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April 22, 2011

What would Anne Frank have written if she had continued writing in a diary after her hiding place was found?

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , — furtherglory @ 10:13 am

American high school students, who are studying the Holocaust, are sometimes assigned by their teachers to write a few entries in an imaginary diary, writing as Anne Frank might have done, if she had continued her diary after her hiding place was raided by the Gestapo.  I believe that Anne Frank did continue to write in a new diary after she was sent from Auschwitz to Bergen-Belsen in October 1944.  I am basing this on the fact that many inmates of the Bergen-Belsen camp did, in fact, keep a diary in which they described what it was like in the camp.  

Survivors of Bergen-Belsen, April 28, 1945

Anne Frank might have had the opportunity to write something during her brief stay in an Amsterdam prison, or at the Westerbork transit camp, before she was sent to Auschwitz, but upon arrival at Auschwitz, the Jews had to give up all their possessions, so if Anne had been keeping a new diary, it would have been taken from her.  However, at Bergen-Belsen, the prisoners had writing materials available and were allowed to keep a diary, as proved by the fact that many diaries, written by the prisoners, have survived.

For example, Dr. Abel J. Herzberg, a lawyer in Amsterdam who was arrested in 1943 and taken to Westerbork, kept a diary after he was sent to Bergen-Belsen in January 1944. Bergen-Belsen was an exchange camp, and Herzberg’s name was on a list of 1,300 Jews who were available to be sent to Palestine in exchange for German citizens held as prisoners by the Allies. In April 1944, Dr. Hertzberg was put on a list of 272 Jews who were selected to be sent to Palestine, but at the last minute, 50 names were crossed off the list and Dr. Herzberg had to go back into the Bergen-Belsen Star Camp with the other Dutch Jews.

After the war, Dr. Hertzberg went back to being a lawyer in Amsterdam. He published the diary that he had kept in Bergen-Belsen under the title of “Tweestromenland” in 1950.  Jack Santcross was a 9-year-old prisoner at Bergen-Belsen who also survived; he translated Dr. Herzberg’s diary from the original Dutch into English.

In Dr. Herzberg’s diary, he describes the tent camp which was put up at Bergen-Belsen in August 1944. The tent camp is where Anne and Margot Frank had to live for several weeks after they were brought to Bergen-Belsen from Auschwitz-Birkenau in October 1944.

An entry from the diary of Dr. Abel J. Herzberg, written on August 15, 1944, is quoted in the English edition of a book entitled “Bergen-Belsen from 1943 – 1945.” (The German edition of this book was translated into English by Gregory Claeys and Christine Lattek.)

This quote is from the diary of Dr. Hertzberg:

The prisoners have erected the tent camp. Our men have carried straw. And last night and this morning a transport of women and children moved into these ten to twelve tents. Who are they? All this takes place right next to our camp section. We can see them. And nonetheless nobody knows anything – we are isolated from one another that strictly. All sorts of rumours are circulating, and most of them boil down to: fugitives from Poland and East Prussia. So we know at least one thing for certain: it is a sign of dissolution. And further: we are not going to get out of here anymore. We have to wait for the chaos. Will we one day have to swap places with these women and be housed in the tents? Those who love indulging in gloomy prophecies believe that. But it strengthens our power of resistance. And he who wants to know what that consists in must go into block 12 on a Sunday evening, when the French, Albanian and Serbian Jews are guests of the Greeks and they sing. Yes, then tempo and life come into the group. A song of liberty – and the rhythm is accompanied by clapping hands and stomping feet. Finally the SS leave us alone. They are nowhere to be seen. Only the sentry on the watchtower can hear us and is probably annoyed, perhaps even going to report us. But the song rises up, and the whole vitality, the unyielding strength of the Jewish people breaks through. French and Greek, Serb and Russian songs are sung, most of them are incomprehensible but everyone knows what they mean: Il faut se tenir – they are not going to get the better of us. At the end then a Greek folk song resounds and then – Hebrew: Hatikvah (Zionist National Anthem, now the National Anthem of Israel).

Nobody has announced it, and of course they are no Zionists. Perhaps they barely know what that is. But nonetheless all of them sing along – in the only language they all have learned (have they?) – in the knowledge that no matter what may have separated them from one another a common fate has brought them together, and that – whether they want it or not – a common power to change this fate lives in them. They are no Zionists but the song sounds too genuine and too spontaneous to miss seeing the great and deep respect they hold for the notion of their own nation and the aim of a Jewish state.

The women in the new camp do not own any mess-kits. They eat from old tins. Thus the Third Reich ends.

Loden Vogel (Louis Tas) was another Bergen-Belsen prisoner who kept a diary while he was in the camp.  He had been arrested in Amsterdam on September 29, 1943, along with his parents, and had been taken to the transit camp at Westerbork, the same place where Anne Frank was initially imprisoned.

Vogel was born on December 25, 1920, so he was 23 years old at the time that he was arrested. Everyone in his family had South American passports, so they were not transferred to Auschwitz, but were instead sent to Bergen-Belsen as “exchange Jews” on April 15, 1944.

Loden Vogel spent exactly one year in the Star Camp at Bergen-Belsen.  If Anne Frank and her family had not gone into hiding, they would have been sent to the Star Camp as well.  Loden’s father worked as a doctor at Bergen-Belsen, and because of this, Loden was given a job as a nurse. In 1946, he published the diary that he kept in Bergen Belsen under the title “Dagboek uit een kamp.”  His diary was translated into English by Eberhard Kolb.

This quote is from two entries in the diary of Loden Vogel:

12 February 1945  As a hospital nurse I now have an official claim to a bed for myself in the doctor’s room, but this place is permanently threatened. In return for it I lose the additional food which my former colleagues earn by a little work in the camp…

There is no alternative for us left. Every day I see what is still in store for us. There is nothing wrong with all the patients in hospital – except for lack of food. All rations are only 3/4 of what they still were a few days ago. One loaf of army bread must now last a whole week, up to now it was six days, even earlier only five. Moreover it has gotten smaller. Thus we all feel the lack of bread. In the sick-bay are dirty skeletons, full of vermin, clad in rags which do not even warm them any more. What shall I do with the filthy underwear full of lice that I take off a patient? No luggage is allowed under the beds, so I carefully pick up the stuff and throw it away. This person is going to die anyway. I could kill them all with a calm consciousness, if I was not inhibited by the fact that a) my parents are almost in the same state, b) theoretically the war could end quickly and c) completely exhausted people do get exchanged even at the very last moment. If there is no transport soon I do not know how many can be saved.

15 February 1945 […] The huts are full of candidates for the crematorium, skeletons who only get out of bed to collect their food. There is no more tar paper on the roofs. When it rains everything gets wet, beds, blankets, luggage. In my own hut (where I don’t sleep at present) there isn’t even any light. Excreta lies everywhere on the camp street.

I slept in this hut one night, sharing my bed with an ill person. All day long he had been lying on his and my blanket brooding. When I as usual wrapped myself up naked into the blanket I felt lice attack me in great numbers. I had to catch and kill them with my teeth constantly, as there was no other way to get rid of them. The following morning I went into the doctors’ room because it was lit, and systematically searched every inch of the blanket. Then I cleared a bed off which was used as a luggage rack, installed myself there and waited for my father to wake up to tell him that I would stay there. I have been rid of lice since. What I catch during the day I find in the evenings in the favorite spots: neck, arm-pits. I have shaved off all body hair.

Two days before Germany declared war on America in December 1941, a group of German-Americans who were Nazi supporters, and a number of German citizens living in America, had been rounded up and sent to an internment camp at Ellis Island in New York. Later, a number of German citizens were apprehended in South America and brought to American internment camps. After World War II started, German prisoners in American internment camps, and German prisoners in British prisons, were theoretically available for exchange with Jewish prisoners being held in Bergen-Belsen, who wanted to go to Palestine.

Very few exchanges were ever made, but there was one group of 222 Jews at Bergen-Belsen who finally made it to Palestine, arriving on July 10, 1944. They had been released by the Germans in an agreement with the British whereby German citizens held in British prisons had been allowed to come back to Germany.

The group that ultimately went to Palestine was first scheduled to begin preparations on May 31st for the trip, but the deal was canceled by the British on June 5th, the day before the Allied landing at Normandy. The Jews, who had been in a special barracks awaiting departure, were sent back to the general camp. All their new privileges were taken away and they were forced to work again, just like the other prisoners in the camp.

Simon Heinrich Herrmann was one of the lucky 222 who finally made it to Palestine. He wrote a book, entitled “Austauschlager Bergen-Belsen,” which was published in Tel-Aviv in 1944.

This quote is from Herrmann’s book:

Several weeks passed by, and slowly we got used to the daily grind of camp life again…Thursday, June 29th, 6 in the morning. We were about to go to work when a “Green” appeared in our hut shouting, “No one to work!” We were struck as if by lighting. So, after all! Without preparation the message hit us: we were being freed. The answer was a wild outbreak of joy. The children became uncontrollable. Suddenly our innermost feelings were switched over into another world. In a minute a revolution had taken place. […]

After the luggage check followed by a body search, which was performed no less painstakingly, the contents of all pockets being emptied on the table, and all our clothing felt over from top to bottom. In doing so, the Germans gave a last demonstration of their ingenuity in verbal abuse, once again drumming into our heads that we belonged to the class of swindlers and thieves. Immediately afterwards we received our provisions for the first stage of our journey, which considerably exceeded our camp rations. The worst had passed. At the German border we were supposed to be handed over in a condition more or less worthy of human beings. Our treatment improved with every meter that we came closer to this border.

In the evening our camp balance, precise to the last penny, was also handed over to us in Reichsmarks (German money). On the floor of the garage we then spent our last night in the Bergen-Belsen camp.

Another prisoner at Bergen-Belsen, who kept a diary, was 25-year-old Renata Laqueur.  Born November 3, 1919,  she was the daughter of a Professor of Pharmacology in Amsterdam. She was arrested in 1943 and taken, along with her husband, to the Dutch transit camp at Westerbork. From there, she was sent to Bergen-Belsen on March 15, 1944 in a transport of Dutch “exchange Jews.”

Renata kept a diary in the camp and after the war, it was published in Amsterdam in 1965 under the title, “Dagboek uit Bergen-Belsen maart 1944 – April 1945”. The German translation was published in Hannover in 1983 under the title, “Bergen-Belsen-Tagebuch 1944/1945.”

Quoted here are two excerpts from Renata Laqueur’s Diary:

Sunday May 28, 1944 (Whit Sunday) It is about half past five in the evening, and I am sitting outside in the open air, between the barracks, with my back towards the barbed wire. It has been terribly hot since yesterday. In the evenings and at night the hut is an oven. A hundred and eighty people, one single toilet – without a door on top of that – open chamber pots and buckets under the beds, laundry, clothes and other items hang in the narrow space between the three-layered bunk beds and from the ceiling. Dust, dirt, heat and stench.

I am now enjoying the first quiet moments in months. The work squads have already marched into the camp. But most of them are too exhausted to take a breath of fresh air for a moment, since we have to get up again tomorrow at half past four.

Here it smells of forest, summer, freedom. On the left hand, behind the barbed wire fence, there are pine trees, slender and motionless. There must be a dark, safe, cozy little place, between the small bushes on soft moss and pine needles. And it is so quiet there, so quiet…But in front of it there is a barbed wire, and the skull grins at me, bars the way to liberty. I hear the sentry walk up and down on his watch tower whistling a ditty. He must be almost dying of boredom. Why, why is all this happening?

Soon now I will be able to sleep until half past four. No more thinking. The day must come again when there are no more barbed wire fences, when we can go where we want, go to bed when we please, lead a life without coercion and oppression.

I still have a fever and am weak because of the diarrhea. Tomorrow another eleven hours of sitting. We are now sorting buttons for “army underwear”. Brain work! I must now get back into my hut. It is as if one was getting into a car which has been standing in the scorching sun for a whole day.

Thursday, June 15, 1944. I think a lot about what the time after the war will look like. Will we be at all able to tell anything to somebody who has not gone through the same experience as we have? Can we put into words what this camp experience means to us? What it means to watch from behind barbed wire how slender pines grow and how fresh foliage and green leaves sprout alongside the camp street. What the perpetual coercion and harassment of the SS guards and their incessant regime and surveillance mean. How you are always making an effort to imagine: this does not concern you yourself, all of this screaming scolding, din. How you feel that you are growing older, that your youth runs through your fingers in these years of waiting for the end to oppression.

Renata was ten years older than Anne Frank, but her diary entries sound like what Anne might have written.  If Anne Frank did, in fact, continue to write while she was at Bergen-Belsen, her diary might have been destroyed when the barracks were burned down by the British in order to stop the typhus epidemic.  Anne and her sister Margo died from typhus just a few weeks before the camp was turned over to the British on April 15, 1945.

A young survivor of the typhus epidemic at Bergen-Belsen

Anne Frank was buried in a mass grave at Bergen-Belsen


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    Comment by — January 12, 2013 @ 5:27 pm

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    Comment by amy — May 25, 2012 @ 3:49 pm

  3. […] previously blogged here about what Anne Frank might have written if she had continued writing her diary after her hiding […]

    Pingback by Is the spirit of Anne Frank hiding in an attic in Mormon spirit prison? « Scrapbookpages Blog — February 23, 2012 @ 10:15 am

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