Saturday, June 12, 2010

In Memoriam: Anne Frank

Both a remarkable young woman and her remarkable book were born on this day: the girl in 1929, and the book 13 years later, in 1942; that such a simple birthday present as a diary could one day become the single most damning piece of evidence against the atrocities of the Holocaust not only staggers the mind but also makes the heart soar...

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketBorn in Frankfurt, Anne Frank and her family fled to Aachen in 1933 after Hitler's election, finally settling in Amsterdam the following year. For awhile it seemed their flight had been successful, but they were soon trapped in Holland following the Nazi Occupation in November 1940.

Anne Frank's diary was begun less than a month before her family went into hiding, in July 1942; its earliest entries, while detailing the minutiae of her life, also offer glimpses of a growing awareness that her life was in danger. For two long years her family and four of their friends hid in a room in the back of the Opekta Works factory on the Prinsengracht (now a museum) which her father owned, until being arrested by the Gestapo in August 1944 - on a tip from a person whose identity remains unknown to history even if the sting of their betrayal survives.

Alas, the third act of Anne's life was not to be; seven months after her arrest she died of typhus in the concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen, a few days after her older sister Margot. The exact date of their deaths remain unknown, but it was likely some time in March 1945, when an epidemic of the disease swept the camp. Since it was her dream to be a journalist one wonders how Anne, already a gifted and sensitive writer, would have described those last months of her young life, the liberation of the camps just six weeks after she died, or the ensuing Nuremberg trials when those responsible would be held accountable, having already written history's most damning account of Nazism by the age of 15.

Anne's father Otto Frank was the only survivor of the achterhuis, and upon his return to Amsterdam he was given Anne's diary, which was found and saved by Miep Gies, who'd aided the inmates during their hiding at great personal risk to herself. Today it is one of the world's most read books, and Gies is a national (indeed an international) heroine for having rescued it.

Anne's story was quickly adapted for the stage, and that play duly became a movie; the most chilling work on the life and death of Anne Frank, though, is Jon Blair's 1995 documentary Anne Frank Remembered; narrated by Kenneth Branagh and featuring excerpts of the diary read by Glenn Close, among the many treasures it contains* is the only known film footage of Anne Frank.

*Anne Frank Remembered also contains the longest interview Miep Gies ever gave about her involvement with the Franks, as well as their fellow captors, the Van Pels family - Hermann, Auguste, and 16-year-old Peter - and Fritz Pfeffer. It comes with the highest possible recommendation of the Pop Culture Institute.
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2 comments:

Y | O | Y said...

I wonder if they'll find any of her records in the huge files they were just released?

michael sean morris said...

That's always a possibility. Otto Frank suppressed nine pages of the original diary, which were only returned in 2001, so there may be other material.