In the wake of the November US election, we happened to spend several days in Amsterdam. One of my must-sees was the Anne Frank House, where one of the world's most read authors hid with her family from the Nazis from 1942 until they were captured and sent to concentration camps in 1944.
So many millions of people around the world read Anne Frank's "Diary of a Young Girl" as part of their school curriculum. I hadn't, so I finally made up for it. Since we know how the story ends, it's a heartbreaking glimpse into the hopes and fears of an aspiring teenage writer. You dread that final diary entry. And in the gift shop, I bought a diary with the same binding and plaid cover that Anne used.
Why? Because the story of this innocent girl, whose only "crime" that she was born a Jew, speaks volumes to our times. I started my diary entries on the train back to Brussels, determined that I would write during these times that bode very ill for all that is decent and civilized.
Anne never got around to writing daily entries, and I'm even less diligent. But we all should chronicle our reactions, and register our objections. And not just in a diary.
As the assault on the weak gets fully underway by the bullies who are increasingly able to rise to power, people need to do everything they can to protect democracy. Register to vote, and help others to do so too. Contact elected representatives to ensure that the framework of a civilized democracy is not dismantled.
The Anne Frank Declaration, signed by world leaders from Nelson Mandela to Bill Clinton:
"Because prejudice and hatred harm us all, I declare that:
- I will stand up for what is right and speak out against what is unfair and wrong
- I will try to defend those who cannot defend themselves
- I will strive for a world in which our differences will make no difference - a world in which everyone is treated fairly and has an equal chance in life"
Today January 27 is Holocaust Memorial Day. Anne Frank's father Otto was among those liberated by Soviet forces from Auschwitz death camp on this day in 1944. He was the only survivor of those who hid in the "Secret Annex" in Amsterdam, and made his daughter's message his life's work.
Anne Frank died in Bergen-Belsen in 1945, just a month or so before the camp's liberation. We now know that her father had unsuccessfully attempted to gain entry into the United States for the Frank family.
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Update: The above post was written before we learned that the Trump White House declaration on the Holocaust specifically avoided stating that Jews were singled out for annihilation by the Nazis. Many have seen "Holocaust Denial Lite" and the work of the far right in this omission. On the same day, of course, Trump signed his Muslim Ban executive order, setting off a firestorm of protest worldwide and triggering unprecedented opposition from within his own executive branch, as well as judicial judgements deeming his actions unconstitutional. What a way to honor the Anne Franks of 1945 and 2017.