Peres at Anne Frank House: I Doubt if Assad Read Her Diary

Her voice echoes as a warning to us all – facing a tyrant who murdered children with chemical arms, says Israeli president.

Ofer Aderet
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President Shimon Peres on Sunday harked back to Anne Frank’s diary to underscore the atrocities of President Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria.

Peres was speaking at the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam, where a letter sent by Anne’s father Otto during World War II was published Sunday.

The president said that especially during these days, Anne’s voice echoes as a warning to us all – facing a tyrant who murdered children with chemical arms while having sought to develop nuclear weapons for mass murder. Peres said he doubted that Assad ever read Anne’s diary.

Wearing special gloves, Peres viewed the diary’s original manuscript, a picture album Anne had put together, and the newly published letter. He said Anne’s writings were not merely a memory from history but a living memory that no one in the world could hide or ignore – a ray of light and a true voice in a silent world.

The letter was sent by Otto Frank to his mother a month after he was liberated from Auschwitz in January 1945.

The letter is one of a group of letters auctioned last year; they once belonged to Austrian-American actor Joseph Schildkraut, who played Otto Frank in the original stage and film versions of “The Diary of Anne Frank” in the 1950s. Otto Frank had given the letters to Schildkraut to help him prepare for the role.

Schildkraut died in 1964, and it is unclear who held the letters until they were passed on to the Anne Frank Museum last year. The letters will be exhibited at the museum starting next month.

The museum’s curator, Teresien da Silva, said the letter published Sunday proves that as long as the war raged, Frank never stopped trying to protect his family from the Nazi atrocities. He continued to believe that he would find his family alive.

Ronald Leopold, the museum's executive director, noted that Anne’s sister Margot had dreamed of immigrating to Israel.

Anne Frank was born in Germany. Her family moved to the Netherlands after the Nazis' rise to power and went into hiding during the German occupation. The family’s hiding place was discovered in August 1944, and Anne was sent to Auschwitz and then to Bergen-Belsen, where she died of typhus in March 1945.

Her father, the family’s only survivor, discovered her diaries and published them. Frank died in 1980.

The following is a translation of the newly published letter as provided by the museum.

Auschwitz, 23 February 1945

Dearest Mother,

I hope these lines get to you bringing you and all the ones I love the news that I have been saved by the Russians, that I am well, am full of good spirit, and being looked after well in every respect. Where Edith and the children are, I do not know. We have been apart since 5 September 1944. I merely heard that they had been transported to Germany. One has to be hopeful, to see them back well and healthy. Please tell my brothers-in-law and my friends in Holland of my liberation. I long to see you all again and hope that this will be possible soon. If only you are all well, too. Indeed, when will I be able to receive news from you?  All my love, greetings and kisses,

Your son,

Otto

The following is the second part of the letter after Frank found out that his wife Edith had died.

28 March 1945

Dearest Mother,

I want to write a couple of lines to you again, because we are still waiting for transport. I can’t write a lot, because the news of Edith’s death on 6 January 1945 has affected me so, that I am not my usual self. Thinking of the children keeps me going. Edith died in the hospital of weakness through malnutrition; her body could not withstand intestinal trouble added to that. In reality another murder by the Germans. If only she had held on for another two weeks, everything would have been different after the liberation by the Russians. I have to acquiesce to that. If we can get to Holland via the north or the south, I do not know. I hope, however, that we can travel on soon, despite the fact that Holland is not yet free.

I don’t want to write anymore today.

All my love to all of you,

Your Otto

Peres examining Anne Frank's letter at the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, September 29, 2013.Credit: AFP
Peres speaking with Leopold upon his arrival to the Anne Frank House, Amsterdam, September 29, 2013.Credit: AFP