"Hitler said that when he died, he would leave a strong and great Germany behind him. Instead he left us a very different legacy, new knowledge of what human beings are capable of."
One year ago today, in one of the most deeply moving experiences of my life, I visited the place where a young Jewish girl, hiding with her family from the Nazis, kept a hand-written diary which would one day speak from the darkest abyss of Man's inhumanity to his fellow Man, to move the entire World: The Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. My Wife, Karen, and I listened to the half-hour presentation offered by the museum telling the story of Anne and her family; (I strongly advise booking this as part of your visit, ours was wonderfully presented by a young man, and even a History Fan such as I learned new things).
My Wife is unfortunately disabled, and was therefore unable to reach the tiny annex where, for just over two years, eight people, including Anne, quietly tried to evade detection, a quest which ended when they were discovered on August 4th, 1944.
I made the journey into the annex alone, before meeting Karen in the museum café, and breaking down in tears as I reflected once again on the enormity of what happened to these people, to millions of others like them, and to what human beings are actually capable of.
During the talk by the young man we were shown some posters from the rise to power of the Nazis. One of them, an election poster, read: 'Unsere letzte Hoffnung: Hitler', (Our last Hope: Hitler); and as I contemplated Anne Frank's story, with it's commentary on inclusion, rejection, discrimination, blame, hatred and war; I felt my broken heart sink in my chest; because I realized I didn't have to hear a story from 1942 to witness these things, I had only to switch on the news today. I had only to listen to people in my time talking of: "making the nation great again" Of "sovereignty". Of "traitors", "immigrants", and "patriotism".
Annalies Marie Frank died of Typhus in February, or possibly early March, 1945. Her remains lie somewhere in the vast, mass graves of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. She was fifteen years old.
In her diary entry of April 5, 1944, Anne wrote:
'I want to go on living even after my death! And therefore I am grateful to God for this gift, this possibility of developing myself and of writing, of expressing all that is in me. I can shake off everything if I write; my sorrows disappear; my courage is reborn. But, and that is the great question, will I ever be able to write anything great, will I ever become a journalist or a writer?'
At the time of writing this post, The Diary of a Young Girl has been translated into 75 languages; and has sold 35,000,000 copies.
I have always believed that the capacity to commit the monstrous evils of the past lie in every one of us. But like Anne Frank, I also believe humans have a wonderful capacity for kindness, compassion and love; if they would only dare look for it. And if you are wondering whether there is one last hope for Mankind, please go and look in the mirror.
There is our last hope...
#annefrank #amsterdam #holocaust #nazis