Anne Frank: Remembering Anne on Her Birthday

Anne Frank: Remembering Anne on Her Birthday

Anne Frank was born 84 years ago, on June 12, 1929. During her short 15 years, she kept a diary and wrote there sorting out her emotions, describing her crushes and despair, her desires and dreams. Anne kept the diary from 1942 to 1944, the two years that her German-Jewish family lived in hiding in Amsterdam during World War II. In August 1944, Anne, her family and the others who were in hiding with them were discovered by Nazi authorities. They were shipped off to Nazi concentration camps; Anne died in Bergen-Belsen, just weeks before it was liberated.

Historical Background Notes

Surrounded by the turmoil of Weimar Germany, Otto and Edith Frank got married in 1925, and Otto pursued an industrial career. In 1929, the year Anne Frank was born, the stock market in New York crashed, and an already unstable Weimar government was further undermined by economic depression, unemployment and inflation. In 1933, the Nazis came into power. The Franks decided to move to Amsterdam in the Netherlands, which had been neutral during World War I. The Netherlands had the reputation of being a safe haven for religious minorities. Otto Frank left for Amsterdam first and established a branch of his uncle’s company there.

Initially, Anne felt at home in their apartment at 37 Merwedeplien. She and her sisters attended school, went to the beach, and had both Jewish and Christian Dutch friends. The Frank family seemed to have made what appeared to be a good decision and were adjusting to their new life. But like so many other refugees throughout Europe during World War II, the Franks’ belief that they had a safe haven was shattered when Nazi armies violated Dutch neutrality. The Nazi bombing of Rotterdam killed 1,000 people and within five days the government surrendered under the threat of further bombings. Queen Wilhelmina and her government went into exile in London.

At first Anne and Margot were still able to socialize with their friends and attend school. However, soon the Nazi administration in the Netherlands, along with the Dutch civil service, began issuing and carrying out anti-Jewish decrees. This included stripping Jews of their rights as citizens and human beings and isolating them from their fellow Dutch citizens. Otto Frank, aware of what the Nazi decrees had done to Jews in Germany, anticipated as best he could what was going to happen to by turning his business over to his non-Jewish colleagues. Anne had to leave her Montessori School to attend the Jewish Lyceum.

The first brutal round up of 400 Jewish men and boys in Holland occurred on February 25, 1941. It was in response to earlier riots by Dutch Nazis and a counter-attack by a small Jewish resistance group. Virtually the entire working population of Amsterdam and a few other cities in the vicinity went on strike. The strike continued for two days, until the Germans broke it up by force. By 1942, the round-ups of Jews and their deportation to labor, transit and concentration camps were becoming routine. The geography of the Netherlands and the closing of its borders made escape extremely difficult. Fearful for their lives, Otto and Edith Frank prepared to go into hiding. They wanted to stay together as a family and they already had a place in mind, an annex of rooms above Otto Frank’s office at 263 Prinsengracht in Amsterdam.

The employees of Otto Frank agreed to help them. At a time when it was unusual to find anyone to help, the Franks, as Anna wrote in her diary, were “privileged” to have so many helpers and to be together. Besides business associates Victor Kugler and Johannes Kleiman, employees and friends Miep Gies, her husband Jan, Bep Voskuijl and his father were all trustworthy. They not only agreed to keep the business operating in their employer’s absence, but they would risk their lives to help the Frank family survive.

On July 5, 1942, Anne’s sister Margot received a call-up notice for a Nazi “work camp.” Although their hiding place was not yet ready, Edith and Otto Frank realized that they had to escape immediately. Hurriedly, they packed their belongings and left notes behind that implied they had fled the country. On the evening of July 6, they moved into their hiding place.

Otto Frank had made arrangements with his business partner, German Jewish refugee Hermann van Pels, his wife, Auguste, and their son, Peter, to share the annex with his family. They arrived a week later on July 13. The seven residents of the annex were joined by the eighth and final resident, Fritz Pfeffer, in November. Most families who went into hiding were all split up and moved from place to place, dependent on others for help. Many parents tried to place at least their children in hiding, and of the children who survived the war, few ever saw their families again.

Since the annex was above a business, and the buildings on either side were occupied, the eight residents had to be extremely quiet to avoid being discovered. They became a kind of extended family in the confined space of the shared rooms. The Nazi’s and their collaborators were carrying out their plan for the “final solution to the Jewish question.” The annex residents could only wait and hope. Anne wrote in her diary about the long hours of boredom and suffocation. At other times, she felt alone and misunderstood.

News was extremely important to those living in the annex; only Germany’s defeat would end the mass killing of Jews and other innocent victims. The residents constantly argued over when, and if, the war would end. At approximately 10 a.m. on August 4, 1944, Anne and the others’ greatest fear came true. Four Dutch Nazis entered the office building to catch the hidden Jews. Someone had betrayed them, but to this day no one knows who. The Nazis took the residents into custody, transported them to a prison in Amsterdam, subsequently deported them to the Dutch transit camp, Westerbrook, and then to Auschwitz.

Anne and her sister were then transported to Bergen-Belson concentration camp in Germany. At Bergen-Belson, Anne and Margot, already debilitated, contracted typhus. Margot, seventeen years old, died first. A short time later Anne, then fifteen years old, died. It was March 1945. The exact date of their deaths and where they were buried is unknown.

For interested readers, The Anne Frank Center, USA, maintains a scrapbook of her life and times.

Anne Frank’s Attic Window

Anne Frank’s Attic Window

The 150-year-old chestnut tree that comforted Anne Frank as she hid from the Nazis in the attic of the canal-side warehouse in Amsterdam was a ray of hope for the famous diary writer. The Jewish teenager remained indoors with her family for 25 months until they were arrested in August 1944. She died of typhus in the Bergen-Belsen camp in March 1945.

The attic window from which Anne Frank could see the tree was the only one that had not been blacked out. In a diary entry dated February 23, 1944, she wrote: “From my favourite spot on the floor I look up at the blue sky and the bare chestnut tree, on whose branches little raindrops shine, appearing like silver, and at the seagulls and other birds as they glide on the wind… As long as this exists, I thought, and I may live to see it, this sunshine, the cloudless skies, while this lasts I cannot be unhappy.”

The Chestnut Tree and the Attic Window

The Only Known Moving Picture of Anne Frank

Anne Frank Speaks: A Holocaust Documentary

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Remembering Christopher Hitchens, 1949–2011

Remembering Christopher Hitchens, 1949–2011

The death of Christopher Hitchens on Thursday night, of complications from esophageal cancer at the age of 62, ended one of the greater intellectual careers of the last 40 years. Born in Portsmouth, England, and educated at Balliol College, Oxford, Hitchens started his career as a Trotskyite at The New Statesman, working along with noted authors, Martin Amis and Ian McEwan, who would become his lifelong friends. In the early 1980s, he moved to the United States, becoming a citizen in 2007, and began working for liberal magazine The Nation, writing some of his earliest attacks on the conservative government and American foreign policy.

A prolific author, Hitchens left behind a massive body of critical writing, with more than a dozen books and hundreds of essays targeting everyone from the British Monarchy to Bill Clinton to George Orwell to God, usually with wit and more often than not, vicious and cutting remarks. Even those who hated his politics could not help but admire his skill as a writer and ability to craft a sharp turn of phrase, and many called him a friend.

Perhaps his most famous book was The Missionary Position, a scathing attack on Mother Teresa and her Missionaries of Charity church, an organization that he called a cult. Hitchens described Mother Teresa as a “fraud” and accused her of glorifying poverty to enrich herself and the Catholic church, rather than truly helping the poor. The book infuriated Roman Catholics around the world, as well as politicians and celebrities who he claimed had used the charity and her reputation to mask their own evil deeds.

A later work, The Trial of Henry Kissinger, accused the former Secretary of State of “war crimes,” and argued that Kissinger should be prosecuted for “crimes against humanity, including conspiracy to commit murder, kidnap, and torture” for his involvement in atrocities in Southeast Asia and Central America. As a critic of the Bush administration’s use of torture, Hitchens filmed himself being waterboarded to demonstrate the cruelty of the practice. Hitchens claimed that, “The official lie about this treatment … is that it ‘simulates’ the feeling of drowning. This is not the case. You feel that you are drowning because you are drowning.”

Hitchens had an enviable career arc that began with his own brand of fiery journalism at Britain’s New Statesman and then made its way to America, where he wrote for everyone from The Atlantic and Harper’s to Slate and The New York Times Book Review. He was a legend on the speakers’ circuit, could debate just about anyone on anything and won innumerable awards.

Christopher Hitchens was a wit, a charmer, a troublemaker and was a gift, if it dare be said, from God.

Read much more about the life and enviable work of Christopher Hitchens in The New York Times here, in The Atlantic here and in Vanity Fair here.

The Immoral Rejoinders of Christopher Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens Gets Waterboarded

Photo-Gallery: Remembering Christopher Hitchens, 1949–2011

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September 11: Never Forget

September 11: Never Forget

The disaster that occurred on September 11, 2001 was the worst in the history of New York City. Not only were nearly 3,000 people killed in Manhattan, at the Pentagon and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania on that morning; they were victims of a premeditated act of mass murder that pioneered the use of hijacked passenger jets as suicide bombs and then reordered and distorted the decade that followed.

For those in the immediate vicinity, the horror was immediate and unmistakable; it occurred in what we have learned to call real time, and in real space. Those farther away, whether a few dozen blocks or halfway around the world, witnessed the horrors through the long lens of television.The sense of grief and shock, a terrible roaring in the mind of every American, made it impossible to assess the larger damage that Osama bin Laden and his fanatics had inflicted, the extent to which they had succeeded in shattering our self-possession. In the years after 9/11, many still can hardly erase the vision of the wreckage of the two towers, the twisted steel and sheets of glass, the images of men and women leaping from ninety-odd stories up and the knowledge that thousands lay beneath the ruined buildings.

The New York Times has assembled and posted more than two hours of military, air traffic, and airline radio communications, some of it never before heard in public, from the morning of September 11, 2001. Threaded into vivid narratives covering each of the four doomed airliners, the multimedia document contains 114 recordings of air traffic controllers, military aviation officers, airline and fighter jet pilots, as well as two of the hijackers, stretching across two hours of that that morning. It is depressing, but totally engrossing and fascinating. Viewers may listen to the complete audio collection here.

A Look Back at How September 11 Unfolded

Remembering Father Mychal Judge, The Saint of 9/11

On Sunday, September 4th, marchers turned out by the hundreds in New York City to honor the memory of the Rev. Mychal Judge, the beloved FDNY chaplain killed on 9/11. Firefighters and their families, friends of the Franciscan priest, and well-wishers from near and far, all came together for a four-hour Walk of Remembrance through the streets of Manhattan. Father Judge, commemorated as The Saint of 9/11, was killed while giving last rites to a firefighter at the World Trade Center. The group walked from midtown to Ground Zero, stopping at firehouses and police precincts along the way to pray and read the names of the 9/11 dead.

The Saint of 9/11 (Full Version of the Movie)

Photo-Gallery: September 11/Never Forget

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On the 10th Anniversary of 9/11: Remembering the Saint of 9/11

On the 10th Anniversary of 9/11: Remembering the Saint of 9/11

On Sunday, September 4th, marchers turned out by the hundreds in New York City to honor the memory of the Rev. Mychal Judge, the beloved FDNY chaplain killed on 9/11. Firefighters and their families, friends of the Franciscan priest, and well-wishers from near and far, all came together for a four-hour Walk of Remembrance through the streets of Manhattan. Father Judge, commemorated as The Saint of 9/11, was killed while giving last rites to a firefighter at the World Trade Center. The group walked from midtown to Ground Zero, stopping at firehouses and police precincts along the way to pray and read the names of the 9/11 dead.

Father Mychal Judge was a Franciscan priest who served everyone that he encountered with the passion and spirit of St. Francis. Those who knew Mychal Judge have described him as carefree, open-eyed, laughing and humble. Some of his greatest friends were alcoholics whom he had saved from street corners, a mother who lost her daughter on TWA Flight 800 and a disabled former policeman whom he wheeled across an embattled Northern Ireland in an attempt to persuade the people there of God’s healing power of forgiveness.

Mychal Judge was also the dedicated official Chaplain for the New York Fire Department. He rushed to be with the FDNY firefighters at the site of the 9/11 World Trade Center tragedy, and as he was kneeling to give Last Rites to a fireman who had just perished there, Mychal was struck by falling debris from the burning towers and killed.

Father Judge was gay, which he knew would have caused him to be barred from the priesthood under the current Pope. He kept knowledge about his sexual orientation closely guarded, because he was acutely aware that it could become an obstacle to his work with some of the beloved firemen to whom his ministry was so dedicated.

In addition, many people have a special remembrance of Father Judge for his labors with and on behalf of persons who were suffering with AIDS during the early years of the crisis. Beginning in the early 1980s, when HIV really began to emerge with its fury of terror, Father Judge was one of the first persons to courageously devote himself to caring for those who were stricken, mostly alone, isolated from society and totally abandoned by their families. His steadfast kindness continues to stand as a role model for us all.

The Saint of 9/11 (Trailer)

The Saint of 9/11 (Full Movie)

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Lapsus: A Little Nun’s Daring Journey into the Dark Side

Lapsus: A Little Nun’s Daring Journey into the Dark Side

Lapsus is a wickedly funny three-minute animated short film by Juan Pablo Zaramella, an Argentinean director and animator. In the film, a curious little nun ventures into the darker side of her world. The poor nun ends up making a number of frightening Freudian slips, unwittingly getting herself involved in some very twisted misdeeds. If you enjoy short films and funny things, this one is really for you. No wait, this is one for everyone!

Lapsus: A Little Nun’s Daring Journey into the Dark Side

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Sermon on the Mound: Blessed are the Poor in Spirit

Sermon on the Mound: Blessed are the Poor in Spirit

Sermon on the Mound is an inspirational three-minute documentary short film directed by Eliot Rausch. The deeply personal documentary was shot over a period of 36 hours in Los Angeles and is  stunningly filmed and edited. The documentary short expresses a tone of unconditional love and support for the poor in spirit, the impoverished, the homeless and the persecuted. Previously, Rausch was the director of Last Minutes with Oden, which was named the Best Documentary and Overall Best Video at the 2010 Vimeo Awards in New York City.

Sermon on the Mound: Blessed are the Poor in Spirit

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Remembering 9/11: The Infamous Day That Changed America

Remembering 9/11: The Infamous Day That Changed America

September 11: Photographers Give Eyewitness Accounts of the Attack

Commemorating September 11: A Photographic Remembrance

Father Mychal Judge: The Saint of 9/11

Slide Show: Remembering September 11/The Infamous Day That Changed America

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