No, Anne Frank didn’t foresee the rise of Donald Trump. But she did write this prescient passage in her diary only two weeks before the Dutch police accidentally discovered her hiding place, arrested her family, and sent them to the camps. To anyone especially depressed by the past two months in American political life, you must read this passage (especially the last sentence):
It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquillity will return again.
I came upon this quotation as I read her diary for the first time since I was a teenager. I’m leading a reading group for my daughter’s middle school class. Since they will be visiting the Washington Holocaust Center, the book was assigned to them. As soon as I read this, I immediately thought of our current predicament.
And no, I’m not comparing Donald Trump to Hitler nor this era to the Holocaust. Remember after all that Anne, at the time she wrote this, didn’t know that six-million Jews had been exterminated. She knew nothing of the Holocaust. She knew that the world was living through a hellish era of hate and violence and that many had died as a result. So Anne’s thoughts are perfectly in synch with what’s happening today and need to remind us that this will not last forever. That popular resistance, even more than electoral politics and Congressional action, is vital. We must resist. If we do, we will win. The American people will win.
No, Anne didn’t say that, I did.