Study Guide

The Diary of Anne Frank Religion

By Anne Frank

Religion

Anne Frank

[. . .] Mother pressed her prayer book into my hands. I read a few prayers in German, just to be polite. They certainly sound beautiful, but they mean very little to me. Why is she making me act so religious and devout? (10/29/1942.3)

This passage suggest that Anne’s mother’s behavior is different than usual. It also highlights Anne as an independent thinker. She is not interested in religion for show or for beauty, but wants it to “mean” something to her.

To give me a new project as well, Father asked Mr. Kleiman for a children’s Bible so I could finally learn something about the New Testament. (11/3/1943.2)

Anne wouldn’t have been exposed to the New Testament in her Jewish school, and her curiosity toward it shows her desire to experiment with religion and religious texts. It would make sense that she would start with a “children’s Bible” – she could learn the basic stories relatively quickly.

The best remedy for those who are frightened, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be alone with the sky, nature and God. For only then can you feel that everything is as it should be and that God wants people to be happy amid nature’s beauty and simplicity. (2/23/1944.3)

Like many before and since her, Anne sees God in the natural world. Yet, her speech is ironic. She is trapped. She can’t go outside. She also says this is the only way you can “feel that everything is as it should be.” In this desperate passage, Anne is stating, very politely, that because she is separated from nature, she is separated from God.

Who has inflicted this upon us? Who has set us apart from the rest? Who has put us through such suffering? It’s God who has made us the way we are, but it’s also God who will lift us up again. In the eyes of the world, we’re doomed, but if, after all this suffering, there are still Jews left, the Jewish people will be held up as an example. Who knows, maybe our religion will teach the world and all the people in it about goodness, that’s the reason, the only reason, we have to suffer. (4/11/1944.48)

Many Jewish people (and others) stopped believing in God after the Holocaust. We don’t know whether Anne did or not, as we don’t know her thoughts during her time in the concentration camps. Here, though, Anne is struggling to reconcile her belief in God with the horrible events she’s experiencing and hearing about. She is also looking for reason in something that must be described as beyond reason.

People who have a religion should be glad, since not everyone has the ability to believe in a higher order. You don’t even have to live in fear of eternal punishment; the concepts of purgatory, heaven and hell are difficult for many people to accept, yet religion itself, any religion, keeps a person on the right path. Not the fear of God, but upholding your own sense of honor and obeying your conscience. How noble and good everyone could be if, at the end of each day, they were to review their own behavior and weigh up the rights and wrongs. They would automatically try to do better at the start of each new day and, after a while, would certainly accomplish a great deal. (7/6/1944.9)

Even though Anne is living in fear, she finds no place for it in her religious philosophy. Anne also shows that for all her sophistication, she is still childlike. For one thing, different people have very different ideas about “honor” and “conscience” than Anne does, Hitler being case in point. Religion can be a source of great comfort, but also of great conflict.