Anne Frank's 40-year legacy
Fourty years ago this month Anne Frank, hiding from the Nazis in her ''Secret Annex'' overlooking the Amsterdam canal, made the following entry in her diary upon the occasion of another refugee's birthday: ''We gave her a pot of jam . . . things to eat and flowers. Such are the times we live in!''
Then - this being a diary, and she being 14 - Anne went on to record practically everything else that took place in her crowded little haven. Entry after entry analyzes the friendships that imperfectly flowered in this strange seclusion. Here are all the details about family squabbles, and family jokes. Amid the monotony of circumscribed days, one finds oneself getting involved in the latest news about the cat.
When she could think of nothing else to write, Anne itemized, like a shopping list, the duties that filled out two years in her airless box. Clothes were washed. Dishes were done. Floors were scrubbed. Beds got made and remade, to the whistled tune of a Beethoven concerto.
Rereading the diary builds the ''Secret Annex'' about one, wall by wall.
But finally, out of the despair, the boredom, and the trivia, a moment leaps up like a candle flame in the darkness. There is, for instance, the marvelous scene when Anne climbs to the attic and looks out the window at a chestnut tree, at the sea gulls circling above the canal, at the very sky itself, and thinks: ''As long as this exists . . . this sunshine, the cloudless skies, while this lasts I cannot be unhappy.''
This month five bits of reminiscence and three stories which her father (who passed on in 1980) did not choose to publish are being issued in a new version of ''Anne Frank's Tales From the Secret Annex'' (Washington Square Press). The latest fragments add nothing strikingly new to the self-portrait of Anne. But something more than curiosity impels us to learn every last detail we can about this teen-ager who liked Ping-Pong, ice cream, Rin-Tin-Tin movies, and boys - and who, in exile and in darkness, bloomed into an astonishing young woman.
It does not do to sentimentalize the adolescent who put hair curlers on her list, second only to the diary, when she fled for her life. Anne Frank could be a flirt. Anne Frank could also be tough. But because she stayed so human - even pettily human - we can admire her, without mythologizing her, for her courage, particularly the courage to hope.
There is something about hope that generally embarrasses us. We talk about ''motivation.'' We talk about ''goals.'' We talk all around hope, but when we come to the word itself, we falter.
Hope is not sophisticated. Hope is the stuff fools are made of. Do we want to be fools, even for the sake of hope?
And so we leave hope to a teen-ager in an attic in Amsterdam, hiding from the Nazis. But how we take out loans on her promissory notes! How we depend on her moments at the attic window!
We walk the streets, free men and women. The sight of a carnation in a vase or a strawberry on a plate is no extraordinary thing to us. We do not have to listen for the sound of the boot on the stairs.
But we have our daily fears to meet, our family squabbles to resolve, our furniture to dust, our dishes to wash. And we too sigh, ''Such are the times we live in!'' as we read the latest headline about nerve gas or watch artillery fire in Lebanon on our TV sets.
But then we leave the other half of Anne Frank's statement unsaid. Less than a month before the boots mounted the stairs and she was captured, she wrote: ''I can feel the suffering 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 peace will return again.''
Who can contemplate even one more day without feeling this in the heart? If we had the courage of our naivete, we would bear witness to this simple hope ourselves instead of rereading Anne Frank. But as it is, 40 years later we are still too proud or too shy or too something, and we need as badly as ever Anne Frank and those like her - the young or the guileless or the saintly - to pronounce our hopes for us.