Observations on Anne Frank and the current pandemic

BRISTOL — Emily Beattie’s 7th grade English class at Mount Abraham Union Middle School began reading “The Diary of Anne Frank” before they began remote learning.

“As we have been sheltering in place, we have discussed and written about the similarities and differences between Anne’s life during the Holocaust and our lives right now,” Beattie said.

Beattie offered student Rory Hendee’s piece as an example of the students’ writing on this subject:

 

My class recently read “The Diary of Anne Frank,” a story about a Jewish girl and her family being forced into hiding during the Holocaust. While I was studying this story in school, the state of Vermont shut down school buildings, and everyone went to distance learning due to the worldwide pandemic.

Though our situations are not exactly the same, they are similar in some ways. First, we both were made to stay at home due to worldwide issues. Second, we both had to make adjustments to do schoolwork from home. Third, we both had to celebrate holidays and milestones differently. Lastly, we both couldn’t see friends and family.

Anne’s situation happened in wartime and her people were being killed. This situation was impacting the entire world at that time, and she was forced into hiding. Thankfully, I am not living in that exact situation, but what is similar is that many people are dying due to a virus that has spread throughout the world, and because of this, I have been forced to stay home to avoid getting sick. Both times are scary and unknown. Anne was quarantined in a tiny attic within the annex. At the annex, Anne was still responsible for learning about subjects that she would have learned in school.

Like Anne, I am learning from home. I am not able to go to school, because schools have been closed now for nearly two months, but that is just the building; the work is still required. Anne celebrated Hanukkah while she was stuck inside, and though she and her family couldn’t celebrate the same way that they would during normal times, they still celebrated.

While social distancing, we have celebrated Easter and we have had multiple birthdays. All of them looked and felt very different with fewer people, fewer decorations, and not as many presents. During her time in quarantine, Anne wasn’t able to see her friends, and even some of her family members. She was stuck with the same people for a long time, and some of them she didn’t even know until they were in hiding together.

I have been in my house for about two months with my mom, step dad, older brother, and little sister, and though our house is still the same size as it was before all of this, it now feels a little like living in a small attic space. We share work spaces, like the kitchen and dining room, and sometimes that can feel really small when my brother and I are working on school assignments, my parents are doing work for their jobs, and food (like lunch) is being prepared in the same area.

These situations aren’t exactly the same as what Anne went through. In addition to struggling with issues like mine, she also faced even more intense and life-threatening scenarios. In fact, I think that our situations are more different than they are similar.

I think Anne’s situation is more different than mine because of all the other challenges she went through that I have not experienced while in quarantine. First, she and her family were facing genocide. Second, she was living during wartime, and lastly, she had very little access to food and other resources, which made the quality of her life much less than mine has been during quarantine in 2020.

Anne and her family lived during a very scary time, and armies were intentionally going after and killing people because of who they were and what they worshipped. The threat that we are experiencing today — coronavirus and the disease it creates, COVID-19 — isn’t targeting a certain group of people; it’s not attacking one race or ethnicity, and we are not at war. If one of my family members were to get the virus, they could be quarantined away from my family and me and they would likely recover, which means we could be reunited and we could go on living our lives. For Anne, her entire family and race of people were at risk of losing their lives. Her situation feels more hopeless than mine.

In addition to facing genocide, Anne and her family lived during wartime, which is something I have never lived through or experienced. Though I am living through a pandemic, and my future is somewhat unknown, I am not experiencing war like Anne did. I don’t have to worry about gunfire, bombs, and other issues of war, which were all very real for Anne. At times my biggest concern is whether we will have ice cream in the freezer or not.

During this time, I have not had any concerns about not having enough food, I have been eating pretty normally in fact. For Anne, food and other resources were not always available or in the amounts that she and her family needed. It is hard for me to imagine not having the food I like to eat, or not having enough of it to eat. I am much luckier than Anne because, for the most part, I have everything I need and still get to enjoy special treats and other goodies I also have many more resources for connection and entertainment. For example, I can Zoom with teachers and friends, I have TV, Netflix, video games, social media, and my Alexa/Amazon Dot can play my favorite music.

Though Anne and my situation are very different, I think that it is important to think about other people’s situations and compare them to your own experiences. It is important to do this, because it teaches us to have empathy for what other people have gone through, and it can make us realize how fortunate we are. Despite how hard times can feel, it could always be worse, and I am grateful for what I do have.

— Rory Hendee

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