What would Anne have made of turning 90?
Like with most of us time creeps up without us even realising how the years have gone by. With Anne Frank, the immense poignancy is that there were many unfortunates in her Holocaust experience that meant she almost could have survived and lived her adult life, perhaps even into very old age. She had good genes – her father Otto Frank lived to the age of 90.
Tragically, the Frank family were on the very last shipment of Dutch Jews to Auschwitz, so had the family been betrayed just a couple of weeks later they may have been able to remain in the Netherlands. Anne and Margot Frank spent that most terrible of winters, 1944-45, having been moved on to the squalid neglect of Bergen-Belsen; had they remained in Auschwitz they probably had slightly more chance of survival once the gas chambers had been blown up. Finally, the two Frank sisters died of starvation, disease and utter despair believing they were orphans, whilst in fact their beloved father had already been liberated from Auschwitz at the time of their deaths, and was making his way back to Amsterdam to await news of them. Had they been aware of this, they may have had the motivation to hold on for another three weeks until the camp’s liberation.
What would the adult Anne Frank have been like?
Would she have been a published writer as she so envisaged in her diary? Perhaps or perhaps she may have, after the brutality she experienced in the camps, have changed course.
She may have chosen, like Eva Schloss, to leave the Netherlands and join the many survivors seeking a new life in the UK or United States. Or have become part of the new Israeli state.
She may have become a wife and mother, or neither, struggling to cope with the aftermath of her experiences.
The only thing we know for sure is that we will never know who the adult Annelies Marie Frank would have become.
What is Anne Frank’s continuing relevance?
I have been fortunate to have witnessed for myself over the past three decades how young people, from all cultural, religious and socio-economic backgrounds, respond to Anne Frank’s story. Because she describes with such candour the pains of growing up and frustrations with the actions of adults, Anne speaks to young people in their formative years. She has done so across the generations since her writing was published seven decades ago. Anne describes so vividly what it really feels like to be persecuted and hated for something beyond your control, and this can be transcribed to the experience of victims of genocide and to victims of mindless bullying.
We also have the benefit of an unusually large collection of photographs of her, and the vibrancy of the girl they portray gives her a touchable reality. For my recent book, I interviewed inspired young people and educators from around the world about Anne’s relevance to their own lives, and through them I honestly believe this engagement with Anne Frank will not lessen any time soon.