Female Leaders: Anne Frank

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Anne Frank is one of the most famous reflective writers and her harrowing experiences are told almost innocently in the form of a diary. Read Anne’s story and consider the challenge that follows.
Female Leaders: Anne Frank
Many people suffered and recorded their suffering during the dark and terrible days of World War II. However, one of the most remarkable stories of the triumph of humanity and hope in the face of great ordeal and despair comes from an energetic and extroverted young Jewish girl, Annelies Marie Frank.
Anne was born in 1929, in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. The Franks were Jewish and, fearing the growing anti‐Semitic policies of the Nazi party, emigrated to the Netherlands, where Otto Frank, Anne’s father, set up a number of companies in Amsterdam. In May 1940 the Germans invaded and then occupied the Netherlands and began to impose the anti‐Semitic policies from which the Franks had fled. Jewish people had to register with the ‘government’, their children were segregated into ‘Jewish schools’ and, like other Jews across occupied Europe, they had to wear a yellow star to distinguish them from other citizens. In 1941 Anne began attending the Jewish Lyceum School in Amsterdam, leaving many of her friends behind. In June 1942, when she was 13, her father gave her a blue, red and white plaid autograph book, which she decided to use as a diary. Her first entry was ‘to Kitty’ and began, ‘I shall be able to confide in you completely, as I have never been able to do in anyone before, and I hope that you will be a great comfort and support to me.’
The anti‐Semitic policies and sanctions of the German occupying force were becoming more severe and a few weeks after Anne was given her diary, Margot, her older sister, received orders to report for transportation to a work camp. Determined to prevent this, the next day Otto led his family into hiding in a secret annexe he had been preparing in the premises of one of his companies. From July 1942, the Franks and four other people lived in a tiny space behind a false bookcase at the top of a set of stairs behind Otto’s office. When Anne moved in she recorded in her diary that she had to put on two vests, three pairs of pants, a dress, a skirt, a jacket, a summer coat, two pairs of stockings, lace‐up shoes, a woolly cap and a scarf, because leaving their house with suitcases would look suspicious.
Anne wrote in her diary almost daily until her last entry on 1 August 1944. She recorded the most intimate details of the small group’s everyday lives and the interplay of their relationships. She was a gifted writer, with a quick wit and a critical eye. The diary reveals the thoughts, hopes and fears of a normal teenager, showing her to be bright, imaginative, moody and impatient. She struggled, too, with her ‘good Anne’ and ‘bad Anne’ sides and, in spite of the monotony of life in the annexe, offered insights into their plight that were wise beyond her years, perceptive and innocently honest.
She wrote in 1944, shortly before the annexe was discovered, that ‘it really is 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’. Three weeks later the German police stormed their hiding place after their secret was betrayed and Anne and Margot were transferred to Bergen‐Belsen concentration camp, where they both died of typhus within days of each other in March 1945. Of those in hiding, only Otto Frank survived the war.
Anne Frank’s diary provides an honest glimpse into her hopes and fears, and her refusal to be broken and torn by the persecution and despair of the dark days she lived through. It was a comfort to her in the isolation and confinement of the annexe, and remains a record and warning for others about the vigilance needed by everyone to heed the lessons of history and keep an open heart to their inner thoughts.
Challenge: We hear about reflection and reflective practice frequently today, but what does it mean on a day‐to‐day basis for active clinicians? When do you stop and reflect? Do you even need to stop and reflect? Anne was forced into an attic and had both the time and the means to capture her thoughts and ponderings. When are you able to take time to look back over your practice? This may require a mindful approach to care, where you consciously undertake a period of active or guided reflection. When you are next at work, take a moment – take a few – to stop and consider what you have done, what you could do better and the implications for you or for your clients. Try to capture your thoughts by writing them down or recording them. Constant ‘doing’ will get things done, but reflection might mean that you find new ways to do things or have an opportunity to do things better.them down or recording them. Constant ‘doing’ will get things done, but reflection might mean that you find new ways to do things or have an opportunity to do things better.

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