What They Found in the Attic

One of the most exquisite joys of reading is not knowing when a book will embed itself in your own memories and consequently, in your world view. I was 13 when I first read Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young GirlLike so many others, I was a shy, awkward girl when I discovered a tender kindred spirit, a bolder, more talented and more perceptive version of the self I inhabited. I continue to picture Anne at a small desk, writing in her diary (called Kitty), as in this photo from the Anne Frank Museum.

This image of Anne Frank is forever incomplete. Recently, though, a remarkable cache of 6,000 family photos, letters, drawings, poems, and postcards stored in the attic of Anne’s aunt has been curated and published in Treasures From the Attic: The Extraordinary Story of Anne Frank’s Family.

Last week, Anne’s cousin Buddy Elias recalled at a reading in Manhattan how they were “two wild kids” who liked to put on puppet shows, ice skate, and tramp in the Swiss Alps. I inadvertently stumbled upon the site of her summer playground a few years ago when I ventured to the pristine hamlet of Sils-Maria. There, in a stark room of the whitewashed two-story house where Nietzsche wrote parts of Thus Spoke Zarathustra, I found a photo of Anne Frank on the wall. From the window by his old wooden desk I glimpsed the chalet where Anne and cousin Buddy (whom she nicknamed “Bernd”) frolicked. Today, the beauty ofIMG_0480 that region Nietzsche called “the land of silver colors” still feels set apart from an often grim world.

One of the touching chapters of Treasures from the Attic focuses on the experiences the two cousins shared. After Anne and sister Margot’s death, Otto sent Buddy a copy of Anne’s diary entry for October 18, 1942, which is reproduced in Treasures … . As an energetic 13-year-old, she anticipated becoming Bernd’s skating partner. Anne imagined “a film later for Holland and Switzerland,” in which she would wear a white costume of her own design. The book enables us to see Anne’s sweet, childish drawing and her strong, slanted penmanship.

Then we get to see the humorous playing cards Buddy drew for the children when they vacationed in Sils-Maria. The sense of loss must descend upon all who read the story of this family who perceived themselves as quite bourgeois. Others, of course, had a very different outlook, and we continue to live with the results of that unfathomable tragedy.


Image via Wikipedia

I am  offering a free copy of Treasures from the Attic to one random reader who leaves a comment about this post or about how he or she has been affected by Anne’s diary. The new book by Mirjam Pressler with Gerti Elias is for young adults and older readers and adds much to our understanding and appreciation of the Frank family’s unique legacy. Deadline: November 24, Thanksgiving.

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7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Charlotte
    Nov 09, 2011 @ 19:01:46

    I have read and re-read and re-read Anne’s diary so many times–it is still a source of wonder to me when I read things like this post, and a bit of her life outside the annex appears…I have to read this book!


    • Janice Floyd Durante
      Nov 10, 2011 @ 10:53:35

      Yes, Charlotte, I can relate. I actually gasped when I saw that black-and-white photo of her in the writers’ retreat in that tiny Swiss speck called Sils-Maria. And then to see all the photos in TREASURES FROM THE ATTIC, it feels like such a privilege. I’ll be in touch after Thanksgiving if you win the book. Good luck and thanks for writing!


    • Janice Floyd Durante
      Nov 28, 2011 @ 11:14:16

      Congratulations, Charlotte! You’ve won the copy of TREASURES FROM THE ATTIC.


  2. Rachel C
    Nov 07, 2011 @ 22:02:40

    This looks like an amazing book that would be so interesting to read.
    I just finished “The Lost Wife” which also deals with WWII, and I definitely recommend that book too.


    • Janice Floyd Durante
      Nov 10, 2011 @ 10:47:52

      This substantial book provides readers not only with the family history but also with a generous selection of photos, all of which greatly enhance our appreciation of the Franks.
      Thanks for writing, Rachel. I’ll contact you after Thanksgiving if you win the book. And thanks for recommending The Lost Wife. I’m always on the lookout for good historical fiction.


  3. Joanne Rocklin
    Nov 07, 2011 @ 14:12:46

    I’m sure you are going to get a flood of comments, Janice, on your wonderful post. If I don’t “win” I’m going right out to buy the book, however. The Anne Frank story was always an inspiration to me, my children, and now my grandchildren. How one life has affected so many! And your review illuminates how happy moments among family and friends are the most precious things on earth.


    • Janice Floyd Durante
      Nov 07, 2011 @ 16:23:57

      Thank you so much for writing, Joanne. This was a difficult post to write because Anne Frank and her diary are so dear to me.
      Good luck, Joanne, and I’ll let you know on the 25th if you win the book.


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