The Diary of Anne Frank

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World War II: Fear, Suffering, and Hope Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
Inner Self, Outer Self, and Isolation Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Human Nature: Generosity and Greed Theme Icon
World War II: Fear, Suffering, and Hope Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Diary of Anne Frank, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
World War II: Fear, Suffering, and Hope Theme Icon

While Anne's diary is a remarkable evocation of a growing teenage girl under any circumstances, this is above all the narrative of a Jewish girl in the grips of World War II and the Holocaust. Anne is a girl forced to go into hiding with her family, and a girl terrified that she and everyone she loves will be killed. With every stray ring of the doorbell and knock on the wall, Anne is overcome with fear that her family will be discovered and sent away to concentration camps. The war forces her family to suffer unbelievable hardships: they starve, they suffer illnesses, they undergo incredible psychological strain and trauma.

In spite of her harrowing circumstances, Anne seems to harbor the unshakable hope that she will survive. She dreams of becoming a journalist, of falling in love, of going to extravagant parties, and of traveling the world. She longs desperately to be allowed to have a "normal" adolescence, but harbors the hope in every year of her confinement that she'll soon be able to return to her former life. The adults around her grapple with their own hopes and desires for life after the war, though many times these adults also seem to harbor fears that they won't survive to see those dreams realized.

Anne is haunted by notion that almost every Jewish person she has ever known is either experiencing immense suffering or has already died. Her survivor's guilt is embodied in her recurrent dreams, visions, and imaginings of Hanneli Goslar, one of her best friends from the prewar days.

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World War II: Fear, Suffering, and Hope ThemeTracker

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World War II: Fear, Suffering, and Hope Quotes in The Diary of Anne Frank

Below you will find the important quotes in The Diary of Anne Frank related to the theme of World War II: Fear, Suffering, and Hope.
Year 1942 Quotes

Not being able to go outside upsets me more than I can say, and I'm terrified our hiding place will be discovered and that we'll be shot. That, of course, is a fairly dismal prospect.

Related Characters: Anne Frank (speaker)
Page Number: 28
Explanation and Analysis:

Anne and her family have now confined themselves in hiding within the "Secret Annexe," trying to escape being arrested or killed for their Jewish identity. At this point the plot becomes more fraught with danger and fear, but Anne's tone of voice takes time to catch up; for instance, being discovered and shot is merely "a fairly dismal prospect," not a possibility that she seems to have really accepted yet. Anne's shock comes through her writing -- she mentions that she is terrified and upset, yet these feelings are still inexpressible (she feels "more than I can say"). This suggests how intimate diary writings can be: they do not only reveal what happens to the writer through the writer's explicit words, but they also reveal the writer's emotional states through what the writer does not say. 

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Fine specimens of humanity, those Germans, and to think I'm actually one of them! No, that's not true, Hitler took away our nationality long ago. And besides, there are no greater enemies on earth than the Germans and the Jews.

Related Characters: Anne Frank (speaker)
Page Number: 55
Explanation and Analysis:

On one day in October, Anne only shares "dismal and depressing news" about the outside world with her diary. She describes recent events in detail: Jewish individuals in the Netherlands are being taken to concentration camps (or, in Anne's words, Jewish camps), prisoners are being murdered through gassing, and the papers report hostages' deaths as "fatal accidents." These events all point to the maliciousness of the German people and the Nazi regime, but they inspire Anne to sarcasm (as she writes "Fine specimens of humanity, those Germans"). This demonstrates how Anne's diary gives her agency in an otherwise powerless position; she cannot change the events that occur outside of her individual existence, but she can at least shape the way in which she responds to them. She cannot even control her identity: the Germans took her nationality away from her by rejecting her, along with the broader Jewish community. Of course, the Germans are killing the Jewish people as well as rejecting them, which leads Anne to claim that there are "no greater enemies on Earth" than the Jews and the Germans. She is seemingly being partly sarcastic here, as it is only through Nazi propaganda that this idea became so widespread (otherwise, German Jews would just be Germans), but her words have also become deadly accurate, summarizing the unique horror of World War II.

Oh, I'm becoming so sensible! We've got to be reasonable about everything we do here….I'm afraid my common sense, which was in short supply to begin with, will be used up too quickly and I won't have any left by the time the war is over.

Related Characters: Anne Frank (speaker)
Page Number: 79
Explanation and Analysis:

Within her last entry from 1942, Anne describes how she must resist engaging in pranks that might offend Dussel, the man sharing her bedroom. Although she desires to disconnect the lamp or hide his clothes, for instance, she knows that such endeavors would merely aggravate him and stir up trouble within the confined Secret Annexe. As Anne maturely chooses to "keep the peace," she notices another change in herself (continuing her self-consciousness about her self-improvement): she is transforming into a more sensible individual, who focuses on her societal context as well as her inner impulses. We still, however, see the same cheery wit that caused her to describe her discovery and death as "a fairly dismal prospect"; she cheekily comments that she won't have any sensibleness left after the war ends. Anne maintains her wit and reveals her hope that the war will end.

Year 1943 Quotes

I could spend hours telling you about the suffering the war has brought, but I'd only make myself more miserable. All we can do is wait, as calmly as possible, for it to end. Jews and Christians alike are waiting, the whole world is waiting, and many are waiting for death.

Related Characters: Anne Frank (speaker)
Page Number: 80
Explanation and Analysis:

Anne's first entry from 1943 begins on a foreboding note: "Everything has upset me again this morning." Anne informs her reader of the horrors happening outside her enclosure and mentions that she actually harbors gratitude for being so isolated from these terrible events. She then ends by alluding to the impossibility of her describing all that is occurring. In the face of so much horror, all "we" (the undefined community which Anne references) can do is "wait," caught between the extremes of hope and fear. As Anne closes here, she adopts the eloquent tone that makes her seem prophetic, like the voice of an era.

I simply can't imagine the world will ever be normal again for us. I do talk about "after the war," but it's as if I were talking about a castle in the air, something that can never come true.

Related Characters: Anne Frank (speaker)
Page Number: 145
Explanation and Analysis:

One Monday evening in November, when Anne is experiencing a self-described state of depression, she Describes her nocturnal visions and dreams -- nightmares of solitary dungeon confinement, or flames in the "Secret Annexe," or (the eventual reality of) a time when "they" come and take the annex inhabitants away. This description has an eerie element of foreshadowing, and immediately after Anne describes how the annex's inhabitants may be discovered and removed, she says she feels that this will actually be "taking place ... Very soon." Anne's described lack of visions are just as telling as the visions she sees; Amne cannot imagine a life after the war. With unsettling accuracy, Anne foretells that, for her, such dreams are like a mere "castle in the air."

I see the eight of us in the Annex as if we were a patch of blue sky surrounded by menacing black clouds. The perfectly round spot on which we're standing is still safe, but the clouds are moving in on us, and the ring between us and the approaching danger is being pulled tighter and tighter. We're surrounded by darkness and danger, and in our desperate search for a way out we keep bumping into each other. We look at the fighting down below and the peace and beauty up above. In the meantime, we've been cut off by the dark mass of clouds, so that we can go neither up nor down. It looms before us like an impenetrable wall, trying to crush us, but not yet able to. I can only cry out and implore, "Oh ring, ring, open wide and let us out!"

Related Characters: Anne Frank (speaker)
Page Number: 145
Explanation and Analysis:

After Anne describes how a life after the war is like a "castle in the air" for herself, she expands her vision to include the other members of the annex community as well. This passage's imaginary nature adds to the tragic pathos; the idyllic description is far removed from reality, just as members of the annex are hopelessly removed from participation in society. Anne's vision might be spurred from feelings of depression or emptiness, but they reveal how her imagination is enlivened by the imposed interiority of her experience and her unfortunate circumstances. In passages such as these, Anne's diary serves as a testament to the human spirit.

I sometimes wonder if anyone…will ever overlook my ingratitude and not worry about whether or not I'm Jewish and merely see me as a teenager badly in need of some good plain fun.

Related Characters: Anne Frank (speaker)
Page Number: 154
Explanation and Analysis:

On Christmas Eve of 1943, Anne indulges in a behavior she believes is "ungrateful": complaining about lacking the amusements and everyday activities which other teenagers such as Jopie are able to experience. She writes again of the specific features of a teenager's fun -- bicycles, dancing, whistling, tea -- and cherishes them in their absence. Here, she also focuses on the future, even wondering what future individuals might think of her writing as she ponders how her thoughts might seem ungrateful to other people. This hesitancy to appear and be ungrateful of what she does possess suggests Anne's continued personal growth, as well the increase of her hardships.

Year 1944 Quotes

The best remedy for those who are frightened, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere they can be alone, alone with the sky, nature and God. For then and only then can you feel that everything is as it should be and that God wants people to be happy amid nature's beauty and simplicity.

Related Characters: Anne Frank (speaker)
Page Number: 197
Explanation and Analysis:

One Wednesday in February, Anne describes how she goes up to the attic every morning, to watch Peter work and to look up at the sky. She details one particular morning, when she realized that she would feel happy as long as such nature endures. Anne then moves beyond her personal reflection, to advocate that all individuals can harness nature as a solace for their various distresses. This passage has become one of Anne's most famous statements because of its universal appeal and relevance. It demonstrates Anne's developing, precocious wisdom and hope in the face of despair, even if this beautiful sentiment might have been partly inspired by her youthful admiration for Peter.

Riches, prestige, everything can be lost. But the happiness in your own heart can only be dimmed; it will always be there, as long as you live, to make you happy again.

Related Characters: Anne Frank (speaker)
Page Number: 198
Explanation and Analysis:

Anne adds a PS to a diary entry from late February 1944, dedicating this addendum "To Peter." Anne describes how this morning she felt a brilliant burst of happiness, when she was "just plain happy," while simply looking outside of the window. She realized that people carry such happiness within themselves, and that this bliss does not depend on external circumstances. It can be "dimmed," it can be diminished, but it always exists within one's inner self. This epitomizes Anne's unusual amount of consciousness about the human experience; she seems to realize lessons about mindfulness usually only attained through great age, experience, or religious/mystical insight.

The narrative in the diary has also been preoccupied by the contrast between inner and outer selves, interior and exterior spaces, and here Anne inserts an element of hope into this binary. Because each individual has an internal as well as external self, every person has an intrinsic ability to feel and maintain happiness in their secret inner life, according to Anne's wise pondering.

Every day I feel myself maturing, I feel liberation drawing near, I feel the beauty of nature and the goodness of the people around me. Every day I think what a fascinating and amusing adventure this is! With all that, why should I despair?

Related Characters: Anne Frank (speaker)
Page Number: 282
Explanation and Analysis:

Anne advocates that humanity must undergo a transformation, a "metamorphosis" -- all people (not merely politicians and soldiers, but also every common person) must change so that events such as the Holocaust never occur again. Anne then narrows her scope to her own current transformation, and as she describes her adolescent maturation, she describes it like a blossoming part of nature. She credits this attitude to her own characteristics -- her "happiness," "cheerful disposition," and "strength," and suggests that her intentionally optimistic outlook allows her to interpret the events and people surrounding her in more positive ways, which allow her to then undergo further growth. Inner personality and positive outcomes are mutually reinforcing, according to the perspective which Anne advocates -- a perspective made all the more powerful because of the circumstances in which she reaches this conclusion.   

The world's been turned upside down. The most decent people are being sent to concentration camps, prisons and lonely cells, while the lowest of the low rule over young and old, rich and poor. One gets caught for black marketeering, another for hiding Jews or other unfortunate souls. Unless you're a Nazi, you don't know what's going to happen to you from one day to the next.

Related Characters: Anne Frank (speaker)
Page Number: 305
Explanation and Analysis:

On May 25th, Anne and the rest of the annex's inhabitants learn that Mr. van Hoeven has been arrested for hiding two Jewish people in his house. This unfortunate news compounds with all of the other horrors happening nowadays, inspiring Anne to notice that the entire world is "upside down" -- normal balances are so shifted that only Nazis (she assumes) can know what will occur in the future. The world's normal binaries are complicated and upset, as the good are punished despite their (and often for their) selfless intentions. Virtuous actions require the individual courage to contradict the immoral rules currently presiding over German society.

It's utterly impossible for me to build my life on a foundation of chaos, suffering, and death. I see the world being slowly transformed into a wilderness, I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too, I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty too shall end, that peace and tranquility will return once more. In the meantime, I must hold onto my ideals. Perhaps the day will come when I'll be able to realize them!

Related Characters: Anne Frank (speaker)
Page Number: 333
Explanation and Analysis:

This is one of Anne's most famous passages. She writes it in the middle of July 1944, less than a month before she and the other members of the annex are discovered. With these words, she connects the individual narrative of her life with "the suffering of millions," a suffering she observes as a penetrating and compassionate witness to the interior experiences that occur in all of humanity, even the humanity outside of her enclosure's walls. She also frames her words in the lexicon of nature; we get the sense that she is stunningly connected to the natural world, although (or perhaps because) she is so entirely severed from it during her daily experience. She reaches a depth of understanding that few can reach amid the distraction and tumult of the world outside, although the wisdom she provides us does not make the sacrifice of her life any less tragic.