Remembrance Day: Anne Frank recalled

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Our Environment by Katharine Fletcher

When I read the Diary of Anne Frank as a youngster, I recall wondering how I’d have coped, cooped up in a tiny room with my family, unable to speak during daytime, unable to run outside and play… unable to be who I was. Also, being terrified of the Nazis, “simply” because of being Jewish.

Our Environment by Katharine Fletcher

When I read the Diary of Anne Frank as a youngster, I recall wondering how I’d have coped, cooped up in a tiny room with my family, unable to speak during daytime, unable to run outside and play… unable to be who I was. Also, being terrified of the Nazis, “simply” because of being Jewish.
In her diary, teenage Anne embraces life and all the yearnings of a teenager. On April 4, 1944, she wrote, “I want to go on living even after my death!”
Indeed, she has.
Anne Frank was one of at least six million Jews who were victims of the Nazi Holocaust during World War II. Jews were rounded up, placed in ghettos, shipped by cattle cars to concentration camps. Once there, they suffered a degrading, horrible fate. Variously they were gassed, worked to death, died of
starvation, suffered horrifying experiments in the name of medical science, while many succumbed to diseases such as typhoid, cholera and tuberculosis.
In Europe, about 7 out of 10 Jews perished during the Holocaust. Anne died at Bergen-Belsen in March of 1945, a few weeks before the British liberated Bergen-Belsen, on 15 April. Her father, Otto Frank, was the only family member to survive
concentration camp.
Hiding the Franks
Miep Gies was Otto’s secretary and the co-author of Anne Frank Remembered. When the Nazis commenced rounding up Jews in Amsterdam, the Franks hid in a secret room in his factory. Gies brought them the basic necessities of food, news and emotional support during the two years the family hid  (July 1942 until their arrest by the Nazis in 1944).
I admire Gies’ response regarding why she helped hide the Franks. “My decision to help Otto was because I saw no alternative.”
“I could foresee many sleepless nights and an unhappy life if I refused. And that was not the kind of failure I wanted for myself. Permanent remorse about
failing to do your human duty, in my opinion, can be worse than losing your life.”
Honourable words.
Gies gives Otto Anne’s diary
When the Nazis raided the Franks’ hiding place, Anne’s diary fell to the floor. Loose pages, Gies remembered, littered the floor. She collected them, hiding them in a desk until Otto returned. When they met, she gave the grieving husband and father his daughter’s diary.
Pontiac link to Anne
The other day I was chatting with a friend of mine, Grand Calumet artist Jelly Massee, about Remembrance Day. She suddenly said, “My parents and grandparents witnessed the Nazis taking Anne Frank and her family away.” When I asked her whether they’d been able to do anything, the answer was no. Massee said, “Anyone who tried to help was sent to a camp – or some were shot right there on the street, as they tried to help.”
Remembrance and reflection
Remembrance Day. Such a lot to remember, honour, mourn, and be thankful
for. My mother always placed poppies beside her brother’s photo – Ray Marland died in his Spitfire and is buried in Alexandria, Egypt.
Anti-semitism: remaining watchful
In 2018, sometimes I feel we live in a bubble. Every Remembrance Day I deeply regret our World still knows hatred, war – and yes, anti-semitism.
I’d have hoped we human beings would’ve figured some basic things out by now. Like compassion. Like the ability to walk in another person’s shoes and, in so doing, be able to celebrate differences.
Worldwide, we are witnessing the rise of populism, and the promotion of fear and suspicion.
And so, I’m thankful for the heroism of Gies – and others who serve and preserve humanity like this, right now. This is the environment I embrace.