By JOYCE APSEL
© St. Petersburg Times, published October 4, 1999
The helpers were remarkable people who had been leading ordinary lives: Johannes Kleiman, Victor Kugler and Jan Gies, who helped Mr. Frank "aryanize" (remove Frank's name and ownership from his businesses); Jan's wife, Miep Gies; and Bep Voskuijl and her father, Mr. Voskuijl.
The helpers provided food, books and other supplies as well as friendship and news of events outside throughout the 25 months in hiding. Anne wrote fondly about the helpers:
Describing Johannes Kleiman -- " "When Mr. Kleiman enters the room, the sun begins to shine,' Mother said recently, and she is absolutely right."
About Miep Gies -- "It seems as if we are never far from Miep's thoughts." (Anne Frank Remembered, Miep Gies with Alison Gold, Simon & Schuster, 1988).
Anne Frank's writing reflects the helpers' support and friendship as an important source of comfort and hope for these Jews hiding from the Nazis in Holland. The diaries are filled with descriptions of the helpers and how their acts of kindness sustained the Franks and others during this time of terror.
It was frightening for the helpers, too. Helping Jews was punishable with imprisonment or even death. Because it was unusual to find people willing to take such a risk, Anne Frank and the other residents of the annex were particularly fortunate to have so many people willing to support them in hiding.
In Holland three out of four Jews were killed, the largest percentage of Jewish victims in any state in Western Europe. Of around 140,000 Jews (20 percent were refugees like Anne Frank and her family) in Holland in 1939, 102,000 were killed. This 73 percent death rate was about 40 percent of the total civilian casualty rates for all those living in German-occupied Holland from 1940-45. (Victims and Survivors, Bob Moore, St. Martin's Press, 1997).
Although Anne Frank wrote about the danger of being discovered by the Nazis, she also wrote sympathetically about the sufferings of the Dutch people and wondered if after the war she would be able to become a Dutch citizen. Anne describes everyday life in hiding and news of the war in Europe, as well as her changing relationships with her mother, father, sister and others in the annex.
In her diary, Anne recorded her own inner growth from a girl to a young woman. She described her feelings toward Peter; her joys and sorrows, her dreams and nightmare of capture. The diary gave voice to her fears and dreams of being a writer and of becoming a woman. ". . . My happy-go-lucky, carefree school days are gone forever. I don't even miss them. I've outgrown them. I can no longer just kid around, since my serious side is always there."
-- March 7, 1944
Dr. Joyce Apsel is director of education at the Anne Frank Center USA in New York. 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.
2. Look in today's St. Petersburg Times for examples of people who are helpers. Make a compare/contrast chart to show the similarities and differences of the helpers you found in the paper and the helpers for Anne Frank, her family and friends.
3. Look in the St. Petersburg Times for articles about someone who might have to go into hiding because of their beliefs, nationality or religion. Write an essay about how you could be a helper for that person. Make sure you include where the person could hide and how you would help keep them safe. How would you protect yourself from the consequences of being identified as a helper? What are some examples of ways you and your family could help someone who was being mistreated today? Discuss your essay with your family to get their thoughts and feelings.
-- Lee Ann Yeager, St. Petersburg Times Newspaper in Education manager