Posts Tagged ‘germany’

Parched throats and dust smeared bodies seeking food, exhausted and with ceaseless moans “these have become a part and parcel of survival”. The number of casualties is increasing due to privation and starvation. They not only lack basic amenities like food, clothing and shelter but also compassion. The countless have-nots comprising starving, shrivelled skeletal beings are a substantial number in African and under developed countries. There are many poor hands worldwide which forage in garbage to fill empty stomachs.

The lifestyle of the international glitterati in contrast is the other face of the same coin. The number is increasing geometrically as the disparity between those who have and those who don’t widens. While the poor and destitute with their tummies touching their backbones worry about getting food and struggle to cover their naked bodies, the celebs spend lavishly to get themselves skinny, always worrying about reducing their tummies, and enthusiastically busy filling their wardrobes with skimpy attire.

Everybody including the paparazzi is concerned about what the celebrities do, eat and wear. Their sympathies always stay with the posh and the grand and not with the destitutes. The world worried about Victoria Beckham’s weight after she gave birth to her first son, Brooklyn. Her weight has always sparked concern, even now womenfolk take her as a role model to decrease weight. Ladies want their waistline to be like that of Posh Spice (23 inches), the same as same as her seven year old son’s. The fair sex reportedly blew 4,395 Euros in 10 minutes on shoes and Tshirts, recently in Baden-Baden, where the England team was based in Germany for the World Cup football tournament.

When the men were playing football, the WAGS (wives and girl-friends) kept themselves busy. When the English side lost the match to Portugal and it returned empty-handed from the tournament, the WAGS did not. They emptied the designer boutiques of the genteel town. Creations by Dolace and Gabbana, Prada and Versace made their way to their overflowing wardrobes. They stayed at the Brenner’s Park Hotel paying £1,000 per day. The spa town reportedly had never seen anything like it, for the women rang up a bill of thousands of pounds in late-night bars after downing bottles of Moet champagne followed by glasses of vodka and Red Bull.

Baden-Baden was swamped by the arrival of these women with their designer handbags, dresses, shoes etc. It seemed as if they were competing in the fashion stakes while observing who could drink and spend the most. Six of the WAGS, including Posh Spice, and coach Sven Goran Eriksson’s flamboyant girl friend Nancy Dell.Orio, spent 80,000 Euros in one hour in the town’s luxury boutiques. Posh, wife of Beckham (Victoria) seemed content to just “Spend It Like Beckham”.

Like the WAGS, there are many celebrities who spend lavishly. They have a penchant for splurging and get a real adrenalin high from paying for expensive things. Posh Victoria and Paris Hilton reportedly pay upto 1,000 Euros for their hair extensions, and Jennifer Lopez often pays around £ 3000 to get her hair done.

While the jet set was lavishly spending, at the same time the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) had announced a need of nearly $43 million to respond to the needs of women and children in the drought-hit Africa where some 200,000 of about one million children suffer from acute malnutrition. Further, in the torrential rains which caused flash floods in several pastoral areas in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Erithrea and Dijibouti, people lost their homes and livelihoods taking the malnutrition levels far beyond the thresholds of emergency. Even if celebrities decide to donate one day’s worth of their lavish spending on organisations struggling to succour women and children, they can definitely bring new hope to the needy. The amount spent on a single designer dress or a handbag can really mean a lot to the destitute in need of food and shelter. Even if celebrities don’t guzzle for a single day and donate the same amount to a cause, many starvation deaths can be prevented.

India is facing the problem of a wide gap between the haves and have nots. While people who lavishly spend at one end form the minority, the poor and middle class families constitute the major chunk of the population. Many people complete their life cycle by a mere dream of having basic amenities. There are many middle-class families who eagerly wait for the salary and save like ants to fulfil their long cherished wish and are yet unable to realise it. Countries like India would have been in a better position had they received a helping hand from such celebrities.

Though the wide gap between the “haves and have-nots” cannot be narrowed, an attempt should be made to give the basic necessities of food, shelter and clothing to the deprived by those who can afford to do so.

August 1, 1944

Dearest Kitty,

“A bundle of contradictions” was the end of my previous letter and is the beginning of this one.  Can you please tell me exactly what “a bundle of contradictions” is?  What does “contradiction” mean? Like so many words, it can be interpreted in two ways: a contradiction imposed from without and one imposed from within.  The former means not accepting other people’s opinions, always knowing best, having the last word;  in short, all those unpleasant traits for which I’m known.  The latter, for which I’m not known, is my own secret.

Anne Frank at 11 years of age, two years before going into hiding. Amsterdam, the Netherlands, 1940.

Anne Frank at 11 years of age, two years before going into hiding. Amsterdam, the Netherlands, 1940.

As I’ve told you many times, I’m split in two. One side contains my exuberant cheerfulness, my flippancy, my joy in life and, above all, my ability to appreciate the lighter side of things.  By that I mean not finding anything wrong with flirtations, a kiss, an embrace, a saucy joke.  This side of me is usually lying in wait to ambush the other one, which is much purer, deeper, and finer.

No one knows Anne’s better side, and that’s why most people can’t stand me.  Oh, I can be an amusing clown for an afternoon, but after that everyone’s had enough of me to last a month.  Actually, I’m what a romantic film is to a profound thinker – a mere diversion, a comic interlude, something that is soon forgotten:  not bad, but not particulary good either.

I hate having to tell you this, but why shouldn’t I admit it when I know it’s true?  My lighter, more superficial side will always steal a march on the deeper side and therefore always win.  You can’t imagine how often I’ve tried to push away this Anne, which is only half of what is known as Anne – to beat her down, hide her.  But it doesn’t work, and I know why.

I’m afraid that people who know me as I usually am will discover I have another side, a better and finer side.  I’m afraid they’ll mock me, think I’m ridiculous and sentimental and not take me seriously.

I’m used to not being taken seriously, but only the “lighthearted” Anne is used to it and can put up with it;  the “deeper” Anne is too weak.  If I force the good Anne into the spotlight for even fifteen minutes, she shuts up like a clam the moment she’s called upon to speak, and lets Anne number one do the talking.  Before I realize it, she’s disappeared.

So the nice Anne is never seen in company.  She’s never made a single appearance, though she almost always takes the stage whem I’m alone.   I know exactly how I’d like to be, how I am . . . on the inside.  But unfortunately I’m only like that with myself.  And perhaps that’s why – no, I’m sure that’s the reason why – I think of myself as happy on the inside and other people think I’m happy on the outside.  I’m guided by the pure Anne within, but on the outside I’m nothing but a frolicsome little goat tugging at its tether.

As I’ve told you, what I say is not what I feel, which is why I have a reputation for being a boy-chaser, a flirt, a smart aleck and a reader of romances.  The happy-go-lucky Anne laughs, gives a flippant reply, shrugs her shoulders and pretends she couldn’t care less. The quiet Anne reacts in just the opposite way.

If I’m being completely honest, I’ll have to admit that it does matter to me, that I’m trying very hard to change myself, but that I’m always up against a more powerful enemy.  A voice within me is sobbing, “You see, that’s what’s become of you.  You’re surrounded by negative opinions, dismayed looks and mocking faces, people who dislike you, and all because you don’t listen to the advice of your own better half.”

Believe me, I’d like to listen, but it doesn’t work, because if I’m quiet and serious, everyone thinks I’m putting on a new act and I have to save myself with a joke, and then I’m not even talking about my own family, who assume I must be ill, stuff me with asprins and sedatives, feel my neck and forehead to see if I have a temperature, ask about my bowel movements and berate me for being in a bad mood, until I just can’t keep it up any more, beause when everybody starts hovering over me, I get cross, then sad, and finally end up turning my heart inside out, the bad part on the outside and the good part on the inside, and keep trying to find a way to become what I’d like to be and what I could be if . . . if only there were no other people in the world.

Yours, Anne M. Frank

(Three days later, Anne Frank was found and imprisoned.  Later, she was transported to Auschwitz, then later died in Bergen-Belsen.)

Photo: Google

The dIary of Anne Frank was one lesson which made most of us to cry in the classroom when we were in school and todayif she was alive, she would have turned 80. We used to imagine the girl who spent two years in a secret den writing a rearkable diary addressing kitty. And I had to literally go behind my hubby to download the movie Anne Frank 2-3 days ago.

Annelies Marie “Anne” Frank was born on June 12, 1929 in Frankfurt am Main in Weimar Germany to Otto Frank and Edith Frank-Holländer as the second daughter (Margot Frank was Anne’s elder sister) and lived most of her life in or near Amsterdam, in the Netherlands.

Anne Frank

Anne Frank

Anne and her family moved to Amsterdam in 1933 after the Nazis gained power in Germany.

As persecutions against the Jewish population increased, the family went into hiding in July 1942 in hidden rooms in her father Otto Frank’s office building.

Anne and Margot, 1933While their parents were busy arranging the family's emigration to Holland, Anne and Margot spend the summer of 1933 with Grandmother Holländer in Aachen.

Anne and Margot, 1933While their parents were busy arranging the family's emigration to Holland, Anne and Margot spend the summer of 1933 with Grandmother Holländer in Aachen.

After two years, the group was betrayed and transported to concentration camps. Seven months after her arrest, Anne Frank died of typhus in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, within days of the death of her sister, Margot Frank.

Anne in the SandboxAnne Frank and her mother in their yard on Marbachweg (Frankfurt), 1931.

Anne in the SandboxAnne Frank and her mother in their yard on Marbachweg (Frankfurt), 1931.

Her father Otto, the only survivor of the group, returned to Amsterdam after the war to find that her diary had been saved, and his efforts led to its publication in 1947. It was translated from its original Dutch and first published in English in 1952 as The Diary of a Young Girl.

Anne’s Attic Window

Anne’s Attic Window

The diary, which was given to Anne on her 13th birthday, chronicles her life from  June 12, 1942 to August 1, 1944.

Anne Frank has been acknowledged for the quality of her writing, and has become one of the most renowned and most discussed victims of the Holocaust.

The Franks were liberal Jews and lived in an assimilated community of Jewish and non-Jewish citizens, where the children grew up with Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish friends. Edith Frank was the more devout parent, while Otto Frank, a decorated German officer from World War I, was interested in scholarly pursuits and had an extensive library.

On March 13, 1933, elections were held in Frankfurt for the municipal council and Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Party won. Anti-semitic demonstrations occurred almost immediately, and the Franks began to fear what would happen to them if they remained in Germany. Later that year, Edith and the children went to Aachen, where they stayed with Edith’s mother, Rosa Holländer. Otto Frank remained in Frankfurt, but after receiving an offer to start a company in Amsterdam, he moved there to organise the business and to arrange accommodation for his family.

Otto Frank began working at the Opekta Works, a company that sold the fruit extract pectin, and found an apartment on the Merwedeplein (Merwede Square) in Amsterdam.

Bookcase hiding the Secret Annex

Bookcase hiding the Secret Annex

By February 1934, Margot was enrolled in a public school in Amsterdam and Anne in a Montessori school.

Margot demonstrated ability in arithmetic, and Anne showed aptitude for reading and writing. Her friend Hanneli Goslar later recalled that from early childhood, Anne frequently wrote, though she shielded her work with her hands and refused to discuss the content of her writing.

Margot and Anne had highly distinct personalities. Margot was well-mannered, reserved, and studious, while Anne was outspoken, energetic, and extroverted.

Margot in front of her parent's bookcase, March 1929

Margot in front of her parent's bookcase, March 1929

In 1938, Otto Frank started a second company Pectacon, which was a wholesaler of herbs, pickling salts and mixed spices, used in the production of sausages.

Hermann van Pels was employed by Pectacon as an advisor about spices. He was a Jewish butcher, who had fled Osnabrück in Germany with his family.

In 1939, Edith’s mother came to live with the Franks.

In May 1940, Germany invaded the Netherlands, and the occupation government began to persecute Jews by the implementation of restrictive and discriminatory laws; mandatory registration and segregation soon followed. Margot and Anne were excelling in their studies and had many friends, but with the introduction of a decree that Jewish children could attend only Jewish schools, they were enrolled at the Jewish Lyceum.

In April 1941, Otto Frank took action to prevent Pectacon from being confiscated as a Jewish-owned business. He transferred his shares in Pectacon to Johannes Kleiman, and resigned as director. The company was liquidated and all assets transferred to Gies and Company, headed by Jan Gies. In December 1941, he followed a similar process to save Opekta. The businesses continued with little obvious change and their survival allowed Otto Frank to earn a minimal income, but sufficient to provide for his family.

For her 13th birthday on June 12, 1942, Anne received a book she had shown her father in a shop window a few days earlier. Although it was an autograph book, bound with red-and-green plaid cloth and with a small lock on the front, Anne decided she would use it as a diary, and began writing in it almost immediately. While many of her early entries relate the mundane aspects of her life, she also discusses some of the changes that had taken place in the Netherlands since the German occupation.

In her entry dated June 20, 1942, she lists many of the restrictions that had been placed upon the lives of the Dutch Jewish population, and also notes her sorrow at the death of her grandmother earlier in the year.

Anne dreamed about becoming an actress. She loved watching movies, but the Dutch Jews were forbidden access to movie theaters from  January 8, 1941.

In July 1942, Margot Frank received a call-up notice from the Zentralstelle für jüdische Auswanderung (Central Office for Jewish Emigration) ordering her to report for relocation to a work camp. Anne was told by her father that the family would go into hiding in rooms above and behind the company’s premises on the Prinsengracht, a street along one of Amsterdam’s canals, where some of Otto Frank’s most trusted employees would help them. The call-up notice forced them to relocate several weeks earlier than had been anticipated.

On July 6, 1942 morning, the family moved into the hiding place. Their apartment was left in a state of disarray to create the impression that they had left suddenly, and Otto Frank left a note that hinted they were going to Switzerland. The need for secrecy forced them to leave behind Anne’s cat, Moortje.

Baby Anne Edith Frank with Anne, a day after her birth.

Baby Anne Edith Frank with Anne, a day after her birth.

As Jews were not allowed to use public transport, they walked several kilometers from their home, with each of them wearing several layers of clothing as they did not dare to be seen carrying luggage.

The Achterhuis (a Dutch word denoting the rear part of a house, translated as the “Secret Annexe” in English editions of the diary) was a three-story space entered from a landing above the Opekta offices. Two small rooms, with an adjoining bathroom and toilet, were on the first level, and above that a larger open room, with a small room beside it. From this smaller room, a ladder led to the attic. The door to the Achterhuis was later covered by a bookcase to ensure it remained undiscovered. The main building, situated a block from the Westerkerk, was non-descript, old and typical of buildings in the western quarters of Amsterdam.

Anne's room

Anne's room

Victor Kugler, Johannes Kleiman, Miep Gies, and Bep Voskuijl were the only employees who knew of the people in hiding, and with Gies’ husband Jan Gies and Voskuijl’s father Johannes Hendrik Voskuijl, were their “helpers” for the duration of their confinement. These contacts provided the only connection between the outside world and the occupants of the house, and they kept the occupants informed of war news and political developments. They catered for all of their needs, ensured their safety and supplied them with food, a task that grew more difficult with the passage of time. Anne wrote of their dedication and of their efforts to boost morale within the household during the most dangerous of times. All were aware that if caught they could face the death penalty for sheltering Jews.

Miep Gies

Miep Gies

On July 13, the Franks were joined by the van Pels family: Hermann, Auguste, and 16-year-old Peter, and then in November by Fritz Pfeffer, a dentist and friend of the family.

Anne wrote of her pleasure at having new people to talk to, but tensions quickly developed within the group forced to live in such confined conditions. After sharing her room with Pfeffer, she found him to be insufferable and resented his intrusion, and she clashed with Auguste van Pels, whom she regarded as foolish. She regarded Hermann van Pels and Fritz Pfeffer as selfish, particularly in regards to the amount of food they consumed.

Frontal view of Anne's house in Amsterdam

Frontal view of Anne's house in Amsterdam

Some time later, after first dismissing the shy and awkward Peter van Pels, she recognised a kinship with him and the two entered a romance. She received her first kiss from him, but her infatuation with him began to wane as she questioned whether her feelings for him were genuine, or resulted from their shared confinement.

Rear view of Anne's house in Amsterdam

Rear view of Anne's house in Amsterdam

Anne Frank formed a close bond with each of the helpers and Otto Frank later recalled that she had anticipated their daily visits with impatient enthusiasm. He observed that Anne’s closest friendship was with Bep Voskuijl, “the young typist… the two of them often stood whispering in the corner.”

In her writing, Anne Frank examined her relationships with the members of her family, and the strong differences in each of their personalities. She considered herself to be closest emotionally to her father, who later commented, “I got on better with Anne than with Margot, who was more attached to her mother. The reason for that may have been that Margot rarely showed her feelings and didn’t need as much support because she didn’t suffer from mood swings as much as Anne did.”

The Frank Family: Margot, Otto, Anne and Edith Frank on Merwedeplein in Amsterdam, 1941.

The Frank Family: Margot, Otto, Anne and Edith Frank on Merwedeplein in Amsterdam, 1941.

Anne and Margot formed a closer relationship than had existed before they went into hiding, although Anne sometimes expressed jealousy towards Margot, particularly when members of the household criticised Anne for lacking Margot’s gentle and placid nature.

As Anne began to mature, the sisters were able to confide in each other. In her entry of January 12, 1944, Anne wrote, “Margot’s much nicer… She’s not nearly so catty these days and is becoming a real friend. She no longer thinks of me as a little baby who doesn’t count.”

Anne frequently wrote of her difficult relationship with her mother, and of her ambivalence towards her. On November 7, 1942 she described her “contempt” for her mother and her inability to “confront her with her carelessness, her sarcasm and her hard-heartedness,” before concluding, “She’s not a mother to me.”

Later, as she revised her diary, Anne felt ashamed of her harsh attitude, writing: “Anne is it really you who mentioned hate, oh Anne, how could you?”

A page from Anne Frank's diary.

A page from Anne Frank's diary.

She came to understand that their differences resulted from misunderstandings that were as much her fault as her mother’s, and saw that she had added unnecessarily to her mother’s suffering. With this realisation, Anne began to treat her mother with a degree of tolerance and respect.

Margot and Anne hoped to return to school soon and continued with their studies while in hiding. Margot took a shorthand course by correspondence in Bep Voskuijl’s name and received high marks.

Most of Anne’s time was spent reading and studying, and she regularly wrote and edited her diary entries. In addition to providing a narrative of events as they occurred, she wrote about her feelings, beliefs and ambitions, subjects she felt she could not discuss with anyone. As her confidence in her writing grew, and as she began to mature, she wrote of more abstract subjects such as her belief in God, and how she defined human nature.

This photograph was taken in the centre of Frankfurt am Main on March 10, 1933. It is the last photograph Otto Frank takes before the family leaves Germany.

This photograph was taken in the centre of Frankfurt am Main on March 10, 1933. It is the last photograph Otto Frank takes before the family leaves Germany.

Anne aspired to become a journalist, writing in her diary on April 5, 1944: “ I finally realised that I must do my schoolwork to keep from being ignorant, to get on in life, to become a journalist, because that’s what I want! I know I can write …, but it remains to be seen whether I really have talent … And if I don’t have the talent to write books or newspaper articles, I can always write for myself. But I want to achieve more than that. I can’t imagine living like Mother, Mrs van Daan and all the women who go about their work and are then forgotten. I need to have something besides a husband and children to devote myself to! … I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I’ve never met. I want to go on living even after my death! And that’s why I’m so grateful to God for having given me this gift, which I can use to develop myself and to express all that’s inside me! When I write I can shake off all my cares. My sorrow disappears, my spirits are revived! But, and that’s a big question, will I ever be able to write something great, will I ever become a journalist or a writer?”

She continued writing regularly till her final entry of on August 1, 1944.

On August 4, 1944 morning, the Achterhuis was stormed by the German Security Police (Grüne Polizei) following a tip-off from an informer who was never identified. Led by Schutzstaffel Oberscharführer Karl Silberbauer of the Sicherheitsdienst, the group included at least three members of the Security Police. The Franks, van Pelses and Pfeffer were taken to the Gestapo headquarters where they were interrogated and held overnight.

The front gate of Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. The slogan Arbeit macht frei translates as “work will set you free”)

The front gate of Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. The slogan Arbeit macht frei translates as “work will set you free”)

On August 5, they were transferred to the Huis van Bewaring (House of Detention), an overcrowded prison on the Weteringschans. Two days later, they were transported to Westerbork. Ostensibly a transit camp, by this time more than 1 lakh Jews had passed through it. Having been arrested in hiding, they were considered criminals and were sent to the Punishment Barracks for hard labour.

Victor Kugler and Johannes Kleiman were arrested and jailed at the penal camp for enemies of the regime at Amersfoort. Kleiman was released after seven weeks, but Kugler was held in various work camps until the end of war.

Miep Gies and Bep Voskuijl were questioned and threatened by the Security Police but were not detained. They returned to the Achterhuis the following day, and found Anne’s papers strewn on the floor. They collected them as well as several family photograph albums, and Gies resolved to return them to Anne after the war.

On August 7, 1944, Gies attempted to facilitate the release of the prisoners by confronting Silberbauer and offering him money to intervene, but he refused.

On September 3, the group was deported on what would be the last transport from Westerbork to the Auschwitz concentration camp, and arrived after a three-day journey. In the chaos that marked the unloading of the trains, the men were forcibly separated from the women and children, and Otto Frank was wrenched from his family.

Of the 1,019 passengers, 549, including all children younger than 15, were sent directly to the gas chambers. Anne had turned 15 and 3 months earlier and was one of the youngest people to be spared from her transport. She was soon made aware that most people were gassed upon arrival, and never learned that the entire group from the Achterhuis had survived this selection. She reasoned that her father, in his mid-50s and not particularly robust, had been killed immediately after they were separated.

Otto Frank

Otto Frank

With the other females not selected for immediate death, Anne was forced to strip naked to be disinfected, had her head shaved and was tattooed with an identifying number on her arm. By day, the women were used as slave labour and Anne was forced to haul rocks and dig rolls of sod; by night, they were crammed into overcrowded barracks.

Witnesses later testified that Anne became withdrawn and tearful when she saw children being led to the gas chambers, though other witnesses reported that more often she displayed strength and courage, and that her gregarious and confident nature allowed her to obtain extra bread rations for Edith, Margot and herself.

Disease was rampant and before long, Anne’s skin became badly infected by scabies. She and Margot were moved into an infirmary, which was in a state of constant darkness, and infested with rats and mice.

Edith Frank stopped eating, saving every morsel of food for her daughters and passing her rations to them, through a hole she made at the bottom of the infirmary wall.

On October 28, selections began for women to be relocated to Bergen-Belsen. More than 8,000 women, including Anne and Margot Frank and Auguste van Pels, were transported, but Edith Frank was left behind and later died from starvation.

Tents were erected at Bergen-Belsen to accommodate the influx of prisoners, and as the population rose, the death toll due to disease increased rapidly. Anne was briefly reunited with two friends, Hanneli Goslar and Nanette Blitz, who were confined in another section of the camp. Goslar and Blitz both survived the war and later discussed the brief conversations that they had conducted with Anne through a fence. Blitz described her as bald, emaciated and shivering and Goslar noted that Auguste van Pels was with Anne and Margot Frank, and was caring for Margot, who was severely ill. Neither of them saw Margot as she was too weak to leave her bunk. Anne told both Blitz and Goslar that she believed her parents were dead, and for that reason did not wish to live any longer. Goslar later estimated that their meetings had taken place in late January or early February, 1945.

In March 1945, a typhus epidemic spread through the camp and killed about 17,000 prisoners.

Witnesses later testified that Margot fell from her bunk in her weakened state and was killed by the shock, and that a few days later Anne died. They stated that this occurred a few weeks before the camp was liberated by British troops on April 15, 1945, although the exact dates were not recorded.

After liberation, the camp was burned in an effort to prevent further spread of disease, and Anne and Margot were buried in a mass grave.



Otto Frank survived his internment in Auschwitz. After the war ended, he returned to Amsterdam where he was sheltered by Jan and Miep Gies, as he attempted to locate his family. He learned of the death of his wife Edith in Auschwitz, but remained hopeful that his daughters had survived.

After several weeks, he discovered that Margot and Anne also had died. He attempted to determine the fates of his daughters’ friends, and learned that many had been murdered.

Susanne Ledermann, often mentioned in Anne’s diary, had been gassed along with her parents, though her sister, Barbara, a close friend of Margot, had survived. Several of the Frank sisters’ school friends had survived, as had the extended families of both Otto and Edith Frank, as they had fled Germany during the mid 1930s, with individual family members settling in Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Miep Gies gave Otto Frank the diary, along with a bundle of loose notes that she had saved, in the hope that she could have returned them to Anne.

Otto Frank later commented that he had not realised Anne had kept such an accurate and well-written record of their time in hiding. In his memoir he described the painful process of reading the diary, recognising the events described and recalling that he had already heard some of the more amusing episodes read aloud by his daughter.

He also noted that he saw for the first time the more private side of his daughter, and those sections of the diary she had not discussed with anyone, noting, “For me it was a revelation… I had no idea of the depth of her thoughts and feelings… She had kept all these feelings to herself”.

Moved by her repeated wish to be an author, he began to consider having it published. Her original notebook was supplemented by additional notebooks and loose-leaf sheets of paper. She created pseudonyms for the members of the household and the helpers. The van Pels family became Hermann, Petronella, and Peter van Daan, and Fritz Pfeffer became Albert Düssell. In this edited version, she also addressed each entry to “Kitty,” a fictional character in Cissy van Marxveldt’s Joop ter Heul novels that Anne enjoyed reading.

Otto Frank used her original diary, known as “Version A”, and her edited version, known as “Version B”, to produce the first version for publication. He removed certain passages, most notably those in which Anne is critical of her parents (especially her mother), and sections that discussed Anne’s growing sexuality. Although he restored the true identities of his own family, he retained all of the other pseudonyms.

Cornelis Suijk, former director of the Anne Frank Foundation and president of the U.S. Center for Holocaust Education Foundation, announced in 1999 that he was in the possession of five pages that had been removed by Otto Frank from the diary prior to publication; Suijk claimed that Otto Frank gave these pages to him shortly before his death in 1980. The missing diary entries contain critical remarks by Anne Frank about her parents’ strained marriage, and discusses Anne’s lack of affection for her mother.


Posted: January 3, 2009 in literature
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Adolf Hitler

Adolf Hitler

Book review


The Books That Shaped His Life

By Timothy W. Ryback
Illustrated. 278 pp. Alfred A. Knopf. $25.95

The Reader

Published: January 2, 2009 NYT

In November 1915 a German corporal in the 16th Bavarian Reserve Infantry Regiment left his billet in a two-story farmhouse near Fournes, two miles behind the front lines in northern France, and walked into town. Instead of enjoying the traditional soldiers’ comforts of visiting a brothel or purchasing cigarettes and schnapps, he spent four marks to buy a slender book about Berlin’s cultural treasures. Referred to as “the artist” by his fellow message runners, he was something of a figure of amusement to them, partly because it was easy to get a rise out of him by declaring that the war was lost, and partly because he spent hours in the trenches hunched over news­papers and books during lulls in his duties. This withdrawn infantryman had denounced the Christmas Truce of December 1914, when British and German soldiers fraternized for a day. The only living being he reserved his affection for was a white terrier that strayed across enemy lines and obeyed him unconditionally.

Nor did his habits ever really change. Decades later he would abandon his companions late in the evening to retire to the solitude of his study, where reading glasses, a book and a steaming pot of tea awaited him. When his girlfriend was once so indelicate as to intrude upon his reveries, she met with a tirade that sent her running red-faced down the hallway. A sign hanging outside, after all, adjured “Absolute Silence!” By the end of his life, when he had been abandoned by most of his retinue and staged his own Götterdämmerung, the only personal effects the invading Soviet soldiers found in his Berlin bunker were several dozen books.

Adolf Hitler may be better known to posterity for burning rather than cherishing books, but as Timothy W. Ryback observes in “Hitler’s Private Library,” he owned more than 16,000 volumes at his residences in Berlin and Munich, and at his alpine retreat on the Obersalzberg. Ryback, the author of “The Last Survivor,” a study of the town of Dachau, has immersed himself in the remnants of Hitler’s collection, which are mostly housed at the Library of Congress. In poring over Hitler’s markings and marginalia, Ryback seeks to reconstruct the steps by which he created his mental map of the world. The result is a remarkably absorbing if not wholly persuasive book.

Hitler may never have completed any formal education, but as his friend from his early days in Vienna, August Kubizek, recalled, books “were his world.” As Ryback shows, in the early 1920s, Hitler not only plowed through hundreds of historical and racist books to shore up his ideological bona fides as the leader of the fledgling Nazi Party, but also went to great lengths to construct a canon for it. He furnished a list of recommended readings stamped on party membership cards that stated in boldface, “Books that every National Socialist must know” (weakly translated by Ryback as “should read”). It included such gems as Henry Ford’s “International Jew” and Alfred Rosenberg’s “Zionism as an Enemy of the State.” Confirmation of Hitler’s bibliophilic inclinations also appears in the form of a rare photograph of his small apartment in Munich showing “Hitler posed in a dark suit before one of his two bookcases” — a handsome piece of furniture with scalloped molding — “his arms crossed in an assertively proprietary gesture.”

After Hitler’s failed 1923 beer hall putsch in Munich, a sympathetic court sentenced him to the minimum five years for high treason, with likely early clemency, a slap on the wrist administered, fittingly enough, on April Fools’ Day. At Landsberg prison, where he was cosseted by his jailers, Hitler wrote his first book, “Mein Kampf.” According to Ryback, “the one book among Hitler’s extant prison readings that left a noticeable intellectual footprint in ‘Mein Kampf’ is a well-thumbed copy of ‘Racial Typology of the German People,’ by Hans F. K. Günther, known as ‘Racial Günther’ for his fanatical views on racial purity.” Though Ryback does not mention it, Hitler also received weekly tutorials in Landsberg from Karl Haushofer, a University of Munich professor of politics and a proponent of Lebensraum.

Ryback singles out the Munich publisher Julius Friedrich Lehmann as possessing “the dubious double claim to being both the single most generous contributor to Hitler’s private book collection and the public architect for the Nazi pseudo­science of biological racism.” Ryback continues, “With this cache of Lehmann books we are in possession of a core collection within the Hitler library and the primary building blocks not only for Hitler’s intellectual world but for the ideological foundations of his Third Reich.”

But are we? Hitler was tapped in 1919 by Capt. Karl Mayr to attend propaganda sessions at the University of Munich and to lecture to soldiers about the Bolshevik peril. As early as September of that year, in response to a soldier’s written inquiry about the “Jewish Question,” Hitler declared that rational anti-Semitism’s “final aim must unshakably be the removal of the Jews altogether.” As the historian Ian Kershaw has observed in his biography of Hitler, this response indicates that he adhered unswervingly, from the end of World War I until his final days in the Berlin bunker, to nationalism and radical anti-Semitism. In short, Hitler’s brooding over texts seems far more likely to have confirmed rather than created his virulent hatreds.

What’s more, Ryback overlooks the importance of the city where Hitler first imbibed anti-Semitism. Hitler’s Vienna, to borrow the title of a book by the Austrian scholar Brigitte Hamann, was a cauldron of Jew hatred. Hitler admired the city’s anti-Semitic mayor Karl Lueger and steeped himself in racist newspapers and pamphlets. He also fell under the spell of German Romanticism, in the form of Wagner’s operas, which nourished the illusion that he was a new Rienzi, with a mission to resurrect the old German Reich.

For Ryback, the essence of Hitler is “a dime-store theory cobbled together from cheap, tendentious paperbacks and esoteric hardcovers, which provided the justification for a thin, calculating, bullying mendacity.” But there was more to it than that. While Hitler had no original thoughts, he wasn’t a primitive carnival barker. On the contrary, he championed notions that had percolated in Wilhelmine Germany and had been steadily gaining credence in intellectual and bourgeois circles. Hitler’s genius was to fuse German cultural nationalism with politics, allowing him to exert an aesthetic fascination on his contemporaries. As Thomas Mann unflinchingly and keenly recorded in his 1938 essay “Brother Hitler,” the Führer might have been “unpleasant and shameful,” but he was not someone whose kinship Mann could simply wish away.

Still, Ryback has provided a tantalizing glimpse into Hitler’s creepy little self-­improvement program. While being a bookworm may not be a precondition for becoming a mass murderer, it’s certainly no impediment. Stalin, too, was an avid reader, boasting a library of 20,000 volumes. “If you want to know the people around you,” Stalin said, “find out what they read.” When Ryback began exploring Hitler’s collection, he discovered that a copy of the writings of the Prussian general Carl von Clausewitz was nestled beside a French vegetarian cookbook inscribed to “Monsieur Hitler végétarien.”

Jacob Heilbrunn is a senior editor at The National Interest. His book, “They Knew They Were Right: The Rise of the Neocons,” has just come out in paperback.


‘Hitler’s Private Library’
Published: January 2, 2009

First Chapter

The Man Who Burned Books

FOR HIM THE LIBRARY represented a Pierian spring, that metaphorical source of knowledge and inspiration. He drew deeply there, quelling his intellectual insecurities and nourishing his fanatic ambitions. He read voraciously, at least one book per night, sometimes more, so he claimed. “When one gives one also has to take,” he once said, “and I take what I need from books.”

He ranked Don Quixote, along with Robinson Crusoe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and Gulliver’s Travels, among the great works of world literature. “Each of them is a grandiose idea unto itself,” he said. In Robinson Crusoe he perceived “the development of the entire history of mankind.” Don Quixote captured “ingeniously” the end of an era. He owned illustrated editions of both books and was especially impressed by Gustave Doré’s romantic depictions of Cervantes’s delusion-plagued hero.

He also owned the collected works of William Shakespeare, published in German translation in 1925 by Georg Müller as part of a series intended to make great literature available to the general public. Volume six includes As You Like It, Twelfth Night, Hamlet, and Troilus and Cressida. The entire set is bound in hand-tooled Moroccan leather with a gold-embossed eaglev flanked by his initials on the spine.

He considered Shakespeare superior to Goethe and Schiller in every respect. While Shakespeare had fueled his imagination on the protean forces of the emerging British empire, these two Teutonic playwright-poets squandered their talent on stories of midlife crises and sibling rivalries. Why was it, he once wondered, that the German Enlightenment produced Nathan the Wise, the story of the rabbi who reconciles Christians, Muslims, and Jews, while it had been left to Shakespeare to give the world The Merchant of Venice and Shylock?

He appears to have imbibed his Hamlet. “To be or not to be” was a favorite phrase, as was “It is Hecuba to me.” He was especially fond of Julius Caesar. In a 1926 sketchbook he drew a detailed stage set for the first act of the Shakespeare tragedy with sinister façades enclosing the forum where Caesar is cut down. “We will meet again at Philippi,” he threatened an opponent on more than one occasion, plagiarizing the spectral warning to Brutus after Caesar’s murder. He was said to have reserved the Ides of March for momentous decisions.

He kept his Shakespeare volumes in the second-floor study of his alpine retreat in southern Germany, along with a leather edition of another favorite author, the adventure novelist Karl May. “The first Karl May that I read was The Ride Across the Desert,” he once recalled. “I was overwhelmed! I threw myself into him immediately which resulted in a noticeable decline in my grades.” Later in life, he was said to have sought solace in Karl May the way others did in the Bible.

He was versed in the Holy Scriptures, and owned a particularly handsome tome with Worte Christi, or Words of Christ, embossed in gold on a cream-colored calfskin cover that even today remains as smooth as silk. He also owned a German translation of Henry Ford’s anti-Semitic tract, The International Jew: The World’s Foremost Problem, and a 1931 handbook on poison gas with a chapter detailing the qualities and effects of prussic acid, the homicidal asphyxiant marketed commercially as Zyklon B. On his bedstand, he kept a well-thumbed copy of Wilhelm Busch’s mischievous cartoon duo Max and Moritz.

WALTER BENJAMIN ONCE SAID that you could tell a lot about a man by the books he keeps — his tastes, his interests, his habits. The books we retain and those we discard, those we read as well as those we decide not to, all say something about who we are. As a German-Jewish culture critic born of an era when it was possible to be “German” and “Jewish,” Benjamin believed in the transcendent power of Kultur. He believed that creative expression not only enriches and illuminates the world we inhabit, but also provides the cultural adhesive that binds one generation to the next, a Judeo-Germanic rendering of the ancient wisdom ars longa, vita brevis.

Benjamin held the written word — printed and bound — in especially high regard. He loved books. He was fascinated by their physicality, by their durability, by their provenance. An astute collector, he argued, could “read” a book the way a physiognomist decipheredt he essence of a person’s character through his physical features. “Dates, placenames, formats, previous owners, bindings, and all the like,” Benjamin observed, “all these details must tell him something — not as dry isolated facts, but as a harmonious whole.” In short, you could judge a book by its cover, and in turn the collector by his collection. Quoting Hegel, Benjamin noted, “Only when it is dark does the owl of Minerva begin its flight,” and concluded, “Only in extinction is the collector comprehended.”

When Benjamin invoked a nineteenth-century German philosopher, a Roman goddess, and an owl, he was of course alluding to Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’s famous maxim: “The owl of Minerva spreads its wings only with the falling of dusk,” by which Hegel meant that philosophizing can begin only after events have run their course.

Benjamin felt the same was true about private libraries. Only after the collector had shelved his last book and died, when his library was allowed to speak for itself, without the proprietor to distract or obfuscate, could the individual volumes reveal the “preserved” knowledge of their owner: how he asserted his claim over them, with a name scribbled on the inside cover or an ex libris bookplate pasted across an entire page; whether he left them dog-eared and stained, or the pages uncut and unread.

Benjamin proposed that a private library serves as a permanent and credible witness to the character of its collector, leading him to the following philosophic conceit: we collect books in the belief that we are preserving them when in fact it is the books that preserve their collector. “Not that they come alive in him,” Benjamin posited. “It is he who lives in them.”

FOR THE LAST HALF CENTURY remnants of Adolf Hitler’s library have occupied shelf space in climatized obscurity in the Rare Book Division of the Library of Congress. The twelve hundred surviving volumes that once graced Hitler’s bookcases in his three elegantly appointed libraries — wood paneling, thick carpets, brass lamps, over-stuffed armchairs — at private residences in Munich, Berlin, and the Obersalzberg near Berchtesgaden, now stand in densely packed rows on steel shelves in an unadorned, dimly lit storage area of the Thomas Jefferson Building in downtown Washington, a stone’s throw from the Washington Mall and just across the street from the United States Supreme Court.

The sinews of emotional logic that once ran through this collection — Hitler shuffled his books ceaselessly and insisted on reshelving them himself — have been severed. Hitler’s personal copy of his family genealogy is sandwiched between a bound collection of newspaper articles titled Sunday Meditations and a folio of political cartoons from the 1920s. A handsomely bound facsimile edition of letters by Frederick the Great, specially designed for Hitler’s fiftieth birthday, lies on a shelf for oversized books beneath a similarly massive presentation volume on the city of Hamburg and an illustrated history of the German navy in the First World War. Hitler’s copy of the writings of the legendary Prussian general Carl von Clausewitz, who famously declared that war was politics by other means, shares shelf space beside a French vegetarian cookbook inscribed to “Monsieur Hitler végétarien.”

When I first surveyed Hitler’s surviving books, in the spring of 2001, I discovered that fewer than half the volumes had been catalogued, and only two hundred of those were searchable in the Library of Congress’s online catalogue. Most were listed on aging index cards and still bore the idiosyncratic numbering system assigned them in the 1950s. At Brown University, in Providence, Rhode Island, I found another eighty Hitler books in a similar state of benign neglect. Taken from his Berlin bunker in the spring of 1945 by Albert Aronson, one of the first Americans to enter Berlin after the German defeat, they were donated to Brown by Aronson’s nephew in the late 1970s. Today they are stored in a walk-in basement vault, along with Walt Whitman’s personal copy of Leaves of Grass and the original folios to John James Audubon’s Birds of America.

Among the books at Brown, I found a copy of Mein Kampf with Hitler’s ex libris bookplate, an analysis of Wagner’s Parsifal published in 1913, a history of the swastika from 1921, and a half dozen or so spiritual and occult volumes Hitler acquired in Munich in the early 1920s, including an account of supernatural occurrences, The Dead Are Alive!, and a monograph on the prophecies of Nostradamus. I discovered additional Hitler books scattered in public and private archives across the United States and Europe.

Several dozen of these surviving Hitler books contain marginalia. Here I encountered a man who famously seemed never to listen to anyone, for whom conversation was a relentless tirade, a ceaseless monologue, pausing to engage with the text, to underline words and sentences, to mark entire paragraphs, to place an exclamation point beside one passage, a question mark beside another, and quite frequently an emphatic series of parallel lines in the margin alongside a particular passage. Like footprints in the sand, these markings allow us to trace the course of the journey but not necessarily the intent, where attention caught and lingered, where it rushed forward and where it ultimately ended.

In a 1934 reprint of Paul Lagarde’s German Letters, a series of late-nineteenth-century essays that advocated the systematic removal of Europe’s Jewish population, I found more than one hundred pages of penciled intrusions, beginning on page 41, where Lagarde calls for the “transplanting” of German and Austrian Jews to Palestine, and extending to more ominous passages in which he speaks of Jews as “pestilence.” “This water pestilence must be eradicated from our streams and lakes,” Lagarde writes on page 276, with a pencil marking bold affirmation in the margin.

“The political system without which it cannot exist must be eliminated.”

British historian Ian Kershaw has described Hitler as one of the most impenetrable personalities of modern history. “The combination of Hitler’s innate secretiveness,” Kershaw writes, “the emptiness of his personal relations, his unbureaucratic style, the extremes of adulation and hatred which he stirred up, and the apologetics as well as distortions built upon post-war memoirs and gossipy anecdotes of those in his entourage, mean that, for all the surviving mountains of paper spewed out by the governmental apparatus of the Third Reich, the sources for reconstructing the life of the German Dictator are in many respects extraordinarily limited — far more so than in the case, say, of his main adversaries, Churchill and even Stalin.”

Hitler’s library certainly contains its share of “spewed” material; easily two-thirds of the collection consists of books he never saw, let alone read, but there are also scores of more personal volumes that Hitler studied and marked. It also contains small but telling details. While perusing the unprocessed volumes in the rare book collection at the Library of Congress, I came across a book whose original contents had been gutted. The front and back boards were firmly secured to the spine by a heavy linen cover with the title, North, Central and East Asia: Handbook of Geographic Science, embossed in gold on a blue background. The original pages had been replaced by a sheaf of cluttered documents: a dozen or so photonegatives, an undated handwritten manuscript titled “The Solution to the German Question,” and a brief note typed on a presentation card that read:

My Führer

On the 14th anniversary of the day you first set foot in the Sternecker, Mrs. Gahr is presenting to you the list of your first fellow fighters. It is our conviction that this hour is the hour of birth of our wonderful movement and of our new Reich. With loyalty until death. Sieg Heil!

The Old Comrades

The card bore no date and the list of early Nazi Party members was missing, but the mention of “Mrs. Gahr,” presumably the wife of Otto Gahr, the goldsmith, whom Hitler charged with casting the first metal swastikas for the Nazi Party, as well as the reference to the fourteenth anniversary of Hitler’s first appearance in the Sternecker Beer Hall, preserves in briefest outline the trajectory of Hitler from political upstart in 1919 to chancellor of the German Reich in 1933.

For this book, I have selected those surviving volumes that possessed either emotional or intellectual significance for Hitler, those which occupied his thoughts in his private hours and helped shape his public words and actions. One of the earliest is a guidebook he acquired for four marks on a dreary Monday in late November 1915 while serving as a twenty-six-year-old corporal on the western front. The last is a biography he was reading thirty years later in the weeks leading up to his suicide in the spring of 1945. I have attempted to be judicious in my choice of Hitler volumes, selecting only those books for which there is compelling evidence that Hitler had them in his possession. I have exercised similar caution when it comes to the marginalia since the “authorship” of penciled intrusions cannot necessarily be determined definitively. Once again, I have relied on corroborating evidence, and I discuss individual cases in the text, drawing when available on the determinations of previous scholarship. To make titles accessible to the non-German reader, I generally use English translations of the original titles except in such obvious cases as Hitler’s Mein Kampf, or My Struggle.

Individually, these books help illuminate those issues that occupied Hitler in his more private hours, often at pivotal moments in his career. Collectively they make good on the Benjamin promise, allowing us to glimpse the collector preserved among his books.