Wednesday, 12 June 2013
The persecution of the Jews, known by the haunting Greek word the Holocaust, meaning sacrifice, by the Nazis in central and eastern Europe occurred over a period of three years, 1942-45, although it can hardly be doubted that the Jews have been persecuted since the beginning of the time. However, a collection of factors including the bleak economic climate in twentieth-century Europe, the devastating aftermath of WW1, and the desire of each country to strengthen and 'reborn' itself, meant that persecution, intolerance, and hatred were more prominent than they had hitherto been, and eventually led to mass murder, torture, and elimination. The Jews, of course, were the obvious and largest group of victims, although one must not forget about other persecuted groups such as gypsies, homosexuals, the disabled, Jehovah's Witnesses, and other races.
Anne Frank is known as one of the most discussed and famous victims of the Jewish Holocaust. On this day in history, 12 June 1929, she was born in Frankfurt, Germany as the second daughter to Otto Frank and his wife Edith; her sister Margot three years older. A Jewish family, the Franks lived in a time of increasing violence and anti-Semitism in Europe, of which Germany was a country which notably experienced such attitudes under the Nazi Party headed by Adolf Hitler. This family eventually fled Germany in the early 1930s for Amsterdam - they were among some 600,000 Jews who escaped Germany in the period 1933-39.
Anne's diary, known as The Diary of a Young Girl, is exceptionally intriguing as a document providing insights into the life of a Jewish family living in twentieth-century Europe on the brink of the Second World War. Anne's cleverness, wit, and outspoken nature shine forth throughout her diary, particularly in her often complex relations with her other family members while dwelling in the claustrophobic environment of the secret annexe. Also on this day, 12 June 1942, thirteen-year old Anne was first given her diary as a birthday present, and wrote in it regularly hereafter.
Anne's diary indicates her close relationship with her father, and illuminatingly details her blossoming friendship and, perhaps, romance with Peter van Pels, whose family also resided with the Franks in the secret annexe. Her relationship with her mother Edith was more strained, although she later expressed disgust at her earlier contempt for Edith. Anne's relationship with Margot also became gradually closer as the two became older. In this diary, Anne wrote regularly until the family were arrested in August 1944.
Who exactly betrayed those hiding is controversial, and will probably never be known for certain. They were all eventually taken to Auschwitz, separated from one another; Anne, by virtue of just turning 15 in June, escaped being gassed. In October, Anne, her sister and Auguste van Pels were transported to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany. In March 1945, both Anne and Margot died from a typhus epidemic which decimated the camp, killing some 17,000 prisoners.
Anne's story, expressed in her diary, is famous the world over. We need not concern ourselves with the outrageous allegations made by some that the diary is fake, a forgery. Eloquently, beautifully written, the reader is haunted throughout by the knowledge of the writer's horrific fate which she could never have realised. Read as a historical source as well as an incredibly moving book, The Diary of a Young Girl reminds us all of the darkness and evil possible in human nature, and how quickly dislike, contempt and racism can manifest itself in violence, brutality, and murder. One can only pray that such horrific events never take place again - but sadly, they are taking place, every day.