By BRYAN ANDREWS
Most people who have heard the story of Anne Frank, or who have read even a part of her diary, have the impression that she was an unfortunate young girl destroyed by the Nazis. I was one of those people and it took a couple of trips to Europe to change that mindset. It was only when I stood in the Achterhuis in Amsterdam where she, her sister and their parents plus three other adults and a teenage boy had hidden from the Nazis for two years, that it dawned on me that she wasn’t a victim. She was a winner. Her spirit defeated the Nazi oppression and has lived on for more than 60 years after the heinous Nazi regime collapsed. Dip into any of the stories in her book, Tales From The Secret Annexe and you will discover a spirit that soared high above the Nazi oppression and that refused to be conquered.
Nine months later, I visited Krakow in Poland and was taken to Auschwitz, where, after her betrayal in Amsterdam, Anne was imprisoned for two years. Auschwitz is not for the fainthearted. It is a clear display of Nazi brutality. From a 1940-style show window full of human hair (which the Nazis used to make thermal underwear for their soldiers) to the one remaining gas chamber and incinerator; from the rows of pit latrines in adjacent Birkenau (where privacy was unheard of) to the gallows on the edge of the parade, where prisoners were forced to witness the execution of dissident fellow prisoners, this concentration camp screams of cruelty and inhumanity. And yet, Anne survived all of this. The Nazis could not break her spirit.
It was only after she was transferred to Bergen-Belsen in Germany that typhus ravaged her body and she died…but although her body was no more, her spirit lived on and still does in the hearts and minds of her readers, who still visit the Achterhuis and Auschwitz in their thousands every year.