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A family flees intolerance
By JOYCE APSEL
Today, 70 years after Anne Frank was born, the struggle to promote democratic ideals and take positive action in the face of injustice and the suffering of millions of people all over the world continues, from the former Yugoslavia to Sierra Leone to Guatemala to Rwanda to East Timor.
Today, 70 years after Anne Frank was born, there are hate crimes, injustices and violence in the United States, too. Becoming involved in our communities and being active citizens through volunteering to help others and not tolerating prejudice are ways to strengthen our democracy.
Just as Anne Frank wrote about the importance of trying to hold onto our ideals in the face of prejudice, violence and genocide, each of us must choose to nurture respect for each other, thereby fostering human dignity.
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Anneliese Marie Frank, known to the world as Anne Frank, was born in Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany, on June 12, 1929. She was the second daughter of Otto and Edith Frank. Anne and her older sister, Margot (Feb. 6, 1926), were born in the post-World War I era. The Franks were German citizens under the laws of the Weimar Republic (1918-33).
'Who today speaks of the Armenians?'
World War I brought mass destruction and death, including the first genocide of the 20th century -- the killing of more than 1-million Armenians by the Turkish government and its accomplices. This genocide was not acknowledged by the government and no individual was prosecuted for the deaths, signals that mass murder of certain "excess" people could be gotten away with. Hitler purportedly stated, "Who today speaks of the Armenians?"
The defeat of Germany, the end of the Russian, Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires, the signing of the Treaty of Versailles and the establishment of Germany's first democratic government, the Weimar Republic, were among the tumultuous events of the time.
Europe was struggling to recover from World War I and get used to its newly drawn map. Some countries, such as Germany, lost territory. New states and boundaries, for example in Poland and Czechoslovakia, were created. Following the 1917 Communist Revolution in Russia and unsuccessful coups in Germany and elsewhere, world tensions increased, communist and fascist regimes grew and nationalistic interests competed.
The Franks flee Germany
A decade after the end of World War I, massive unemployment and economic depression gripped Germany. The popular myth that Germany had been stabbed in the back (Dolstosslegend) by its enemies, who supported the peace agreement, and appeals to right the wrongs of the Versailles Peace Treaty contributed to the growing popularity of radical, anti-democratic parties on the right.
In 1933, the National Socialist Democratic Workers Party (Nazis) promised bread and work, restoration of Germany's greatness and the Aryan race's supremacy, and destruction of the Weimar Republic and its supporters. Adolf Hitler, the Fuhrer or head of the party, was an astute politician and virulent anti-Semite.
The Nazi Party received 37 percent of the votes in a multiparty election, and Hitler became German chancellor on Jan. 30, 1933.
The Nazis used political terror and violence to eliminate their political opponents as well as to target non-Aryans who they considered enemies. Nazi ideology held that the Aryan race, or people of Teutonic background, were superior. (Teutonic refers to the people from Northern Europe, including Germans, Scandinavians, Dutch and English.) Hate-filled, anti-Semitic propaganda labeled the Jews among those responsible for Germany's economic and political problems and accused them of being stab-in-the-back conspirators.
Starting in 1933, the 500,000 Jews in Germany, around 1 percent of the population, became victims of laws that stripped them of their rights as German citizens ("only members of the Aryan race can be German citizens") and as human beings. Violent acts against Jews and their property, such as Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass, 1938) followed. The Franks, among the earliest groups of German Jews to leave their German homeland, immigrated to Amsterdam, Holland, in the hope of a safer, better future.
Anne wrote in her diary: