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Monday, June 12, 2017

June 12: Anne Frank's birthday

Frank in 1940
It is really a wonder that I haven't dropped all my ideals because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet, I keep them, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can't build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness. I hear the ever-approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the sufferings of millions, and yet, if I look into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again. 

When I write I can shake off all my cares. My sorrow disappears, my spirits are revived! But, and that's a big question, will I ever be able to write something great, will I ever become a journalist or a writer?

~ Frank (Ibid., 5 April 1944)

And finally, I twist my heart round again, so that the bad is on the outside and the good is on the inside, and keep on trying to find a way of becoming what I would so like to be, and could be, if... there weren't any other people living in tthe world. 

~ Frank (Ibid., 1 August 1944) 

How do you describe the sorting out on arriving at Auschwitz, the separation of children who see a father or mother going away, never to be seen again? How do you express the dumb grief of a little girl and the endless lines of women, children, and rabbis being driven across the Polish or Ukrainian landscapes to their deaths? No, I can't do it. And because I'm a writer and a teacher, I don't understand how Europe's most cultured nation could have done that. For these men who killed with submachine-guns in the Ukraine were university graduates. Afterwards they would go home and read a poem by Heine. So what happened? 

~  Elie Wiesel (wiki) (b. 1928) (quoted in Le Monde, Paris, 4 June 1987)

The apartment block where the Frank family
 lived from 1934 until 1942
June 12 is the anniversary of the birth of German-Jewish refugee and diarist Anne Frank (wiki) (1929-1945) in Frankfurt-am-Main. With the seizure of power by Hitler and the Nazis in January 1933, Anne's businessman father relocated his company to Amsterdam, where he thought his family would be safe. After Germany occupied the Netherlands in 1940, the Franks went into hiding in a secret room in an annex to his former office, where they were sustained with the assistance of their Dutch friends. During this period, Anne Frank began the diary that would be rediscovered and published to world-wide acclaim in 1947. 

In August 1944, however, two months after the Normandy invasion, the Frank's hiding place was revealed to the Germans by a Dutch collaborator, and the family was captured and deported to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp (wiki). Only her father survived, Anne having succumbed to mistreatment, malnutrition, and disease just a few weeks before the camp was liberated in April 1945. 

Here's a video tour of the annex where the Frank family (along with others) lived from July 6, 1942 until their arrest on August 4, 1944:

N.B. For an exhaustive and comprehensive account of the Third Reich that explores in depth the questions raised by Elie Wiesel above, read Richard J. Evans' masterful three-volume history, completed in 2009 with The Third Reich at War. Be prepared for 2,000-plus pages - and it's a harrowing tale.

The text above is adapted from Ed's Quotation of the Day, only available via email - leave your email address in the comments if you'd like to be added to his list. Ed is the author of Hunters and Killers: Volume 1: Anti-Submarine Warfare from 1776 to 1943 and Hunters and Killers: Volume 2: Anti-Submarine Warfare from 1943.

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