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The Holding Place

Hope | Love | Peace | COVID-19 | Discovery | Imagination | WW2 | Mental Health | Anxiety

Right before the COVID-19 Lockdown I went to Germany and visited the Anne Frank Zentrum, which is the German partner organisation of the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. While I was strolling the colorful streets of Berlin I never imagined I would go into isolation. Though the Social Distancing rules and regulations in Australia are incomparable to what Jewish Anne had to endure, I began to wonder how she survived the Nazi invasion during WW2. It’s been barely two months and I’m getting restless, how was Anne able to survive hiding in her Secret Annex for two years?”

Can you imagine being isolated for two years? On 1 September 1939, when Anne was 10 years old, Nazi Germany invaded Poland, and the Second World War began. Not long after, on 10 May 1940, the Nazis also invaded the Netherlands, where Anne Frank and her family lived.

Slowly but surely, the Nazis introduced more laws and regulations that made Anne's life and her families more difficult. They could no longer visit parks, cinemas, or non-Jewish shops. The rules meant that places became off-limits to Anne, and her family to visit. Her family was struggling financially as her father was no longer allowed to operate his own businesses.

In the spring of 1942, Anne’s father had started furnishing a hiding place in the annex of his business premises at Prinsengracht 263. The hiding place was cramped. Anne had to keep very quiet and was often afraid. On her thirteenth birthday, just before they went into hiding, Anne was presented with a diary. During the two years in hiding, Anne wrote about events in the Secret Annex, but also about her feelings and thoughts.

Despite all the misery, grief and loss Anne practiced gratitude and hope, she looked for the beauty that still remained. Even when there was war, even when she was in hiding and even when she was treated as a second class citizen, she held onto her strong belief that one could either turn towards darkness or look for the light.

It’s difficult in times like these: ideals, dreams and cherished hopes rise within us, only to be crushed by grim reality. It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.”

-Anne Frank

Sadly 1945 Anne’s hiding place was discovered. She was separated from her parents and transported to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp where she died from starvation and disease.

It’s almost been 1 month since social distancing rules began in Australia. We may not be able to see each other but but we can still go outside to exercise and feel the fresh air on our skin. Entertainment is still available at our fingertips, we can talk to our friends, colleagues and loved ones through applications on our phones, tablets and computers through Skype, Zoom and House Party. We can watch Netflix, create funny videos on tik-tok and do shopping online. I wonder how Anne entertained herself in her little Annex? No internet, no mobile phone, no tablet and no flat screen TV. Going outside for her was a matter of life or death.

Now, life is still hard for us, maybe not as difficult as Anne's but many of us are getting restless, bored, emotionally stagnated, frustrated and miserable. We are missing face to face connection, there is something in that moment when your friend puts their hand on your arm and brushes their clothes up against your skin and smiles while directly looking into your eyes. It’s just not the same through our screens.

The Secret Annex

Despite the pain, it is important to continue to hope, to spread feelings of love and to look for small moments of joy. We must remember that although there is distance between us, we are not isolated. We may feel like we are battling against this strange virus, but we are not at war. We are in a holding place, a phase where we are waiting for the peace to settle. It’s a strange feeling to pass time in this way while we are being transported to an unknown destination.

While you are waiting to be released, it's important to ask yourself, what exactly is it that you want to do when you arrive at freedom? Where is it exactly that you want to go, to and once you get there what exactly is it that you want to do? This pandemic is shining a light on whatever it is that you were hiding from yourself. If you ignore what this period is trying to teach you, this feeling will follow you wherever you may go.

“How noble and good everyone could be if, every evening before falling asleep, they were to recall to their minds the events of the whole day and consider exactly what has been good and bad. Then without realizing it, you try to improve yourself at the start of each new day.”

-Anne Frank

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