Last week we went to the library. Each of the kids picked out a few favorites and I went in search of a couple of books I wanted to read to them. This month we celebrate the birthday of Anne Frank. Knowing that there were a few kid’s books about Anne Frank I searched through the stacks until I found one that seemed like a suitable book and checked it out along with the rest.
Anne Frank is such an iconic figure to me. I hold the memory of reading the Diary of Anne Frank for the first time very close to my heart. And even now in my 30s, nothing puts my life into perspective like thinking about Anne Frank.
Patrick and Cheyanne are seven and five. Way too young for the actual Diary of Anne Frank and for learning all about the Holocaust. While learning about both are important, at this age I feel like it would be too much for them. But I thought that a children’s book about her life would gloss over some of the aspects that they might not be ready for yet still show them what an inspiring girl she was.
That night I opened up the book and right away images of swastika’s and cartoon depictions of Hitler jumped out at us. “Who’s Hitler and why didn’t he like Anne’s family?”
I took a deep breath. Who’s Hitler? How do you explain to a seven and five year old that in the world there really are villains that are more evil than all the bad guys in the Marvel universe? Especially when in the past I’ve told them that the scary bad guys on TV and in the comic books aren’t real. How do I explain about Hitler without admitting that those bad guys do sometimes exist?
I closed the book as every picture and story I ever read or heard about the Holocaust flashed in my mind. And I looked at the book and realized that there really wasn’t a way to gloss over the fact that Anne Frank’s story ended with her dying in a concentration camp.
By telling them that story, right then at that moment, I couldn’t help but feel I’d be taking a tiny piece if their innocence away that they’d never get back.
I answered Patrick’s question simply by saying, “Hitler was a bad bad man who didn’t like people. But we’ll read this story some other time.”
Some may think I’m a chicken for closing the book, others may think I was silly to borrow it in the first place. Regardless, we all agreed on reading Humphrey the Lost Whale instead. A true story with a happier ending and no nazis.