Anne Frank in Amsterdam, in Seattle

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Anne Frank poster.JPGSix million is an unfathomable number. It's easier, by far, to focus on one. So it is with Anne Frank, the teenage girl in Amsterdam who was forced into hiding because her family was Jewish and the Nazis (who had invaded Holland in 1940) were ramping up the pressure on Jewish families and businesses owned by Jews. Mind you, Amsterdam was home to over 100,000 Jews, many of them refugees from Hitler's Germany on the other side of the Rhine.

Anne, a precocious writer, kept a diary, On June 12th, 1942, for her 13th birthday, she was given a notebook with a checked cover; she and her father, Otto, had picked it out together. Barely a month later, the family (mother, father, sister) abandoned their comfortable apartment in the Merwedeplein and took shelter in Het Achterhuis, the hidden annex behind Otto's office. Eventually, eight people would squeeze into the space. For the next two years, five Dutch citizens risked their own lives to bring them food and supplies.

Throughout the ordeal, Anne kept notes in her diary. On a clandestine radio, she heard an appeal (broadcast from London) that contemporaneous diaries would be collected after the war, so she started afresh, on plain paper, transcribing her notes and adding "uncomfortable" details, such as getting her first period.

Soldiers raided the annex on August 1, 1944, and its occupants were sent to concentration camps. Were they betrayed by one of their Dutch friends, as had long been assumed? Recent reports suggest a much more banal reason that the reason for the raid had to do with forged ration books.

Anne and her sister, Margot, died of typhus at Bergen Belsen. Only Otto survived, and when he returned to Amsterdam he learned that Anne's diary and papers had escaped notice. Many versions of her notebooks have since been published. In Europe, its influence was minor, at least at first. In the USA, it was championed by a young editor named Judith Jones, who went on to discover Julia Child and win the lifetime achievement award from the International Association of Culinary Professionals. But she got her start by pulling the Anne Frank manuscript out of the slush pile at Random House. "It's one of those seminal books that will never be forgotten," Jones said.

Well, there's so much more to the story than this. My grandmother and two aunts lived around the corner from the Franks and held out until September, 1943, when the remaining Jews were rounded up and shipped to camps.

Today, Het Achterhuis (now known as the "Anne Frank House") is Amsterdam's most visited attraction. And here in Seattle, for the next three months, you can view a traveling Anne Frank exhibit at the Holocaust Center in Belltown.

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This page contains a single entry by Cornichon published on March 5, 2018 12:30 PM.

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