A most difficult anniversary approaches: the day, 73 years ago, when today's #HistoryHero was discovered, along with her family, and condemned to death in a Nazi concentration camp for the crime of being born Jewish. Our hero is remembered thanks to the stories and precocious wisdom she left behind. She is beloved by generations the world over.
May we all continue to learn from her hardship and sacrifice...
Do you believe that goodness can endure and conquer evil?
Anne Frank embodied that belief.
Anne Frank was born a German citizen on June 12, 1929, at a time when her country's political landscape was undergoing dramatic change. The National German Socialist Workers Party (better known as the Nazi Party) was on the rise. And its anti-Semitic platform put Jewish families like the Franks in danger. When the charismatic spokesman, Adolf Hitler, won control of both party and government in 1933, the Franks saw the writing on the wall. That's when Edith, Otto, Anne, and her older sister Margot fled to Amsterdam.
They should have been safe there. They were for some time. But that changed when the Nazis invaded Poland in September of 1939, igniting what we now know to be World War II.
In May 1940, the Nazis rolled into the Netherlands. The Dutch army was no match for the now finely-tunned German war machine. They succumbed to German occupation after five days of fighting. The Germans then imposed their increasingly familiar anti-Semitic laws: requiring all Jews to wear yellow Stars of David; forbidding Jews from owning and operating businesses; refusing Jewish school-children an education alongside non-Jewish students.
Five days after Anne's thirteenth birthday, in June 1942, her sister Margot was summoned to a Nazi work camp. This prompted the Frank family to go immediately into hiding. They prepared a makeshift living quarters in the abandoned back portion of Otto's former company building. Otto's business partner and his family joined the Franks. They would remain confined to the "Secret Annex," locked in and living on top of each other in near-total silence, for two miserable years. Otto's non-Jewish former co-workers kept them alive at great personal risk, dropping off food and other provisions when they were able.
Anne brought with her into the Secret Annex her 13th birthday present: a blank diary. In it, she documented her experience of the Holocaust. She wrote a daily account of life in captivity; she wrote to pass the time; she wrote to keep her spirits up. She wrote not only autobiographically, but also fiction, beginning short stories and even a novel. She also kept a list of her favorite quotes. She demonstrated extraordinary creativity and a precocity beyond her years.
None amongst the captives knew what Anne scribbled about, day in and day out. But on August 5, 1944, an anonymous tip betrayed the Franks and their friends. German soldiers stormed the Secret Annex, capturing the two families in hiding there and shipping them to Camp Westerbork. That's when Anne's diary comes to an abrupt end as she was forced to leave it behind.
The Franks were held in Westerbork for little under a month before being transferred to Auschwitz on September 3, 1944. There, the men and women were separated. Otto Frank, who survived the holocaust ordeal, would never see his wife or daughters again.
Anne and Margot were transferred subsequently to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp where, under dire conditions, both girls caught typhus. They died within a day of each other in March 1945, just weeks before British troops might have saved them. Anne was just fifteen years old.
After the war, Otto returned to the Secret Annex. He discovered Anne's journal. He understood the power in her words and stories. He read about her own aspiration for publication. The first letters from the diary appeared in 1947.
Anne's diary remains one of the fullest accounts of the Holocaust. It has helped to heal the spirits of its readers. For although Anne described the horrors of the Holocaust with immense pain, she also wrote a meaningful story of hope and love.
On July 15, 1944, for example, she wrote:
"I see the world being slowly transformed into a wilderness; I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too. I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty too shall end, that peace and tranquility will return once more."
Anne Frank responded to hate and evil with unfathomable courage, strength, and compassion. That's why she's a Time Traveler Tours #HistoryHero. We're honored to include her in these pages.
Who's your #HistoryHero?
Tell us in the comments below and we'll feature him or her on this blog.