Anne Frank’s diary: the epilogue

Gaynor Jones September 29 1980

Anne Frank’s diary: the epilogue

Gaynor Jones September 29 1980

Anne Frank’s diary: the epilogue


Gaynor Jones

"I will do anything for you, except that one thing: the only thing I cannot do is sign a book written by my dear Anna.” There was silence for a moment as Anne Frank’s father, Otto, cried. This was the one time he showed his inner feelings to his friend, Toronto composer Oskar Morawetz, who visited him four times in Europe and heard of the suffering of Frank’s family during their hiding from the Nazis and later in the concentration camps. Frank devoted his life from 1945 to the day he died, last month at the age of 91, to Anne’s memory. Yet he never could overcome his emotional resistance to signing a copy of his daughter’s book, The Diary of a Young Girl—not for Morawetz, who wrote two compositions based on the Diary, nor even for Dutch friends who risked their lives to hide the Franks.

More than 200 diaries written by Jews in circumstances similar to Anne’s—in hiding from the Nazis in occupied Holland—have survived the Second World War. But the diary of

Anne Frank is the most moving human document of them all. It is far more than a daily account of her experiences during 25 months in hiding, far more than a young girl’s description of her gradual awakening to love for young Peter Van Daan, one of her companions in hiding. From the age of 13, when she first went into hiding, she suffered "like a songbird whose thoughts and wings have been brutally torn out and who is

flying in utter darkness against the bars of its own cage.” Yet she left a message of hope when she wrote, “I believe in human decency.”

Morawetz deliberately

avoided reading Anne’s dairy for 20 years after its publication lest it remind him of his own tragedy: “When the war was over, I found the same thing as many other Jewish people, that 90 per cent of all their relatives and friends died in concentration camps, and I felt almost guilty that I was safe in Canada. The tragedy was so indescribable that whenever anyone spoke of Anne Frank’s diary, I didn’t want to hear about it.” Born in Czechoslovakia in 1917, Morawetz studied music in Vienna for a time, and was safe in Paris when Hitler occupied Czechoslovakia. From there he fled the Nazis to Trieste, Italy, then to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, before rejoining his parents in Canada in 1940. Since then, Morawetz has become recognized as a leading Canadian composer, whose works have been performed by nearly 150 orchestras in Europe, North and South America, Aus-

tralia and Asia. When Morawetz finally read Anne Frank’s diary in 1967, he was so struck by the beauty of the passages that he was determined to set parts of it to music. The result, three years later, was his 19-minute piece From the Diary of Anne Frank.

When the CBC told Morawetz to ask the publishers of the diary for permission to use excerpts, he ended up writing the most unbusinesslike personal letter about his own feelings and losses during the war. That letter served as his introduction to Otto Frank, Anne’s father, who was living in Switzerland. The publishers forwarded the letter to Frank in March, 1970, and the two men began a correspondence that would make them close friends. It was Frank who told Morawetz that Anne’s childhood friend, Lies Goosens, was living in Jerusalem under her married name, Lies Pick, and that Viktor Kugler (whom Anne called Kraler), the man who sheltered the Frank family in his house, was living in Toronto. After the premiere of Morawetz’ From the Diary of Anne Frank, Kugler presented soloist Lois Marshall with roses cabled from Switzerland by Frank. Other composers, including Canadian Godfrey Ridout, have written compositions inspired by or based on the text of Anne Frank’s diary. Yet none had the personal involvement with Otto Frank that Oskar Morawetz had. Morawetz made it a personal cause to follow up every detail of the story to find out what happened to all the people mentioned in the diary and to meet them to satisfy his own passionate curiosity.

He found that in the 33 years between the publication of the diary and his death last month, Frank had become a symbol of hope for thousands of young people who wrote to him from all over the world—mostly teen-aged girls. Even in his 80s Frank would reply personally to most of them and would receive visitors no matter how tired he was. One 14-year-old Japanese girl worked in a factory for three years to save enough money to spend one afternoon with Frank in Switzerland. An entire class of Italian schoolchildren once visited Frank for a few hours instead of taking their annual excursion to the Alps. Some youngsters felt closer to Frank than to their own parents—as they showed with their personal questions. One girl asked Frank whether she would be able to get married despite the freckles on her face. An East German girl ingenuously inquired whether people outside East Germany knew about the diary. One 16-year-old West German wrote: “I was in search of a friend, and now I have found her. Her name is Anne Frank.” Another young woman of 18, also from West Germany, said that she was worried about Otto

Frank himself: “Are you alone? Are you ill? And still another question is burning inside me: can you forgive us Germans?” And, from Canada, a 19year-old wrote: “Ever before us, leading us to a better way of life for all, is your daughter Anne, a shining example of truth, trust and tenderness for us all.” When Frank read the diary for the first time after the war, it was such an emotional task that he stretched it over several weeks. What he read came as a surprise, as he told Morawetz: “Of course, I knew that Anna was writing a diary, but she never read parts of it that concerned her personality. In this diary, quite a different Anna appeared to me

than the one I used to know. Just as Anna herself wrote in her diary, she didn’t want to reveal her inner soul [to us at that time]. So I was very much astonished when I read the deep thoughts she had, her ideals, her courage. . . .In consequence, I believe that most parents don’t really know their children.”

Anne’s diary ends abruptly on Aug. 1, 1944. On Aug. 4, the Frank family, their friends in hiding—Mr. and Mrs. Van Pelz (whom Anne called Van Daan), their son Peter and the dentist, Mr. Düssei—and the two men who hid them were arrested. Moments before their discovery Frank said bravely: “For two years we have lived in fear, now we can live in hope.” It was probably a worker in a nearby warehouse who revealed them. He received from Hitler’s secret police the usual reward paid to all such informers: five guilders (about $3 today) for each person found. After their imprisonment, the Franks were transported first to Westerbork, then, after

three weeks, to the Auschwitz death camp. Of all eight people in hiding, Otto Frank was the only one to survive the concentration camps. “When we moved to Auschwitz,” he told Morawetz, “we were immediately separated: the

women on one side and the men on the other side. And that was all I could see of my dear ones. But I was still together with Mr. Van Pelz, Mr. Düssei and Peter. Mr. Düssei was transported later to another camp in Germany, where he died. Mr. Van Pelz was gassed. I never shall forget this scene because Peter and I watched him when he went to the gas chamber. I was very weak and in the hospital during the later months

[around November-December, 1944] and Peter came every day to see me. But when the Germans had to leave the camp because the Russians advanced, Peter went with his comrades and we never heard anything further about him. He perished, like so many others.” Mrs. Edith Frank died at Auschwitz. Her two daughters were moved to Bergen-Belsen, where first Margot, then Anne, died of typhus. There Mrs. Van Pelz, too, died. That Otto Frank survived was the result of a coincidence that he related to Morawetz. An angry Nazi, having first yelled at Frank for peeling potatoes too slowly, then beat him up so badly that he was too weak to join the other prisoners assembled for the walk back to Germany. Peter urged Frank to accompany them. Frank thought there was no point in trying to leave when he could walk no more than 10 steps. “They might as well shoot me,” he said to Peter. Suddenly, a telephone call warned his tormentors that the nearby Soviet troops were attacking, and that all Nazis must leave immediately. The Nazis had no time to cover

the traces of their atrocities or to kill possible survivors. When the Russian army came, Frank was saved.

And Anne’s closest friend, Lies, who had lived on the same street when they were both just 4 years old, also survived the war. It is the diary passages concerning Lies that Morawetz set to music, beginning with the section where Anne sees a vision of Lies just before she falls asleep: “I saw her in front of me, clothed in rags, her face thin and worn. Her eyes were very big and she looked so sadly and reproachfully at me that I could read in her eyes: ‘Oh, Anne, why have you deserted me? Help. . . rescue me from this hell!’ ” Through an incredible coincidence, the two girls had been put in adjacent compounds. Lies saw Ann« vtrree brief times, for a total of just a few minutes, through the barbed-wire fence that separated their quarters at Bergen-Belson in January, 1945, shortly before Anne died. To communicate through the fence was a crime punishable by death. Lies’s last glimpse of Anne was when she ran to pick up the meagre parcel of food that Lies had managed to scrape together and throw over the fence. More than 30 years later, Lies was still able to describe this scene to Morawetz, when he visited her husband Walter Pick in Jerusalem in 1976. Lies had always thought Anne was safe in Switzerland; Anne was convinced that her friend, who symbolized “the sufferings of all my girl-friends and all the Jews,” had perished. Yet Lies’s description of Anne, who was in the death compound for people transferred from Auschwitz, is strikingly similar to Anne’s vision of Lies. As Lies remembers her girl-friend, clad in the middle of winter in “a ragged striped uniform that made me feel ashamed of my own clothes,” Anne “was so emaciated that her eyes were like two pieces of coal deep in the sockets of a skull. Suddenly I knew why I had thought of a skull. Her head was shaved.” Not yet 16, Anne died in March, 1945, only a few weeks before the British liberated Bergen-Belson.

On April 13, 1945, the Nazis herded Lies, together with the rest of the prisoners, into a train of cattle cars. When the Russians freed their train on April 23, at Frankfurt, half the prisoners had died from typhus in the lice-infested cars. Lies and her four-year-old sister, Rachel, were among the survivors; eventually the Red Cross sent them back to Holland. When Otto Frank, still sick, heard that Lies was alive, he started the 200-km walk back from Amsterdam to see her in the hospital at Maastricht, and arrived in three days. According to Lies, “had Anne known her father was still alive, I believe she might have found the will to cling to life.” Years after the war, Lies would always think of Anne’s shaven head

whenever she had to have her hair cut. There was only one thing that Anne had been vain about during their school days—her thick black hair.

Had Oskar Morawetz known in 1970 that Lies was alive, he might have written his composition differently. For when Anne wrote that Lies symbolized the suffering of all her girl-friends and all Jews, Morawetz “saw in the death of Lies the tragedy of all the people who died in the concentration camps that I knew.”

Obviously, the audience for contemporary classical Canadian music is not

as broad as that for the book, the play or the film based on Anne Frank’s Diary. Yet Morawetz’ composition From the Diary of Anne Frank, since its Toronto premiere in 1970, has been performed at Carnegie Hall, in Washington, D.C., and Bloomington, Ind., and overseas in Tel Aviv, Prague and Adelaide. It received a special award from the Segal Fund, Montreal, in 1971 as “the most important contribution to Jewish culture and music in Canada.” There are no survivors of Anne Frank’s family. Yet the music of Oskar Morawetz and the words of Anne Frank live on.