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Anne Frank: Lessons in human rights and dignity

Anne's words still strengthen spirits

By JOYCE APSEL

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 26, 2000


The writings and wisdom of Anne Frank have spoken to generations around the world, and many have been moved to speak about impact of her words. The exhibit Anne Frank: A History for Today begins with a series of powerful quotations about Anne and her diary.

The quotations range from three presidents -- John F. Kennedy of the United States, Nelson Mandela of South Africa and Vaclav Havel of Czechoslovakia -- to contemporaries of Anne Frank such as Laureen Nussbaum and another survivor of concentration camps, writer Primo Levi. These quotations underline Anne Frank's legacy and the necessity to be aware of and work against discrimination and violence:

* * *

"(Anne Frank's) diary is the spontaneous utterance of a young person, a girl who, despite the oppressiveness and anxiety that came with living underground, tried to grow and to free herself from her parents, searching for her own way."
- Laureen Nussbaum, Holocaust survivor who knew Anne's sister, Margot

* * *

"One single Anne Frank moves us more than the countless others who suffered just as she did, but whose faces have remained in the shadows. Perhaps it is better that way: If we were capable of taking in the suffering of all those people, we would not be able to live."
-Primo Levi, author and Holocaust survivor

Italian-Jewish writer Primo Levi, whose writings, such as Survival in Auschwitz about being a prisoner in Nazi concentration camps, are among the most powerful literature of the 20th century, speaks of the power of a single person to move us. Anne Frank was one of more than 1.5-million Jewish children killed during the Holocaust. Anne Frank is just one of millions whose lives were destroyed by hatred, war and politics.

* * *

"Anne Frank's legacy is still very much alive and it can address us fully, especially at a time when the map of the world is changing and when dark passions are awakening within people."
- Vaclav Havel, president of Czechoslovakia

photo
Vaclaz Havel
[Times files 1999]
Vaclav Havel speaks of the continuing political struggles of ethnic conflict and nationalism in our own time, including the end of communism in his own country and Eastern Europe. Currently the peoples of Chechnya and Indonesia, to name only two places, are struggling to survive in the midst of war and suffering.

* * *

"Some of us read Anne Frank's diary on Robben Island and derived much encouragement of it."
- Nelson Mandela

photo
Nelson Mandela
[Photo: AP]
Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa, was imprisoned for years because of his opposition to the apartheid government, speaks of how Anne Frank's diary serves as inspiration. He and others who struggled against apartheid, a racist system based on white supremacy and control over blacks, were imprisoned on Robben Island, in desolate, bleak circumstances. Under apartheid, whites held power and rights and blacks were denied rights and oppressed, imprisoned and killed.

Why do you think Nelson Mandela speaks of Anne Frank as an inspiration? In part, because through her writings she continued to struggle to express herself and to find meaning in life despite the fact that she was a Jew in hiding from the Nazis in occupied Holland. Mandela and others had to struggle against a dehumanizing system which denied them economic, political and civil rights.

photo
John F. Kennedy
[Photo: AP]
Writing in her diary was a form of expression for Anne Frank; it also helped her bear witness and be creative. It was a way of resisting those who wanted to label her inferior, strip her of her dignity and silence her thoughts and voice.

* * *

"Of the multitude who throughout human history have spoken for human dignity in times of great suffering and loss, no voice is more compelling than that of Anne Frank."
--John F. Kennedy

Next: A photographic tour


This year's Newspaper in Education series

Anne Frank: Lessons in human rights and dignity
Introduction, previous chapters and Web Links

Dr. Joyce Apsel lectures nationally on Anne Frank, genocide and human rights. She currently teaches at New York University. Please address questions or comments about this series to: Floridian, Anne Frank and Human Rights, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731, or e-mail Floridian@sptimes.com.

On exhibit

"Anne Frank: A History for Today," an international touring exhibit, opened this month at the Florida Holocaust Museum in St. Petersburg, 55 Fifth St. S. The exhibit, which traces Anne Frank's life and times through family photographs and diary passages and examines prejudice and violence today, is available through the Anne Frank Center USA. Exhibit sponsors include the Eckerd Family Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. Paul W. Martin Jr., the Sembler Family and the state of Florida.

Find out more

Many resources on Anne Frank are available at libraries and bookstores. These Anne Frank-related books are available in the Florida Holocaust Museum bookstore.

Books

  • Anne Frank and After, Dick van Galen Last and Rolf Wolfseinkel, $19.95.
  • Anne Frank Beyond the Diary, Ruul van der Rol and Rian Verhoeven, $7.99.
  • Anne Frank in the World, Handey Ver den and OG Hendes Verden, $14.
  • Anne Frank, the biography, Melissa Muller, $23.
  • Diary of a Young Girl, Definitive Edition, edited by Otto Frank and Mirjam Pressler, $5.50.
  • Diario de Ana Frank (Spanish text), $6.95.
  • Diary of Young Girl-Reader's Companion, $3.
  • A History for Today, Anne Frank, Anne Frank House, $15.
  • Stolen Legacy of Anne Frank, Ralph Melnick, $30.
  • Anne Frank, Richard Amour, $19.95.

Videos

  • Dear Kitty, $25.
  • Diary of Anne Frank, $24.99.
  • Just a Diary, $20.

Audio and CD

  • I Am Anne Frank, $19.95.
  • Diary of a Young Girl, $25.

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