtains day and night, not daring even to let a pinprick of light escape. I try to understand how that must have weighed on your spirit, the conflict you must have felt as a young girl who wanted to run and dance and laugh — and knowing that you dare not do any of those things.
Even after seeing your house, Anne, I cannot imagine your life.
I saw the stairs you climbed up and down to get to and from the hiding places that also served as hearth and home. My God, but they were steep! More like the ladders aboard the Navy ships I used to visit as a boy who dreamed of going to sea.
I picture you and your sister, Margot, lightly and silently bounding up and down those stairs in all your youthful agility. I’m sorry to report that neither youth nor agility have remained with me here. But in that perpetual memory that you left behind in your diary, I still see you now as you were then, young and effortless in defying gravity up those steep, wooden stairs.
The world will forever see you that way, Anne. Young. Alert. Observant and insightful beyond your years.
It’s sad to think of what you might have gone on to create and achieve had you lived to the age that I am now, or even half of it. But I prefer not to be sad when I think of you. I’d rather dwell on the incredible record of life you left behind.
You said you wanted to be a journalist and later a writer. Well, Anne, you were both. You faithfully recorded the times and circumstances of your life — and in doing so, you spoke for millions. Maybe you never knew the joy of cashing that first paycheck in return for your writings, but you were in fact a journalist, and a writer. I’m addressing you here as a colleague, not a child.
I saw that you left an unfinished novel in your house, which is fitting. Not just because your young life ended as an unfinished work, but because the struggle to rid the world of hatred, the same hatred that turned you from a child into a fugitive, also remains unfinished.
You’ve probably heard a lot of talk these days about “tolerance,” how we should replace hate in the world with tolerance. I don’t know, Anne. Tolerance seems a little negative somehow, a little inadequate. It’s as if we’re saying “I still see you as a cockroach, but I’ll put up with your existence.”
I think we might do better if we forgot about tolerance and focused on acceptance. Acceptance of each other just as we are, just as you saw us all. As human beings.
Anyway, thank you for being who you were, for the writing that you did, for the humanity you maintained in spite of everything. One day, we will meet, you and I, and talk shop. One writer to another. We’ll have fun.
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