I started reading this book very coincidentally. The boy was playing at the settee where the books at home are shelved and I was seated right where the books are. Looking after him could be a prolonged chore, so I decided to reach out for a book – this book – and started to read it. I could not bring myself to stop and thence finished reading it quite quickly.
It was a very sad topic to touch on to start off the new year, but that was exactly what I did and it was with these thoughts that I entered 2017.
Most everyone knows about the Anne Frank tragedy and how it reflected the thoughts and spirit of the countless number of victims who suffered and sacrificed during the Second World War. Given that I have already read ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ back when I was in secondary school, as well as visited the poignant attraction in Amsterdam just recently, I do already know how the story ended. Sad. Tragic. Regrettable. Unforgiveable.
On the other hand, the experience gained through the reading of this book is different from that of her diary. It offered a much more personable and intimate view of how she led her last moments during her entrapment in the house, through narrations using photographs and pictures of her house, her friends, her family members, the tenants, her favourite corners in the house, the food she ate; through stories told by her aging father (who still lives till this day) and that of her friends who survived the massacre. The narrative also brings you through each nook and cranny of the house by recounting the stories of those who stayed in the house, one-by-one, room-by-room, each with their own touching and intimate moments.
The fact that I’ve been there in these very same rooms made reading this book even more poignant. I was constantly reminded of how somber the atmosphere was when all of us were walking through these very same rooms where nightmares came true. In fact, I could better imagine what went on in each room when I read the descriptions of the activities and conversations, almost as if the scenes were happening right in front of me. I could also better empathise with the fear that the victims experienced in the duration of their hide-out having gone through the very same path of darkness and fear. Indeed, one has to be there to be able to fully comprehend the kind of deprivation experienced by these victims of war.
I felt very apprehensive about the world we live in after this read. What was the dictator actually thinking? How could he contemplate carrying out such atrocious acts without even feeling any sense of guilt or shame? How many such madmen are there out there still? What can the world do to keep these people away from me, from us and from the rest of the world?
As we move quickly into the middle of the twenty-first century, it is easy to forget that such atrocities did occur before. I cannot imagine how life would be like if history were to repeat itself, and if my boy were to suffer in a similar way. No way. This book acts to remind me not to take things in life for granted. Even simple things like being able to walk in the street safely without constantly fearing for my life; being able to send my son to school without worrying about not seeing him at the end of the day; being able to sit down to dinner every night without worrying about survival the next day.
I am thankful to be living in this part of the world, in this peaceful age and time. In the future, I want to be able to read this story to my boy in the future too, so that he could learn to better appreciate life as it is now – without war, without bias, without irrationality, without discrimination. Away from captivity, darkness and brutality.