I remember once asking someone, 'If Anne Frank were alive today, what would she say?' and the almost immediate reply was that, 'She would say, I'm one of the lucky ones.' But would this really be the case? If she was alive today, would she consider herself lucky? This was written from the point of view of Anne Frank as she speaks to a class, telling them about her experiences. This is what I think she would feel, if she was alive today.
The tired face looks at us, the eyes beg us to take the numbers away from her skin, but we cant, they wont go, they are there for eternity. There is a glow that surrounds her, unmistakably bright against the grey pallor of her fading self. The glow surrounds her, a sunlight beam so strong, it dries her salty tears, the glow is warm, it gives her something to live for, and follows her at every fork in her road. As she sat there, in front of us, it was the day of her liberation, but she looked at us in such a way, that we knew she could not feel liberated. She sighs, and her dry lips part slowly, and she speaks, Two years. She says, I knew nobody but the seven other people I shared a home with. They were my life and they are gone. I have lost everything. There was no answer we could give her, no way we could even try. She is surrounded by six numbers and the searing heat of the torch that put them there, there is nothing else to her than those numbers, she might have sought a mind more powerful than six numbers. But she didnt, she couldnt move away from them, they were there forever. A mind so powerful did not
could not ever exist to her.
The hollow space in her chest aches with loneliness that shows in her eyes, and the last tendrils of fear. A window bangs shut and she merely blinks. There is nothing more that anyone could do to her to make her fear life more than she did sixty years ago. There is nothing, shes stronger than any human being, yet she is so small and fragile, its hard to imagine. She talks again, about what shocked her most and its not the burning bodies she had seen, nor the stench of sickness and death in every breath she takes even today, but the smile she recalls. The smile on the faces of the people watching as she was set free. She wonders how the smiles remained on their faces, when death was breaking their fellow peoples windows, doors and homes.
She asks herself a question, we barely hear it, who is she? She asks. And looks into the mirror on the wall, she asks herself who the reflection is, for two years she never saw herself, and could only rely on the sight of others to know what she was. The person staring back from the mirror is half alive, and not the person she once remembers being. Her eyes were not large and enticing any longer, they were sunk into their sockets, they were hollow. There was no emotion, no brightness. Around her present eyes, dark circles scrawled like graffiti, emphasizing the paleness, her translucent emaciated face. Her thin body was broken and worn. The heart she knew she once had had, pleaded for her to show emotion, to let out her past and cry, but she couldnt, or she wouldnt. The pain was slowly devouring her, and her heart begged, but the stranger staring back out of the mirror refused to oblige.
The woman remembered times back in the past, at the place where all her worst nightmares had come true, she had wanted to cry. But she choked loudly on her sobs, and her sister would not allow her to emit any sound. Her sister had to cover her face and beg her to be silent. Noise brought the Belsen Guards. Most nights she could cry at her will, the sounds of the others being tortured, their screams and their moans would drown her out. The starving and dying companions around her were her safety. There came times when she lay alone at night on the hard wooden planks of the cold, crowded barracks, and ceased her urges to cry, because her sister was no longer there to muffle her sounds.
Sixty years have passed, somehow. But she is still the girl she was, lying in a dark room, hearing the sounds of death all around her, and being forced to face her worst fears and overcome them. The hours she spent alone in the barracks are burned into her, like the six numbers on her skin. She remembers the sounds of children, like herself, dying. She stares at the children of today, her age, they could have been her sixty years ago. They could have been the children who were killed, melted into nothingness, or the unlucky ones like herself, who had seen it all, and were forced to relive it every day. Innocent eyes look back at her, minds and bodies unbranded inside and out. Their childhood wouldnt be stolen like hers. It had taken her years and years to unlock the memories and free them from their imprisonment in her mind. She held them close to her, she tortured her memories in her head, as she would a Nazi soldier. Because she knew, if she let them break free, they would damage her, break down what she had composed of herself.
She smiled at the dense ignorance in the room. She recounted her countless tales of ghettos in flames, dying screams, the smell of burning flesh, and the dead bodies she had to sleep next to in the barracks. She looks at the audience in front of her, from the podium she seems to them so strong and fierce, shes above them. But really, her head holds no more than theirs, and shes just a child forced to grow quicker than any other and face the world alone. She stands before us as a grown woman, old and faded, but behind the adult face and ageing wrinkles we see the childish smile and teasing glint that would once surely have been in her eyes when she was younger. Nothings changed since she was a mere girl, but everything is different.
When she died
were you scared? The question came from a small girl in the audience, her blond hair was pulled into pigtails and the woman had to take a second to recall who, she was, she remembered her last part of the speech about her sister. The woman smiled, and the small expression on her face changed her whole look for a full second. I was scared. But more than that, I felt guilty that I was alive and she was not, I couldnt see why I should be allowed to survive. But I soon realized there was no point in dwelling on that fact, I needed to focus on my survival. There was silence in the room until one small child coughed and there was a shuffle as one of the teachers settled into her seat more comfortable. The woman surveyed the students, waiting for the next hand. Did it hurt? A boy of about ten years old whispered. The numbers. He pointed at her arm. The woman looked at her sleeve, which covered the tattoo she had told them about. Despite the covering, she could still see them clearly against her skin. She remembered how they had held the flame to her skin, and how she had let just two tears fall and then defiantly held them back, how her sister had not cried, but stood there, proudly, her arm out, waiting for the worst. She recalled the day she was set free, and the first thing that she had done which was to wash her arm and scrub at the numbers, flaking the skin, but never the inky black marks. She looked down at the boy, and then at all of them, Yes. She choked before reaching for her glass of water, and quickly taking a sip to clear her throat and stop her tears. It hurt.
When the children left the hall, and the woman went to follow, she was stopped by a young girl of about seven years old. She had bright blue eyes, and dark brown hair pulled back into a pony tail. She smiled up at the old tired woman and then shyly put her arms around the thin body to hug her. The woman hugged her back in surprise, and then the girl was gone, following the other members of her class. As she went, a new scar was carved into the old womans memory, one that pushed some of the pain of lying in the barracks away, just a little. As she watched them all go back to their ordinary lives and their lessons, she wished with some regret that she could have told them more about what had happened, there was so much for people to learn and she could only hope that her story would help history somewhat. The teachers thanked her, and then they were gone back to lessons of mathematics and art, and she left, slightly tired after talking to so many people, but slightly elated at sharing her story for the sixtieth time in her life. And she knew it was time for her to stop, that she had told her story for every year she had been alive and she had paid back her due to the world and shared what she knew for having lived one of the most horrific childhoods imaginable. She let the sunshine soak her skin and held out her arms, palms up to the sky to gather more of its warmth. Yet her right arm was never warm, and the numbers cooled her body dramatically with their memories. She had never quite healed from her scars, she now never would, and the woman that had only had ten or eleven years of true happiness in her life, which were based on her childhood, folded and crumpled. Anne Franks body finally gave up after years of an endless battle with her tortured heart. And she went, in a few seconds she was gone. And she could now, once again, join those seven people who had been her world for two whole years.