Overcoming Restrictions on Mobility

The Jewish people in the Netherlands experienced many forms of segregation. Jews were forbidden to do very simple things. It was decreed that they couldn’t even go into non-Jewish houses, and other things only because they were Jewish, or rather because they had three grandparents who were Jewish (Mason 317, 322). They were also severely restricted in terms of their mobility. Restriction after restriction was put into place to keep the Jewish people from mobilizing and to dampen their spirit. Even through all these anti-movement restrictions, the Jewish people were able to carry on and not lose faith. Even though the restrictions decreasing mobility, by limiting transportation and by implementing time restrictions, placed on the Jewish people and on the families in the annex were severe and hard to deal with, we can see, in Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl, that they all found a way to resist giving in to the Germans by being optimistic, by not causing a disturbance, and through the belief that things will turn out better in the end.

The Germans passed resolution after resolution to keep the Jewish people from moving around and making a disturbance. The first step they took to restrict Jewish mobility was the prohibition of the use of private motor vehicles, along with bicycles and all public transport. Even the sleeping cars on trains were off limits (Netherland). They set up tight restrictions in which there were only extreme circumstances when a Jewish person would be allowed into any kind of public transportation. A person wishing to ride the public transportation would have to appeal to the government for special permission, and the officials would only rarely these permissions. Then, on the few occasions that a permit was issued, the Jewish person would still only be able to travel in the lowest class available and in the smoking compartments, and they would also only be allowed to sit after all the other non-Jewish people had found their seats (Mason 322). Thus it could happen, in some instances, that the Jewish person would have to stand without being seated.

The Germans then expanded their restrictions on mobility from just limiting methods of transportation to limiting general places where Jews could go. Many places in the cities were off-limits such as the zoo, or some restaurants. In fact, they were not allowed in public parks, saloons, coffee houses, and hotels as well. They were even segregated outside on normal streets. In some places, the Jewish people couldn’t walk on the side of the street that had most of the public buildings. In yet others, the street was segregated based on one side being more elegant, or even just sunnier (Mason 322). All these restrictions were put into place to degrade the Jews, and to make them feel as low as possible.

The restrictions on the Jews didn’t end when the Germans restricted where the Jews could go, but rather the Germans continued to make more restrictions confining Jews to certain areas. The restrictions eventually led to the entrapment of the Jews in their own homes during certain times. The Jews were told they had to be in their houses between the hours of 8 pm and 6 am. During this time they were forbidden to go out in the front yard, front balcony, or even to open a window in front (Mason 322). On top of that, the Jews were not allowed to change where their residence was. In order to move their household, they had to get official permission from the government just as they did for the public transportation permits. In this case as well, permission was not granted easily (Netherland).

In The Diary of a Young Girl, the issue of mobility, and all of the preceding restrictions, are expressed, and Anne finds a way to deal with them.. Since she spends only a little time out and about under the influence of the German restrictions, she doesn’t have many encounters with those exact restrictions, but the life in "The Secret Annex" can be viewed as one giant restriction caused indirectly by the Germans, and is therefore a very serious obstacle to their mobility. Along with the overall idea of being contained in the annex, the details of the life in the annex closely parallel the outside occurrences with the Jews. The families of the annex are forced to comply with schedules that are set up that seriously affect their ability to move around. In general they have to put up with the same things that all the others outside the annex have to deal with, just in a setting where the Germans are not making the rules.

Nonetheless, we do see early on in the book a couple instances where Anne is faced with the outside restrictions just like other Jews, and she finds ways to think positively about it, without letting it all get her down. She writes in her diary of how she is forbidden from riding in the streetcars, and that the ferry is the only mode of transportation other than walking that is still available to the Jewish people. She goes on to say: "It’s not the fault of the Dutch that we Jews are having such a bad time" (Frank 12). She says in this passage that Jews do not see all these restrictions as being the work of the whole non-Jew population, but rather that this is something that is getting imposed on the society from an outside source that no one wants to experience. It is not the Dutch people who are trying to cause these problems, but rather those Germans under the rule of Hitler who are being unfair and unreasonable. This is one way that the Jewish people were able to withstand many of those restrictions of mobility placed on them. They knew that it wasn’t the doing of the people of their country, and this allowed them to look forward to the future when Germany would possibly lose the war, and then all would return back to before, since the actual citizens weren’t the ones who caused all these problems.

Early on in the diary, the relationship between "The Secret Annex" and the outside world becomes evident, and we start to see how Anne applies that same idea of optimism to her everyday life while enduring the restrictions on mobility in "The Secret Annex." Even before the van Daans arrived, Anne was already getting used to the confinement, and seclusion that the annex provided. It became just as the outside world’s seclusion of the Jewish people. She took a stance that only looked at the bright things. "It’s really not that bad here…. Of course, we can’t ever look out the window or go outside. And we have to be quiet so the people downstairs can’t hear us" (Frank 27). She states that even though, they have to be secluded without any contact with others outside the annex, she thinks that it is "really not that bad here." This is amazing that this girl can think in such a manner. I believe if any of us realized we were to be locked up inside a few small rooms and never be able to go outside and talk to others, we would be quite devastated. To us, having to not look outside or make any noise that might be heard would be the worst thing that could happen to us. We would not even think of referring to it as "not that bad." This is just a prime example of how a suppressed person, such as Anne in this situation, can look past the actual events, seeing the future, and know that they may be experiencing rough times now, but it will get better sometime, so it really is "not that bad."

In trying to look at the bright side of things, the Jews also tried to comply with the restrictions in order to resist causing conflict. They figured the best way to get through the terror was to be calm and go with flow, and not draw attention to themselves. This is seen very well in the time restrictions placed on their mobility and how everyone obeyed them. Just as the Jews in public were required to be in their houses from 8 pm till 6 am, the families inside the annex had to be quiet during the rest hours of 10 pm till 7:30 am. They outlined this in the "Prospectus and Guide to the Secret Annex" (Frank 68-70). In this outline of the rules for Mr. Dussel, they also set down other time restrictions such as the private radio being "available to all residents after 6 p.m" (Frank 69). The same restriction is placed on singing as well. Even though these restrictions were created for a different reason than the time restrictions created by the Germans, they had the same effect on the people. Throughout the diary, the residents obeyed these rules because they knew it was essential to their survival. The Jews on the outside had to do the same thing. They would always draw up their strength and comply with the orders in order to keep themselves alive. This was a very common way in which the Jewish people reacted to the restrictions that they were forced to operate under.

Throughout the entire diary, Anne keeps coming back to the idea that if they just wait it out, it will become better, and so they should resist by just trying to survive, and it would then all come together in the end. Even though they are put through all these tough situations, they must just spend the time the best they can, and sometime it will all be over and they can live their lives the way they want to. "All we can do is wait, as calmly as possible, for it to end" (Frank 82). Anne expresses that this is how the Jewish people are forced to view the whole situation. Believing that better times are ahead is the only thing that makes people get through the tough times. We can only try to be calm and wait out the tough times and the better times will come. You can see this same philosophy later when she expresses this idea again. This time she focuses on the idea, not just of waiting, but making the time pass so that the later, better time can come. "Let me tell you more about my ‘time killers’ (this is what I call my courses, because all we ever do is try to make the days go by as quickly as possible so we’re that much closer to the end of our time here)" (Frank 95). She very clearly shows the overall theory that most Jewish people in this time employed. Keep yourself occupied the best you can, so that time can pass and things will become better. "Our time here" will come to an end and we can move on and live as we truly wish. We can only "try to make the days go by as quickly as possible." In reality, this is the method most people take in this world. When times are tough we just want to get through them. We do stuff that keeps us occupied and not thinking of our troubles, until that point when those troubles disappear and we can have the life that we have always wanted. Thus, Anne Frank’s diary provides a very good look into the methods that the Jews used to get themselves through the tough parts of their lives. Unfortunately this method did not get everyone through the holocaust. Many of these Jews including Anne and most of her family ended up dying in this terrible point in our history. Nonetheless, we can clearly see, through her writings, not only the philosophy of the Jews of that time, but also the philosophy used today, of how we get ourselves through the tough times of our life. We try in the face of tremendous restrictions placed in front of us to look on the bright side of things, to comply with the restrictions, yet always looking ahead to the better times that we know can follow after all the troubles of our life.

 

 Works Cited

Cesarani, David, ed. The Final Solution: Origins and Implementation. London: Routledge, 1994.

Frank, Anne. Otto H. Frank and Mirjam Pressler eds. The Diary of a Young Girl. New York: Bantam, 1997.

Mason, Henry L. "Testing Human Bonds Within Nations: Jews in the Occupied Netherlands." Political Science Quarterly 99 (1984): 315-329.

Mendelsohn, John, ed. The Holocaust: Selected Documents in Eighteen Volumes. Vol. 13. New York: Garland, 1982.

"Netherland Jews Curbed." New York Times 21 Sep. 1941: 9.

Rose, Leesha. The Tulips Are Red. South Brunswick: A. S. Barnes, 1978.

Warmbrunn, Werner. The Dutch Under German Occupation: 1940-1945. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1963.