To comprehend fully the events in the life of Anne Frank, one must listen
to the voices of those who were there, of those who remember.
The story of the Frank family began in Germany in the 1920's when,
as seen in family photographs, Otto and Edith Frank led a happy life, highlighted
by the births of their daughters Margot and Anne. Though they were German
to the core, this Jewish family moved from their Frankfurt apartment in
1931 because their landlord was a member of the Nazi Party, and in 1933,
with the collapse of the family bank and the rise to power of Adolf Hitler,
the Franks decided to move to the relative safety of Amsterdam, Holland.
Otto set up a small business in Holland selling pectin, a substance used
in homemade jam. While there were many Dutch members of the Nazi Party,
Holland treated its Jewish refugees very well, and the Franks led a seemingly
safe, secure life among other refugees in their Amsterdam neighborhood.
In addition, the Frank girls in particular had many close friends, including
Laureen Nussbaum, Hanneli Goslar and Jacqueline van Maarsen, who recall
their fond memories of Anne.
The family's feelings of security collapsed, however, when in 1940,
Hitler's troops conquered Holland and the freedom of the Jews began
to be severely restricted. Dictates on where Jews could shop, swim or go
to school became a part of everyday life. "Everything that was fun
in life was forbidden," recalls Goslar.
Aware of where those restrictions might ultimately lead, Otto spent the
year preparing and stocking an annex behind his business office as a hiding
place for his family. When, on July 5, 1942, Margot was ordered to report
to a German labor camp, the Frank family decided that it was time to disappear.
Leaving behind a false trail indicating that they had escaped to Switzerland,
they took up residence in the annex and were soon joined by Otto's
business associate Hermann van Pels, his wife Auguste, and son Peter. The
families were now totally dependent on Otto's employees, particularly
Miep Gies, who visited every day with food and brought news of the outside
world to Anne.
In the film, Miep conducts a tour of the Frank family's hiding place
and remembers how Anne would wait for her at the end of each of her visits.
"She asked me [about] everything that happened outside," recalls
Miep, "and I told her the truth. The terrible truth."
While their friends on the outside were being rounded up, the Franks tried
to establish a life of normality, and a lonely Anne began pasting photos
of movie stars on her bedroom walls. She soon began to rely on her diary,
which she received as a birthday gift a mere three weeks before going into
hiding. She created imaginary correspondences with her friend Jacqueline
and her first cousin in Switzerland, Bernd Elias, who recounts in the film
how moved he was to have been included in Anne's thoughts.
Four months into their hiding, Miep's dentist, 54-year-old German refuge
Fritz Pfeffer, was invited to join the families in the annex. A disciplinarian,
he shared a bedroom with the free-spirited Anne, with whom he had a predictably
stormy relationship. Unbeknownst to Anne, Pfeffer had a son Peter, who
was never to see his father again. In Anne Frank Remembered, Peter defends
his father from Anne's unflattering diary portrait of him and meets
for the first time with Miep Gies, to whom he offers emotional thanks for
protecting his father.
Inevitably, emotions in the closed quarters began running high. The van
Pels family tried unsuccessfully to discipline Anne, and, according to Miep,
Mrs. Frank became very depressed. In 1944, Anne and Peter van Pels developed
a strong attraction for each other, but the pressures of confinement soon
crushed their romance. As always, there was the ever-present threat of
On March 29, 1944, Anne heard a radio broadcast from London saying that,
after the war, all diaries dealing with the war would be collected. Realizing
that her words could someday be read, she began furiously rewriting her
entire diary with an eye for future publication. Shortly thereafter, news
of D-Day sent spirits soaring in the annex, offering the hope that liberation
might soon be near.
That hope was destroyed on August 4, when an anonymous caller tipped off
the Nazis that Jews were hiding in the office annex. In a harrowing account,
Miep recalls looking up to face a gun-toting Austrian Nazi, who upbraided
her saying, "Aren't you ashamed of yourself, helping Jewish baggage?
You deserve the worst punishment, and you know what that is."
Though Miep was spared, the Nazis arrested the families and looted the annex.
Needing a container to store his booty, the arresting officer dumped the
contents of Otto's briefcase, which included Anne's diary, onto
the floor. After the prisoners were taken away, Miep returned to the annex
and collected the diary.
The eight Jewish prisoners were taken to Gestapo headquarters, where Miep
followed in a bold, but desperate, attempt to regain her friends' freedom.
Her efforts were in vain, and walking out of Gestapo headquarters after
two years of hiding the families, Miep recalls, "I felt the curtain
of this play was fallen for me."
After four days in the Gestapo cellar, the prisoners were loaded onto a
train headed for Westerbork transit camp in northern Holland. In footage
produced for the commandant of Westerbork and seen in the film, prisoners
are shown exercising and performing in a cabaret, even as weekly transports
were leaving Westerbork, bringing Jewish prisoners to the death camps.
Anne Frank Remembered brings together three prisoners -- Rachel van Amerongen-Frankfoorder,
Sal de Liema, and his wife Rose -- who recall their experiences with the
Frank family as they return to the camp for the first time in 50 years.
"This was the end. It all started here," notes Sal de Liema
as he looks out at Westerbork. "This is like a big cemetery."
On September 3, the final Auschwitz transport left Westerbork carrying all
eight prisoners from the secret annex. The film recreates such a harrowing
trip, with shots taken through the inside slats of a wartime German steam
train as it passes through the countryside.
According to carefully kept records at the death camp, 549 Jews on board,
including all children under 15, were immediately sent to the gas chambers
upon their arrival at Auschwitz. Of the remaining Jews, including the Franks
and the others from the annex, the men were separated from their female
loved ones. Hermann van Pels rapidly became despondent and was gassed a
few weeks after his arrival. Sal de Liema recalls being befriended by Otto,
whom he called "Papa Frank," and how together they developed small
mental exercises (such as remembering the opening of Beethoven's 9th
symphony) which allowed them to keep their sanity amidst the horrors that
Meanwhile, Anne, Margot, Mrs. Frank and Mrs. van Pels were placed in one
of the women's blocks at Auschwitz-Birkenau, where Mrs. Frank bonded
as never before with her daughters. Bloeme Evers-Emden, a former classmate
of Margot's who was also at Auschwitz, recalls that an opportunity
arose for the women to be sent to the relative safety of another work camp.
At the time, however, Anne was afflicted with scabies and unable to travel,
so Mrs. Frank and Margot chose to remain at Auschwitz with her, thereby
forfeiting a transfer that might have saved their lives.
On October 28, Margot and Anne were sent to the Bergen-Belsen concentration
camp in Germany and never saw their mother again. Disease and starvation
were everyday killers in Bergen-Belsen in the last months of the war. The
Frank sisters found themselves in beds right next to the door of their barracks,
constantly feeling the vicious wind of those winter months each time someone
needed to go in or out. Like all of the other prisoners, their health rapidly
deteriorated. Believing that both her father and mother were dead (Mrs.
Frank indeed died in Auschwitz-Birkenau in January, 1945), Anne seemed to
lose her natural optimism, according to Hanneli Goslar, with whom Anne had
an unexpected reunion across a barbed-wire fence in Bergen-Belsen. Shortly
thereafter, Anne and Margot, already weak and sick, succumbed to the deadly
typhus virus that was sweeping through the camp. Both died within days
of each other in late February or early March, 1945.
The men's camp at Auschwitz was liberated on January 27, 1945. Fritz
Pfeffer, however, had been taken to another camp and died on December 20,
1944. Peter van Pels was sent on a death march from Auschwitz just before
it was liberated, and though he survived the march, he died in Mauthausen
in Austria on May 5, just three days before Americans liberated the camp.
His mother was finally transported to an unknown camp where she died in
the spring of 1945.
Otto Frank, barely alive, was discovered by the Russian army that liberated
Auschwitz. Upon recovering, he began to search for his family, as shown
in the letters that have only recently been discovered and have never before
been seen or heard by the public. En route home to Amsterdam, he learned
of his wife's death, but it was not until some time after returning
home that he discovered the facts of Margot and Anne's death from Janny
Brandes-Brilleslijper, who was with the Frank sisters at Bergen-Belsen.
In Anne Frank Remembered, Janny recalls the emotional moment when she broke
the sad news to Otto.
Miep, who had kept Anne's diary a secret from Otto in case Anne should
return, recalls how she presented him with his daughter's writings
upon news of her death. Otto felt that it should be published, and while
his initial attempts were unsuccessful, the diary finally appeared in 1947
under the title "The Backhouse." By the early 1950's, Anne's
diary had been translated and read all over the world, and in 1955, a stage
production titled "The Diary of Anne Frank" opened on Broadway
and was later adapted into an Oscar-winning film. Through her father's
efforts, Anne's famous wish ("I want to go on living even after
my death") had indeed come true.
Otto continued to keep his daughter's message alive, even in the face
of neo-Nazi attempts to label the diary as a hoax. It was not until after
Otto's death in 1980 that the diary was scientifically proven to be
irrefutably authentic. There is now no question that the voice of Anne
Frank is real, and her courage stands as a warning to all those who would
discriminate on the basis of color, culture or creed.
Anne Frank Remembered concludes with film footage of a wedding that took
place on an Amsterdam street in June, 1941. The unknown cameraman suddenly
turns his lens up towards the many neighbors watching the happy couple from
their windows. There, in the only known moving footage of her, is a happy
Anne Frank, not yet knowing what her destiny would be. Less than three
years later in the secret annex, she would find it.
Last modified 08-Feburary-1996.
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