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Anne Frank: Lessons in human rights and dignity.

A family flees intolerance

When Anne Frank's family witnessed the Nazis' prejudice and their cruelty to Jews, they knew they must leave Germany. When the Franks moved to the Netherlands, life seemed normal again to the children, but the parents still had a lot to worry about.

By JOYCE APSEL


Chapter 2

photo
When Anne Frank put this photo in her diary, she wrote, “This is June 1939 . . . Margot and I had just got out of the water and I still remember how terribly cold I was.” Granny sits behind the girls. Less than a year later, Hitler invaded the Netherlands
[Photos from “Anne Frank: Beyond the Diary” ]
D
ay in and day out in our own communities, we are challenged to learn to live, care about and respect each other as human beings. In order to achieve these goals, we must reduce prejudice (prejudging people, or making assumptions about them before we know any facts about them) and take a stand against violence and hatred. Goals for the 21st century include equality, justice, economic opportunity, a safe environment and the end to conflicts.

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.

* * * *

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).


This year's Newspaper in Education series

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

Otto Frank and his brothers were in the German Army during World War I, as was Austrian-born Adolf Hitler, who volunteered for the Bavarian Regiment. Both Otto's and Edith's families had lived in Germany for generations. While the Franks were German, they also were of Jewish background and Otto and Edith Hollander Frank were married in a liberal Jewish ceremony.

'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:

"I lived in Frankfurt until I was 4. Because we're Jewish my father immigrated to Holland in 1933. My mother, Edith Hollander Frank, went with him to Holland in September, while Margot and I were sent to Aachen to stay with our grandmother. Margot went to Holland in December, and I followed in February, when I was plunked down on the table as a birthday present for Margot."

-- The Diary of a Young Girl Anne Frank, (Doubleday, 1995)

After seven years in Amsterdam, Anne Frank felt at home in the family's apartment at 37 Merwedeplein. She and her sister attended school, went to the beach and had Jewish refugee and Dutch friends. Anne attended a Montessori preschool followed by a regular grade school and was encouraged by her parents to read, study and enjoy her friends and family.

Her parents faced a more difficult adjustment, especially Edith Frank, who never mastered Dutch and felt out of place. The Franks followed the events in Germany and throughout Europe, aware of increasing Nazi power and fiercer persecution of Jews. For example, Edith Frank's brothers, Julius and Walter Hollander, were imprisoned by the Nazis, beaten up then finally allowed to immigrate to the United States.

Next: The Nazis invade Holland

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.

Activities to do in class or at home

1. Remember to write in your diary/journal at least three to four times each week.

2. Work with members of your family to create your genealogy (family tree). Go as far back as you can, using resources from your public library as well as the Internet. Does your family tree show any similarities to Anne Frank’s family?

3. In today’s St. Petersburg Times, look for articles about wars going on that are similar to World War I. Cut out these articles and make a chart to compare and contrast the current conflicts with the World War I information in this article.

4. Look for an article about someone who has had to flee his/her country. Write an essay about the person’s experiences dealing with new cultures, new schools, new jobs, etc. How would you and your family deal with these experiences?

— Lee Ann Yeager, St. Petersburg Times Newspaper in Education manager

On exhibit

“Anne Frank: A History for Today,” an international touring exhibit, opens Jan. 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 as well as examines prejudice and violence today, is made available through the Anne Frank Center USA.

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