Anne Frank would have been 85 years old today. She was born June 12,1929 in Frankfurt, Germany and her life came to a tragic end in 1945 when she died in the Bergen-Belsen death camp. She penned her diary during her years hiding with her family in Amsterdam from the Nazis during World War II. Her immortal words appear in the over 45 million copies of her diary and it has been translated into over 50 languages. Our world can never know what she would have accomplished had Anne’s stars aligned and presented a different outcome.
It’s timely that one of the most moving scenes in the devastating new film The Fault in our Stars (based on John Green’s best-selling young adult novel) takes place at the Anne Frank house. Hazel Lancaster and Augustus Waters, both dying of cancer, are close in age to Anne and visit the museum while on a romantic trip to Amsterdam.
There is no elevator in the Anne Frank house. That won’t stop Hazel. She’s determined to climb every staircase and ladder, dragging her ever present oxygen tank. As Hazel struggles to ascend each narrow staircase and steep ladder gasping for the breath of life, we hear Anne’s most famous lines intermixed:
“In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.”
Hazel wants to reach the top floor of the annex. She is suffocating without oxygen.
“I must uphold my ideals, for perhaps the time will come when I shall be able to carry them out.”
Both are dying. Both are suffocating. Both trapped.
“i simply can’t build my hopes on a foundation of confusion, misery and death…I think…peace and tranquility will return again.”
We know that Anne Frank is real and Hazel Lancaster is fictional. But sometimes fictional characters can convey similar messages as those of living characters. John Green’s novel and the filmmakers behind The Fault in our Stars are able to take their modern story and use the location of a real tragic figure to pierce our hearts and allow us collectively to grieve. While Hazel dies of a tragic illness—the unexplainable, Anne Frank dies because of human evil. Both are trapped, and suffocating, literally and physically. Together we communally mourn and celebrate the power of leaving behind a legacy.