So much has been written about the power of Anne Frank’s diary that I hesitate to weigh in on it for fear of doing it injustice.
I’ll simply pass along this: I had the chance to visit Frank’s hiding place at Prinsengracht 263 in Amsterdam a few years back and declined. I went to Amsterdam’s Resistance Museum with the time I had available instead.
I didn’t realize why until I learned that a Texas school board in the Fort Worth area this week banned an illustrated version of “The Diary of a Young Girl” from its libraries and classrooms. That’ll get the wheels turning.
I skipped the “Anne Frank House” because I couldn’t bear traipsing through it as a tourist. If I were to go there, I’d want to spend hours in the place alone — to breathe its air, listen for the sounds of the street below, and slide open and shut a hundred times the false bookcase that led to the Secret Annex where Frank’s family and others subsisted between 1942 and 1944. I’d especially want to park myself in its cramped attic — as Anne did for hours on end — imagining what it might have been like hiding from Gestapo agents there for 25 months, as a teenager in near-constant silence.
“The Diary of a Young Girl” does that to readers. Within just a few pages, you feel like you’re making a new friend, and that you have a personal stake in her outcome. When you get to Frank’s final diary entry, the enormity of the Holocaust hits home. This was just one girl’s story.
The illustrated version of “The Diary of a Young Girl” isn’t the only book being banned in Fort Worth. Dozens of others, including the Bible, inexplicably, got yanked from library shelves there this week, leaving so many Americans wondering what on earth is going on in this country. What happened to that freedom thing?
The suppression of ideas isn’t just coming from the cancel-culture political left; it’s coming from pockets of the political right now, too. Conservatives and liberals need to speak out against it forcefully.
It’s one thing to oppose a curriculum, quite another to ban a book. I can understand why people oppose Critical Race Theory as a curriculum, for example, but as a theory it deserves a place on bookshelves, alongside “Das Kapital,” “Mein Kampf,” and “The Satanic Verses.” When did the free exchange of ideas become controversial?
Eighteenth-century German poet and playwright Heinrich Heine is often cited for his prescience in penning these words a century before the rise of German fascists: “Dort, wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen,” which loosely translates to: “Where you burn books, there, eventually you burn people.”
In 1933 at Berlin’s Opernplatz, Heine’s books went into the flames along with thousands of others at one of history’s most infamous book burnings. We know what followed.
Book burnings are now occurring here, the unmistakable mark of a faltering society.
A follow-up note about Prinsengracht 263: A friend recently gifted me a virtual reality headset. I had no idea what to do with it. But after a few clicks, there it was: a VR tour of the Anne Frank House. I go there all the time now.
You can’t smell the air, you can’t slide the bookshelf, but you can hear the awful silence.
Opinions BY WILLIAM F. B. O‘REILLY, a consultant to Republicans, are his own.