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Belonging and being an outsider
By JOYCE APSEL
© St. Petersburg Times, published November 29, 1999
Anne Frank could be very critical of other people, yet also wanted very much to be liked and popular. Even though she seemed to have a lot of friends, she also felt alone and that she needed a true friend. She treated her diary as that friend, someone she called "Kitty."
"Now I'm back to the point that prompted me to keep a diary in the first place: I don't have a friend," Anne wrote on June 20, 1942. She continues to explain her mixed feelings about having friends and being very alone:
"All I think about when I'm with friends is having a good time. I can't bring myself to talk about anything but ordinary everyday things. We don't seem to be able to get any closer, and that's the problem. Maybe it's my fault that we don't confide in each other. In any case, that's just how things are, and unfortunately they're not liable to change. This is why I've started the diary."
Like Anne Frank, most people want to belong and be liked, but find it at times difficult to fit in and find a group that supports them.
Do you belong to any groups, clubs, or gangs? How does excluding others from the group make you feel? Think about why you define some individuals as "in" and others as "out" of your life. Why are you considered "out" by other people?
Is there a way to create bonds with people who are outside your circle? Can you respect a person who is very different from you and your group? Write about how these groups affect your life. Is the group you are part of concerned about taking care of you and other members? How? Is violence part of being a member of the group? How is violence against others also violence against yourself? What are some ways to turn anger and loneliness around, to try to root yourself positively in what you hope to do?
Despite the fact that Anne Frank was labeled an inferior "non-person" by the Nazis because she was born a Jew, Anne resisted by continuing to write and to fight her feelings of being a victim. Hiding in an annex while being hunted by the Nazis, she continued to grow and learn. Even given her ups and downs, she believed in herself and her potential. She was constantly thinking about who she was and analyzing her physical and emotional changes.
It is important to remember that Anne's diary was written in the relative security of hiding with her family. What Anne Frank would have written in Westerbork transit camp, Auschwitz killing center and Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, the three places where she directly faced Nazi brutality, we will never know.
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As our world becomes more and more technological, increasing numbers of people use computers. Some of you may be reading this article online and feel more comfortable typing out your thoughts and reactions on a computer.
You even may decide to compose your journal entries on your computer and then put the printed sheets in a diary book. Some individuals mix hand-written entries with computer sheets, reflecting how at different times they may want to use different mediums to relate their experiences and feelings.
Do you think you sound different or express yourself in different ways when you write with a pen or type on a computer?
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Response journals are another way to record your history. If you have difficulty writing on a blank page, think and write down some specific questions and try to respond to them. For example, if you have been reading this series, try these questions:
How do you feel about trying to keep a diary?
What is your reaction to the fact that I once read my daughter's diary without permission?
Next: Adjusting to new experiences
-- Dr. Joyce Apsel is director of education at the Anne Frank Center USA in New York. Please address questions or comments about this series to: Floridian, Anne Frank and Human Rights, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731, or e-mail Floridian@sptimes.com.
"Anne Frank: A History for Today," an international touring exhibit, opens in January 2000 at the Florida Holocaust Museum in St. Petersburg, 55 Fifth St. S. The exhibit, which traces Anne Frank's life and times through family photographs and diary passages as well as examines prejudice and violence today, is made available through the Anne Frank Center USA. Exhibit sponsors include the Eckerd Family Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. Paul W. Martin Jr., the Sembler Family and the state of Florida.
Activities to do in class or at home
1. Remember to write in your diary/journal at least three or four times each week.
2. Anne Frank wrote that she didn't have a friend. Do you have a special friend or special group of friends? What makes this person or group so special to you? Write an entry in your journal today that tells about your special friend(s); include examples of why this person or group of people is special to you.
3. Are you a member of a club or organization that excludes people from joining? What is the reason it is not open to everyone? How would you feel if you wanted to join a group and the members wouldn't let you? Write down your feelings in your journal.
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