If Anne Frank were alive today, she would be celebrating her 90th birthday.
At 13, her family went into hiding during the Nazi occupation in the Netherlands to avoid being sent to a concentration camp for being Jewish.
During her time in hiding, she kept a diary detailing her daily life, future hopes and secrets.
Sharing her legacy with grade 7 students from St. Ann (Hamilton), St. Luke and St. Lawrence Catholic Elementary Schools, was Menno Metselaar, the program manager of the Anne Frank museum in Holland. Metselaar was in Hamilton as part of his North American book tour, sharing “All about Anne,” which answers frequently asked questions by children who visit the museum.
“Eight, six and 761. If you know these numbers you can remember Anne’s story,” said Metselaar.
He went on to explain that eight represented the number of people who hid together in a secret area of her father’s herb and spice company. Included in the eight were her parents, Otto and Edith and sister Margot, along with friends Hermann and Auguste van Pels with son Peter and dentist Fritz Pfeffer.
Six referred to the number of non-Jewish workers at the factory who risked their lives to help the eight in hiding by sneaking in food, clothing and other necessities.
761. “The number of days spent in hiding.” Not only was it difficult to remain in hiding for so long for fear of being captured but sharing a small living area with no personal space, or freedom to go outside, caused tension.
Writing was Anne’s escape, said Metselaar. Quoting her, he said “If I couldn’t write I would suffocate.”
Through her diary entries, Anne spoke of the injustices around her and in the world.
“She also wrote about women and how she thought they should be treated equally.”
“If Anne were alive today, what would she think?” asked Metselaar.
“She probably thought the issues she wrote about… prejudice, injustice, segregation, inequality… would have been gone by now.”
After 761 days, the hiding place was made known to Nazis and all eight were captured and brought to camps. Only her father survived. When her diary was found after the invasion, Otto made sure to publish it to fulfill her dream of becoming a writer.
Now, it serves as a message of inspiration, faith and hope as it invites readers to look at the issues around them with a critical eye. For those in grade 7, the talk put in perspective what a girl their age was capable of.
“Awareness is the first step,” said Metselaar. “How do we get from awareness to action.”
Quoting Anne, he said, “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”