Category Archives: History and Context

“New” theory of the raid on the Annexe.. really?

The AFH has published (online) a “new” theory that the people hiding in the secret annexe may not have been betrayed at all. Frankly, there is nothing new about this theory. The serious investigators, such as Muller, did not claim that there was a betrayer, just that betrayal was one good theory. A significant reward was offered for finding hidden Jews during the German occupation of The Netherlands. The real story of the cause of the raid is unknown. People investigate possible betrayers, because it is important to find out what the real story was. Seven lives perished – why? That is the real question at the root, not a vengeance thirst. Curiosity and tenacity to find the truth is a laudable human characteristic. When we learn the truth, we have a better hope of moving forward making better choices and recognizing potential problems. The article’s point is a good one, but not nearly as dramatic or new a supposition as they present it. “But no one has cast serious doubts about the betrayal theory — until now.” Absurd.

The article:

(Thanks to both a co-worker and my NL contact for telling me about this.)

Happy New Year — here is a much more detailed look at this theory, with researchers and authors of Anne Frank books commenting about this “new” research.

Thanks to my NL contact for this link!

Anne Frank diary documentary

The Magic of The Diary of Anne Frank will air on the Denver area’s alternative Public Broadcasting System station, channel 12.1 at 7PM on Wed, May 18th. It lasts an hour. The link below includes a 30-second promo. It sounds like a talking heads documentary with a lot of old photos and other such context presented. People, including famous people, speak about what her diary means to them. [8-1-2016 I liked this very good documentary, it was much better than the trite commentary I pessimistically expected. SM]

After that documentary, Run Boy Run (2014) will air (8pm): it is a dramatization of a true story of a young Jewish refugee during WWII (length: about an hour 2 hours). It is closely based on the 2003 novel of the same name, which itself is based on a true story. The boy was only 9 years old and on his own in Nazi-occupied Poland. [8-1-2016 It was very intense and compelling. I highly recommend it. A note is it’s all in Polish, with English subtitles. SM]–The&id=120160518190000

Here is a link to more info on Run Boy Run:

If you are not in the Denver area: though don’t see a full length video of either movie online, I do see Run Boy Run in my public library as a DVD. You can check your library (and interlibrary loan) if interested in that documentary.

Extraordinary Events and Books about Them

A strange news item from a few months ago: the Anne Frank House looked into the question of when Anne died from a more scientific/medical angle than before. They placed the date of death as likely mid-February. This was published. Subsequently, many people pointed out that eye-witness testimony placed her (and Margot’s) date of death as over a month later.

So, what to make of this? I think perhaps a way to understand this is the context. They know how long it takes to die of Typhus and near-starvation for patients in controlled environments of medical facilities, or even in poor places with little or no access to medical care. Bergen Belsen was chaotic and filthy. You’d think they would last even less long. But many stories that simply amaze come out of horrific events in any era. The concentration camp inmates did have each other, did form a sense of community, along with individual special bonds. The ongoing war could always come to an end, which they held out hope for, even amid suicidal despair. We don’t know how individuals and groups find the strength to go on, much less prevail, but there are true stories of the extraordinary.

For an example of this sort of extraordinary story, In My Hands: Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer, by Irene Gut Opdyke, should be a very good example. I want to read it sometime (and I see Daedelus Books has a steep discount on it right now). Or you can pick it up at the library like I plan to someday. What she went through herself at the hands of the Nazis, you’d think she’d just be happy to save her own skin, yet she subsequently took major risks to help many Jews, despite the serious dangers this invited.

Another example is in the more popular book, Frozen in Time: An Epic Story of Survival and a Modern Quest for Lost Heroes of World War II, by Mitchell Zuckoff. One group of three stranded airmen were surviving on a glacier under their crashed plane’s wing. They got so depressed they formed a suicide pact. The other three men from their doomed flight had to dig into the ice far from there, due to the failure of a plan to get back to their base. The camp under the plane stank of fuel, their cooking spills, and their offal. They didn’t get much done. Meanwhile, the men out in the ice were remarkable. They had no protection, so they dug levels into the ice. The very bottom one was for their latrine and they made ongoing improvements to their ice home. They had other projects, too, like digging out their dead snowmobile to try to fix it.

When winter ended and the weather eased up enough for their commanders to rescue them, the first step was to move the men from the plane to the ice camp, then fly them all home. The men from under the plane wing were amazed by what their crew mates had created. They dubbed it the Imperial Hotel (IIRC). What was the difference between the two trios in how they handled their very similar situations? Inventiveness? Positivity? A mastery of the art of living? We don’t really know. Their education levels and health levels and ages were similar.

Evolution(?) of Nazi War Criminal Trials

The New Yorker Magazine has a thoughtful informative article about the pattern of WWII Nazi war criminals being handled in an increasingly punishing way, just as their numbers are appreciably dwindling. The author, Elizabeth Kolbert, shares not only her well-worthwhile thoughts about the matter of recent Nazi trials, but her family’s Holocaust history, some facts about people in the Auschwitz organization, and her own Stolperstein experience.

A Stolperstein is a small plaque installed in the sidewalk outside of the last home of Holocaust survivors, a project of artist, Gunter Demnig. Kolbert signed on to have one installed in the memory of her Great-Grandmother, Franziska Maass, of Berlin, whose life ended in Auschwitz.

(It’s possible Anne may have met her. We just don’t know. It seems unlikely. The only information known is Franziska was 62 years old in December 1942 when she was sent to Auschwitz. Though noted on arrival as able to work, it is unlikely she survived two more years to meet Anne in 1944.)

In print, the article is, “The Last Trial: A great-grandmother, Auschwitz, and the arc of justice,” by Elizabeth Kolbert, The New Yorker, Feb 16, 2015.

Two News Items Related to WWII Nazi Trains

Pending parliamentary approval, France’s national railway has agreed to give some recompense to surviving Holocaust victims, spouses of victims, and heirs. The organization’s was complicit in deporting tens of thousands of people to death camps during WWII.

BBC News

The Westerbork Memorial Center has purchased a WWII cattle car discovered in Germany. Five were discovered on an abandoned track near Butzbach. The WWII-era cattle cars presumably were matched satisfactorily to documents and archival film/photos as the type used to ship prisoners out of Westerbork. It’s not certain if these particular boxcars were used to transport prisoners from Westerbork to death camps, but they will be restored and will become a part of the visitor exhibits.

News Story (in Dutch)
Another News Story(also in Dutch)

You may notice some photos of trains in some news stories show trains with windows and some do not. I remember reading that, when people were transported from freedom to a camp,  the trains were fairly nice. This played into passenger’s and onlooker’s hopes that things were not going to be so bad. But when camp prisoners were then transported from one camp to another (such as the trip from Westerbork to Auschwitz-Birkenau), there was no pretense at comfort or humanity: they were forced into cattle cars. Of course, in either case, they found themselves locked in. 

Thanks to my helpful NL contact for pointing out the news about the boxcar going to Westerbork.

3 April 2015 UPDATE:
The trains have been restored and installed in the museum site: Dutch article and video. The article explains that Westerbork was destroyed in the 1970s. It was rebuilt as a museum site. They have restored and placed into the Westerbork museum site two cattle cars of the same type Anne and other Westerbork prisoners were sent on, sent on the long trip to Auschwitz.