BY SIDDHI JAIN
New Delhi, April 18 (IANS) The diary of Anne Frank, a young chronicler of the horrors of the Nazis’ genocide of the Jews, offers a beacon of hope – and humanity – to the millions who read her thoughts, written while hiding with her family for two years before being betrayed and sent to the death camps. Reflecting on her life 75 years after her arrest, and death, is a travelling exhibition that has come briefly to Delhi.
“Anne Frank: A History for Today”, an exhibition of photographs and archival information, takes visitors to Nazi-occupied Europe during the Second World War as it follows Anne’s journey from homeland Germany to the promise of a refuge in the Netherlands, but back to a German concentration camp.
Born in 1929, Anne moved to Amsterdam with her family to escape the growing victimisation of Jews in Germany after Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933. However, things did not go well for the Franks after Germany invaded the Netherlands in 1940, and Jews began to be rounded up.
In the exhibition’s photographs, a young Anne and her sister Margot are seen growing up from childhood to teenage. Happy family photographs and images taken at school, soon gave way to a dark place in their factory — the secret annexe where the Franks went into hiding.
But after being caught, they were sent to the dreaded Auschwitz from where Anne and her sister were sent to the equally infamous Bergen-Belsen camp where they died in February-March 1945, after having contracted typhus. Their father, Otto, was the only survivor.
Recorded are quotations from her diary, a small, red-chequered notebook that went on to contain her vivid observations and experiences, and eventually become one of the world’s most popularly-read personal accounts of the Holocaust.
In India, many school curriculums have Anne’s account “The Diary of a Young Girl” as an essential reading, making her story widely known.
During a walkthrough of the well-curated exhibition, the Deputy Head of the Netherlands Embassy in India, Anneke Adema, spoke of Anne’s life and the tragic experience she had.
“There are messages from her life that are still very valid today: the importance of tolerance, non-discrimination and hope.
“We have a tendency to forget history, and people should see these pictures — of Auschwitz, for instance. I heard about it during my life in the Netherlands, but the moment you see it, you feel everything. You see the suitcases of the people who were gassed, the hair, the glasses, kids’ toys and shoes — we have to make it visible,” Adema told IANS.
With the focus on educating school and university children about the brutality of the Second World War and the Nazis’ cruelties, the diplomat also invited about 50 students to the exhibition.
Adema stressed on telling children that “they are living in India, the biggest democracy in the world, and how valuable that is”.
A truly touching quote of the exhibition is from Hannah Goslar, Anne’s childhood friend who saw her behind barbed wires in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. “She was not the same Anne, she was broken.”
Yet, few of Anne’s heart-breaking last words in the diary, written before the arrest, remind us of the hope she carried with herself.
“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.”
“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.
“Anne Frank: A History for Today” is open for public at the India International Centre here till April 29. It is organised by the The Anne Frank House, PeaceWorks and Embassies of the Netherlands and Israel.
(Siddhi Jain can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)