When I first read the Anne Frank story more than 20 years ago and also look at some of the entries in her diary, I thought about what that must have been like to be in her shoes. The sheer horror of it left me numb at times.
Now I have had the good pleasure to come across Anne Frank: The Biography by Melissa Muller. The text opens with informants having alerted Nazi assistants to the National Socialist government in Germany of the whereabouts of Anne Frank and her family in the Annex.
Those opening pages sent a cold chill through my body. They had been caught. They were numb as well, almost resigned to their certain fate. Anne Frank, besides being born in Germany and staying there for a number of years, had left the country and was now in Scandinavia.
She had never known Germany as her country and was far away from it. Her schooling, religion, culture and family were all outside of Germany. The same thing held for so many other Jews in Amsterdam (who hundreds of years before had fled to the same place to escape persecution in mainland Europe).
Yet the government was able to summon them back to Germany, the most powerful country in the world at the time and then dispatch them to concentration camps where they would later die.
This definitive biography brings home the unique terror of the National Socialist movement. People in Italy, Poland and the countries of Scandinavia as well as the Balkans, some of whom had never seen Germany, could be taken by that country and then eliminated.
To drive the point home, imagine if Spain was to become a world power again (which is as likely as their birth rate increasing) and come to such a level that they were the world power. They then set about creating an environment in which the Mexicans have to be eliminated as part of some Final Solution.
Mexicans, whether they had lived in Spain and left or had never even lived in Spain, are collected from around the world and brought to Spain or the satellite nations that it has conquered and exterminated in an ecstatic orgy of violence. This is how mind splitting the Holocaust was when considered in the full light of history.
Melissa Muller, in her expanded biography of Frank, goes through suspenseful introduction then flashes back to the life of the Frank family, their children and their acquaintances. Lengthy details are given in the book that shows how their hiding and sequestering themselves had become the norm for them.
Their pariah status was just something that was accepted. No issue. No objection. This reminded me of a school friend that I knew named Adam Horowitz. I had jumped in to defend him from eight bullies one day after my grandfather had told me to at home the day before as we are both sons of the Prophet Ibrahim, peace be upon him.
After the fight (which we both had the tar kicked out of us, as eight on two odds is still eight on two odds), I would later come to his home at his invite, meet his sister and family and it was an enlightening experience.
I saw the letter ‘J’ with the seven numbers after it on his father’s arm, the family pictures of uncles (who had their beards plucked or set on fire) and aunts (who were raped and then shot with one bullet so as not to ‘waste’ ammunition) that were made into nothing but smoke at Auschwitz.
As I said to him at the time, “You have a serious case of the dead homies,” meaning friends in abundance that had been killed; but in this case it was his family. Adam Horowitz had not known and would never know his grandparents, great uncles and aunts on both sides and aunts and uncles on both sides as they were dead. All that remains are these haunting pictures of the deceased staring out, none of them smiling.
This is the closest I would ever get to the world that Anne Frank lived in, one of fear and later extermination. The book brought back a lot of those memories along with a useful section on the names and short biographies of the main people in Anne’s life.
There are also unpublished portions of the diary that are quoted that show a budding woman in Anne Frank and her growing interest in the world around her on topics such as love, boys/men, art and injustice in the world.
A separate section on the Secret Annex where Anne and family lived was crucial in coming to grips with the sad end that was inevitable for the family in a world that ignores an entire people. Everyone knew what was going on but continued going about their business as it did not concern them or they just did not care.
The same attitude was exhibited in the case of Srebrenica, Rwanda and countless other peoples (not comparing the genocides in question with the Holocaust, as there is not comparison, but comparing the attitude of people) since the Holocaust.
Human beings do not change with the legislation of the UN or their home countries. Their hearts have to change. This book to me establishes more than ever that human beings as a collective have not changed.
This book is a page turner and worth every bit of whatever it may cost from whatever bookstore or website you purchase it from; but just know it is not for those with weak stomachs.