Thursday, 9 June 2016

Simon’s General Interest blog post- Anne Frank

Hi guys
As you may have heard in our latest edition of The Engage Podcast I started our series of ‘General Interest’ podcasts (which can be found here). Where we talk about our interests outside of the wonderful world of Star Trek. As my first choice I decided on a particularly interesting individual involved with the Second World War.
Not a famous General (such as Field Marshall Montgomery) or Prime Minister (such as the wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill) as you might expect. This individual is just as remarkable (and important) in her own right as any politician or General.
I’ve chosen the thirteen year old diarist Annelies Marie Frank…better known to the world as Anne Frank (Wikipedia &

A picture of Anne from 1941
Anne Frank for all those who don’t recognise her name was a thirteen year old Dutch diarist who wrote about her daily life in hiding over a two year period (July 1942-August 1944) during the Nazi occupation of Holland.

The Frank family
Anne hid in a secret annex with her family. Her father Otto, her mother Edith and elder sister Margot.

Secret annex occupants, and helpers
She also shared the annex with another family called the Van Pels and a dentist called Fritz Pfeffer. The annex was situated in Amsterdam, above Otto Franks Opekta business which sold fruit extract called pectin.

Otto Frank and the secret annex helpers
[from left to right] Miep Gies, Johannes Kleiman, Otto Frank, Victor Krugler and Bep Voskuijl
They survived through the help of four helpers, who worked for Opekta. They were Victor Kugler, Johannes Kleiman, Miep Gies and Bep Voskuijl. The eight individuals and two of the four helpers were arrested by the Gestapo on the 4th of August 1944, after being tipped off by an anonymous source. 
Anne Frank is an interest I’m passionate about because I’ve always been interested in history (particularly the Second World War) from a young age. This meant that it was awfully difficult trying to choose a specific subject to talk about…as I’m interested in so many. But the unfortunately short life of Anne Frank poses many important questions about what it means to be human, the morality and most crucially ethics.

United Kingdom DVD cover for the 2009 five part Mini-Series for "The Diary of Anne Frank"
Back in 2009 I was able to watch the BBC adaptation of her wartime diary, which was produced as a five part Mini-Series (Starring Ellie Kendrick in the lead role as Anne). Because of the amazingly accurate portrayal of everyone associated with the secret annex, and the way it manages to translate the realism of being in hiding during a time of war. Meant that by the end of this superbly realistic series my interests in the story behind the young writer had reached a peak.

Book cover for the 2009 reissue of "The Diary of Anne Frank" (acommpanying the five part Mini-Series)
So I decided to get a copy of her diary, once I started reading her diary I immediately started to understand how it must have felt to have lived through a very traumatic period of human history. For someone who was brought up in the 1990’s it’s quite a difficult thing to try and imagine. But for whatever reason the way she wrote her diary meant that for the first time, I felt ‘connected’ and emotional about what happened to her and all those who lived in the secret annex unlike any other historical event I’ve studied.

My picture of me and Mum outside The Anne Frank House Museum, back in 2011
I was also lucky enough to visit Amsterdam with my Mum back in 2011, where we visited The Anne Frank House Museum. Which was an amazing place to visit. It’s not until you actually step into the annex that you start to realise just how cramped it actually it is (the hiding place in 3D).
[English version narrated by Tamsin Greig, voiced by Ellie Kendrick]
This makes it even more astounding how eight people lived in the confided space for two years, three months before being discovered on the 4th of August 1944.

Cross section of Prinsengracht 263, including the secret annex (highlighted in red)
After the unexpected discovery of the Secret annex by the Gestapo the eight people who had called it ‘home’ for all that time, were taken to Gestapo (RSHA) Headquarters to be interrogated and held overnight. They were then transferred to the Huis van Bewaring (House of Detention), an overcrowded prison on the Weteringschans. On the 7th of August 1944 they were then moved to the Westerbork Transit Camp.
Meanwhile the helpers were also being punished for their involvement with the Achterhuis (other name for the annex). Bep (Voskuijl) and Miep (Gies) were the two helpers who got let off the lightest, as they were questioned and threatened by the Gestapo. Johannes (Kleiman) and Victor (Kugler) were arrested and then jailed in the Amersfoot penal camp. Johannes was fortunately released after seven weeks in imprisonment. Victor was less fortunate spending the rest of the war doing work in numerous Labour Camps.

Auschwitz Concentration Camp gates
After spending 27 days (3rd of September) at the Westerbork Transit Camp the group from the annex were then deported to the notorious Auschwitz Concentration Camp.
Following three days travelling in cramped conditions they arrived at the camp. Once there the 1,019 passengers were divided into different groups. The men were forced into one group, separating them from the women and children. Whilst another group (made up of 549 people) were taken horrifically directly from the train into the gas chambers.

Within the group from the annex, Hermann Van Pels died as a victim of the gas chambers soon after the group’s arrival. Towards the end of December, Fritz Pfeffer also died from an illness at the Neuengamme Concentration Camp.
By October of 1944 the Frank women were due to join the transport going to the Liebau Labour Camp. But Anne had contracted scabies and was prohibited to go. Because of this Edith and Margot opted to stay with Anne.
It was thought after the war, that if the women had gone to Liebau Labour Camp they would have had a better chance of surviving.
Because they decided not to go to Liebau Labour Camp Anne, Margot and Auguste Van Pels were selected to be relocated to Bergen-Belsen Death Camp, where the women had a low chance of surviving.
Edith Frank was left behind at Auschwitz Concentration Camp, where she later died of starvation (6th January 1945). It should be noted that the Auschwitz Concentration Camp was liberated on the 27th of January 1945. After spending sometime at the Bergen-Belsen Death Camp to Auguste Van Pels got separated from Anne and Margot on the 6th of February 1945, when she was initially transferred to the Buchenwald Concentration Camp. After a bit of time there she was then sent to the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp, but sadly before she arrived there Auguste was murdered. Due to all the confusion the date she died is unknown. But it is estimated that she died sometime between the 9th of April-8th May 1945.
International Red Cross patch
Around the same time at the beginning of May 1945 the next member of the annex died. Peter VanPels died at the Mauthausen Concentration Camp after joining a Death March, exestuation possibly lead to his death. Although the date he died is unknown, the International Red Cross designated his death as the 2nd of May 1945. Which would have been three days before the Camp was liberated on the 5th of May 1945.
The last two members of the secret annex to lose their lives in a Concentration Camp were Margot Frank and the young diarist Anne. Strictly speaking they died a few days apart in early March 1945. But I thought I would talk about them last, as I think it will have more of an impact.
After Auguste Van Pels was transferred to another camp, conditions for the Frank sisters slowly worsened in the Bergen-Belsen Death Camp.
Disease pandemics were thrift and easily spread around the camp, mainly due to a lack of hygiene in the camp. The most common diseases found in Concentration Camps were Dysentery, starvation, Rickets (Vitamin D deficiency), food poisoning, Beriberi (lack of thiamine), Pallagra (Vitamin B and Protein deficiency), Marasmus (protein deficiency), Typhoid and Typhus.

Anne & Margot's gravestone at the site of Belsen Death Camp (Bergen-Belsen Memorial)
It is thought that the Frank sisters died from the latter, when a Typhus epidemic spread through the camp in March of 1945 killing 17,000 people. Margot in a weakened state was the first sibling to perish, dying from the shock of falling out of her bunk.
After seeing this, it is thought that Anne passed away a couple of days later. Believing that her whole family had died.
The saddest part of the story is that if only they’d held on a couple of weeks longer, the camp was liberated on the 15th of April 1945 by Soviet troops.

Otto Frank standing in the secret annex on the morning of the official opening of The Anne Frank House Museum

The only reason anyone’s ever heard of Anne Frank is due to her father, who was the only member of the Secret Annex to survive. He was liberated from Auschwitz by soviet troops on the 27th of January 1945.
On his six month journey back to Amsterdam (via Odessa & Marseille) he was informed that Edith hadn’t been able to hold onto life long enough for liberation.
Once Otto finally returned to Amsterdam on the 3rd of June 1945, he headed straight to Miep Gies house, as he wanted to see what information she had heard about the girls...but alias she did not.

My picture of Amsterdam Central Station, back in 2011
So each day Otto would walk to Amsterdam Central Station (destination for trains from concentration camps) to find out any information concerning the whereabouts of his daughters.

Although weeks later, the moment he feared slowly became true, as he was told the tragic news about his daughters (from a survivor of the Bergen-Belsen Death Camp).
Meaning that he was the only survivor from the group capable of enduring life in a concentration camp.
Miep decided to house Otto, partly as he had nowhere to return too…but to also allow them to ‘catch up’ whilst Otto was getting himself back on his feet. This also gave her the perfect opportunity to give him his younger daughter’s diary (containing five notebooks, and three hundred loose pages). Which she recovered (from the ‘Secret Annex’) after sneaking up there following the groups arrest by the Gestapo.

He always knew his youngest daughter wanted to become an author or journalist when she grew up. She hoped that she could gain entry into the profession with her wartime writings, possibly leading to their publication.
This is something she worked towards even in hiding, as she started to edit her diary. So that it was ready for publication after the war. After hearing the radio broadcast by an exiled Dutch government official (Gerrit Bolkestein talking from London, England) urging people to keep accounts (including journals, letters and diaries) that would provide a record of what life was like under German occupation.
Het Achterhuis, the first Dutch edition of Anne Frank's diary, published on the 25th June 1947
It’s that edited version of Anne’s diary, Otto had published in the Netherlands under the title of “Het Acheterhuis” (which translates as the “Rear Annex” in English) by the 25th June 1947.
It’s not until 1952 before the book (retitled as “The Diary of a Young Girl”) began to be published in America, despite various fears including the fact that it was too depressing. In spite of those fears the book has gone on sell over thirty million copies to date, and has been translated into seventy languages…in over sixty countries around the world!

My picture of statue of Anne Frank (by Mari Andriessen) outside the Westerkerk Church in Amsterdam, back in 2011

Since the books release, Anne has gone on to become a symbol for equality, and the fight against prejudice and discrimination of people of different race or religion. Unfortunately these are issues we’re still plagued with to this day.

The eternal flame of remembrance
Before I end, I would just like to ask you to please take a moment to remember all those caught up in the Holocaust.
(International Holocaust Remembrance Day is on the 27th January)

Anne's Diary
Lastly, I would just like to take a moment to thank my friends Daniel, Penny and Jamie for proof reading this Blog post for me. I really appreciate it!
It’s with their help, I’ve been able to assure myself that I’ve done this topic justice as I think you realise (from this and the episode) it’s an interest quite close to my heart. 
Probably more than I think, as I suspect reading Anne’s Diary inspired me to start the ‘diary of our day’ in the form of this very Blog…so thank you Anne!!!

This is Simon from The Engage Podcast signing out!

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