Monday, November 20, 2006

The Last Seven Months of Anne Frank

I picked up a copy of The Last Seven Months of Anne Frank: The stories of six women who knew Anne Frank, compiled by Willy Lindwer, in the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam. I believe it was made in conjunction with or after the excellent documentary, Anne Frank Remembered. One woman was friends with Anne before she went into hiding, Hannah Elisabeth Pick-Goslar (she is also in the documentary), remarkably found Anne later in the camps, although they never actually saw each other because there was a wall between them. Most of the other women met Anne and her family in the camps - they were also people who had been in hiding, and, unfortunately, caught at the last minute. Each of these remarkable women, in their 70s and 80s when they recount their tales, mention how they new the Franks - how they busted up batteries with Anne and Margot and Mrs. Frank, a disgusting job but one which allowed them to talk with each other - and later how the girls had contracted typhus and were dying. But each story is, fittingly, their own, beginning before the war, their experience in the camps, their release after the war was over, and how they cope with their life experiences at the time of publication - most quite honest about how they choose not to remember certain details as a form of self-preservation, most also not able to understand how they survived while others died.

The book is not just a tribute to these six women, and, of course, Anne, but to all women who suffered during the war. It's a beautiful tribute to the sisterhood of women, extending across boundaries of religion, country, and race. Two of the women in the book formed a little club which, they both say, was the only way they survived. Writes one (Lenie de Jong-van Naarden):
Women seem to have greater endurance, to take the orders less to heart, and perhaps they are a bit more independent... Our little club of women has stayed close all these years, right up to today. Without each other, we wouldn't have made it.

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