Anne Frank and My Life

My mother had a recent neurological event….not a stroke, but something happened.    She spent time in a hospital. and then was moved into a rehab facility on the campus of her near of semi independent town home.

When she was there, I’d visit her  every other day in the memory facility and our visits are  usually business related (signatures, are needed, bills must be paid….supplemental medical care  forms need to be filled out)  and despite the parts that are read and reread until  she understands,  our visits are relatively short.     But this is a mutual decision.   As daughter and mother, we know our emotional limitations, even with her ever increasing dementia.   She doesn’t particularly care to spend much time with me and my desire to cut visits short is probably good old Catholic guilt.   She’s in a place she doesn’t want to be and feels certain it was my decision to place here there.     If that’s not enough pain from a daughter’s  persoective, she keeps insisting she’s going home tomorrow , then then next day comes, and she’s going home the next day and the next day.    She’s not ready to go home and might not me.     Time will tell.

For some reasons, I feel like it’s my fault she’s there.    It’s absurd, I know.     Yet…..

I have a lot of down time in between visits.     I moving to a new home in July, but even that’s lost some of its luster, so I watch TV, read and drink a lot Ginger Ale (Seagrams has by far the best taste). While waiting in line at the grocery store, I saw  a Life magazine special edition on Anne Frank.    I’ve only read her diary in bits and pieces, but, some how I know her entire story.

As best I can tell, she was an quite ordinary as brilliant young girls go.  She was precocious, she felt things, saw things differently, she was aware  of things and no doubt had she lived, she would have been a world renown writer well beyond what the publication of her diary allowed her to be.

And I think she and I could have been friends.   Sure, she was Jewish and I’m Catholic, but that wouldn’t have mattered.     Jewish people fascinate me.   They have a duty and devotion I could never possess, plus their faith is so strong,  as is their entire cultural belief system.   Hell, I haven’t believed in anything with that much passion since waiting for Santa Claus a week away from Christmas.

And that was 51 years ago.

I mean, read this excerpt  from her diary, written at just 13 or 14 years old…

““Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness.”

When I was her age I was writing  “L + M 4-ever” on my 7th grade school book cover.

Then again, maybe  we wouldn’t have been friends.   Had Hitler never existed, maybe I would have bored her to me end  getting her to speak her brilliance and logic as opposed to wiring it all down.  Nah, we wouldn’t have been friends.   I couldn’t see beauty in a nail in a piece of mail.    I am…..I would have been beneath her intellectual station.

But Hitler did exist and  his “final solution” included Anne Frank.   He didn’t know her.    He’d never heard of her, but he feared her.   He feared her people, because  they possessed what he never did.  I’m truly convinced God made a covenant with the Jews.  He told then they’d endure hell on Earth, but their reward would be they’d be smarter, more creative and more talented a result.    They’d be consummate survivors.     Why all the hell on Earth?   I don’t know,  but the Jews  have always had it tough, yet they always rose up only to achieve and succeed again,   And afterwards they required no hand outs, demanded no equity, no dependence on anyone but themselves, no sense of entitlement.    No protests, marches on Washington…. They are  just like the mighty Phoenix….literarily.

The Frank family was well to do, but and if you had money and believed that as Jews, your lives werent a in danger and many didn’t.    Many Jews actually thought the Reich’s Juden  problem was fakakfa, but those who felt sure danger was impending, got out early, but it wasn’t cheap.   It’s was expensive, and  you could be tied up with bureaucratic paperwork for months.    And then by the time the SS started  rounding  up Jews, it was next to impossible to escape.   So, they’re only choice was to hide.

The Franks,  with the help of Gentile  friends, moved into the attic (or the upper annex) of a  business in Amsterdam where her father worked.   This was May 1940.  She and her family and several other  people lived in concealed rooms, hidden behind a bookcase.

They couldn’t move during business hours and could only talk minimally and use limited light at night.   It’s was an impossible life, but one  they lived until they were arrested by the Gestapo in August 1944.    They spent four abysmal  years in tiny rooms inmprisoned simply for being born Jewish.

Anne kept a diary she had received as a birthday present, and wrote in it regularly. Following their arrest, the Franks were transported to concentration camps. In the fall of  1944, Anne and her sister, Margot, were transferred to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp from Auschwitz, where they both mercifully died of typhus a few months later.  I use mercifully intentionally.   Death for Holocost victims came in three ways:   You were  worked to reset, gassedor shot, or  got sick and died.

Frank’s father, Otto, the only survivor of the family, returned to Amsterdam after the war to find that Anne’s diary had been saved by one of his Goyim co-workers.   It was first published in 1947 and  translated from its original Dutch version and first published in English in 1952.    Anne’s diary and has since been translated into over 60 languages, several movies and plays.

Anne Frank was remarkable.     Mainly, in that she didn’t go completely insane hiding as long as she did.     Maybe her brilliance kept her as sane as it helped keep her alive.

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More of her quotes:

“Women should be respected as well! Generally speaking, men are held in great esteem in all parts of the world, so why shouldn’t women have their share? Soldiers and war heroes are honored and commemorated, explorers are granted immortal fame, martyrs are revered, but how many people look upon women too as soldiers?”

“It’s  difficult in times like these: ideals, dreams and cherished hopes rise within us, only to be crushed by grim reality. It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.”

“I don’t think of all the misery but of the beauty that still remains,”

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Perhaps this quote came from her one connection to the outside world     From her only window,  Anne could see the sky, birds and a majestic chestnut tree.  The photo above was her view of the tree.

As long as this exists”, Anne wrote in her diary, “how can I be sad?” During the two years she spent in the Secret Annex, the solace Anne found in her chestnut tree provided a powerful contrast to the death and cruelty unfolding all around her secret hiding place.   Her view of the tree became her strength.   Her goal—-to eventually go outside without fear and feel it, see it in its  full glory kept her going.  A tree….a mere chestnut tree became a heroine’s hero.    Despite all the death that surrounded  them, they were both alive.

Sadly, the  chestnut got sick and collapsed from disease in 2010. However, in the years before the tree’s demise, the stewards at the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam wisely created saplings that have since been distributed to numerous locations around the world.   So, in some ways, the tree that helped Anne maintain hope in an absolutely hopeless situation, still lives and does so all over the world.

Theese saplings,  young trees now, represent hope and life and despite the pains and loss, they represent the future, free of the heartache….at least most of it.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must go now.   I’m going to get dressed and go to a nursing home to visit my own aging chestnut tree.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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