Friday, July 30, 2010

Anne's House

A friend recently returned from the Netherlands where she visited Ann Frank’s house. You remember Anne, don’t you? She was the Jewish teen-aged girl who hid with her family in her father’s office building in Amsterdam after fleeing Nazi Germany.
Annelies Marie "Anne" Frank, who was born 12 June 1929 in Frankfurt am Main and died in March 1945 in the Bergen Belsen concentration camp, is one of the most renowned victims of the Holocaust, according to Wikipedia. She was a meticulous and talented writer whose diary documenting her experiences hiding during the German occupation of the Netherlands in World War II became a widely read book and the basis for several plays and films.
She was born in Frankfurt am Main in Weimar Germany and officially considered a German until 1941, when she lost her nationality due to the anti-Semitic policies of Nazi Germany. The Frank family moved from Germany to Amsterdam in 1933, the same year as the Nazis gained power in Germany and by the beginning of 1940 family members were trapped in Amsterdam due to the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. As persecutions of the Jewish population increased in July 1942, the family went into hiding. Two years later, the group was betrayed and transported to concentration camps. Anne Frank and her sister, Margot, were eventually transferred to Bergen-Belsen where they both died of typhus in March 1945.
That Anne Frank.
I’ve never visited the Anne Frank house—now a museum—in Amsterdam, so my friend brought back the museum’s guide and I’ve been reading it over the past few days. It’s a wonderful book that, in somewhat stilted English, documents the incredible faith and strength of a small number of persecuted people who knew that death was a whisper away. It’s a formidable testament to strength and trust, to the foibles of humanity, and to the abilities of a few to defy the will of the many.
It’s been years since I read Anne Frank’s diary. My first contact with it was when I was 10, my second when I was 20 and fascinated by the horror of all things Holocaust. Even then I was too young to comprehend the full impact of it all. I was raised as a postwar French child, and by the age of eight I’d heard enough invasion and Nazi tales to last a lifetime. My parents had friends who’d survived the camps; the tattoos still alive on their arms, vile reminders of malevolence never to be forgotten. Some of these friends  never wore short sleeves after being rescued from the camps.  At that time, France had not yet owned up to its own role in deporting thousands of Jews to places called unknown. That came much later.
Seeing the photos of the tiny spaces filled by Anne Frank’s family, of the walls decorated with photos of American movie stars, of the maps where the movement of the Allied armies was tracked by Anne’s hopeful father—all these things chilled me. We live in comfortable times today and it’s good to be chilled, to be reminded of history’s wickedness,  Thanks, ST.

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