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Remembering Anne Frank : The young girl who continues to move our hearts

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By Meghna

Not many people know how it feels to be in the midst of war, but many claim to have experienced it vicariously through vivid accounts of the awful suffering of the Jews during World War II, as described in The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank.

On this day in 1929, the famous teenage author and the holocaust witness of World War II, Anne Frank was born at the outskirts of Frankfurt, Germany, into an upper-middle-class- German-Jewish family.

Even as a child, Frank was a girl blessed with powers of creativity, wisdom, depth and emotion.

She chronicled the events of Second World War in her diary with such vividness, that even today the readers continue to live through her experiences vicariously. The intense thoughts expressed in her writing forces people to meditate about the impact of violence on children.

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“I don’t believe that the big men, the politicians and the capitalists alone are guilty of the war. Oh, no, the little man is just as keen, otherwise the people of the world would have risen in revolt long ago! There is an urge and rage in people to destroy, to kill, to murder, and until all mankind, without exception, undergoes a great change, wars will be waged, everything that has been built up, cultivated and grown, will be destroyed and disfigured, after which mankind will have to begin all over again.”                                                                                         –Anne Frank

This is best expressed by her father, Otto Frank, who, upon discovering her diary, exclaimed, “There was revealed a completely different Anne to the child that I had lost. I had no idea of the depths of her thoughts and feelings.”

Though Anne Frank lived an extremely short life of 16 years, but even in such a short life span, she endured far more suffering than any teenager could possibly do.

From being uprooted from her roots- Germany, to being hopeful about finding a new home in Amsterdam and then, witnessing the bitter shattering of those hopes; Frank underwent all sorts of trials and tribulations.

During the two years Frank family spent in hiding upon the invasion of Netherlands by the Nazis, Frank wrote her diary extensively. She mainly wrote to pass the time and also to confide in her diary whatever she couldn’t tell her family.

Some entries in the diary give glimpses of the depths of despair which Frank occasionally sank into.  On February 3rd, 1944, she wrote, “I’ve reached the point where I hardly care whether I live or die.” “The world will keep on turning without me, and I can’t do anything to change events anyway.”

Young Anne along with her family was shipped off to Camp Westerbork, a concentration camp in North-eastern Netherlands, upon the discovery of their hiding place by the Nazis.

They were again transferred to the death camp in Auschwitz, where the Frank girls and their mother were separated from Otto Frank.

The young Frank girls, later on, were again shifted to a concentration camp in Bergen-Belsen in Germany and their mother was forced to be left behind in Auschwitz.

The condition of the concentration camps was pathetic with several infectious diseases being prevalent.

Anne Frank and her sister Margot succumbed to an outbreak of typhus in Bergen-Belsen in March 1945.

Indeed, the world didn’t stop turning after Anne Frank died, but the horrors which she experienced still continue to sway the readers globally.

Her diary is still read widely and will continue to be read by millions and millions of readers all across the world.

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Solving a murder in a Nazi bastion, escaping the Stasi

But as there are a couple of Nazis who are not so bad, our hero also shows that anyone with some dignity and honour can keep his mooring amid the direst evil

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Prussian Blue is a must read book which offers different perspective. IANS
Prussian Blue is a must read book which offers different perspective. IANS
  • Prussian Blue is a novel by Philip Kerr
  • It is set in World War II
  • Thr book is an interesting read

Title: Prussian Blue (Bernie Gunther Series); Author: Philip Kerr; Publisher: Quercus

Some men can never outrun their past. It is not that their wrongdoings cannot be forgotten, but rather that their unique abilities which even their enemies, spanning the spectrum from Nazism to Communism, recognise and seek to utilise for their own ends. As with this outspoken, irreverent but capable German ex-policeman.

Bernie Gunther has survived over over two decades of Nazi rule, World War II’s Russian front, Soviet captivity, the Cold War’s lethal attentions — from all its sides — service to Juan Peron and the American mafia in Battista’s Cuba, and now just wants a quiet life.

Not Nazi were bad. youtube.com

But his eccentric fate hasn’t yet finished with him, even in 1956. And in his latest appearance, Gunther learns — yet again — that the pathology of power remains the same, though the name, uniforms and even ideology may change, and today’s oppressed can easily become — and inevitably do — tomorrow’s oppressors.

Fleeing Berlin after a complex intelligence operation where he got even with those kicking him around — with the help of a dangerous figure from his pre-war past — Gunther tries to live obscurely as concierge in a small hotel on the French Riviera. But soon, his unlikely helper — Erich Mielke, the dreaded second-in-command of East Germany’s Stasi — personally appears and threatens him to undertake a mission.

This entails going over to Britain and poisoning — by thallium no less — a covert woman agent, whom Gunther had deftly outsmarted in his previous outing (“The Other Side of Silence”, 2016). And just to keep him on his toes, Mielke has his men arrange a near-fatal hanging for him.

But our hero is not one to give in tamely. While he goes along with Mielke’s assignment knowing the men wished upon him to “help” will eventually be his executioners, he escapes from the train taking them towards the English Channel. The Stasi men are soon on his trail and since their leader is someone who knows Gunther too well — a former pre-war Berlin police colleague who was his aide in investigating a crime in Adolf Hitler’s hilltop Bavarian retreat in 1939 — keeping ahead will not be too simple.

As Gunther flees across France with the French police too on his trail, his mind travels back to April 1939 when another dreaded boss sent him to solve a serious crime in Hitler’s holiday home, just before the Fuhrer visited it for his 50th birthday.

A top engineer overseeing construction and renovations has been shot dead right on the terrace of special tea house planned as a surprise for Hitler and now his close aide Martin Bormann wants the matter to be solved expeditiously without any fuss, so there is no threat to the Fuhrer’s life.

But as Gunther finds out, there is no shortage of suspects given the greed, graft, jealousy, turf fights and more going on between Nazi bigwigs in this Nazi citadel and a mass of resentful local residents, dispossessed of home or property for the Hitler retreat.

Given the high stakes involved, will he be allowed to investigate the case to its logical conclusion and identify the truly guilty or will any scapegoat do?

Flipping between the hazardous 1939 investigation and the nervous 1956 flight, Philip Kerr, in the 12th installment of his most captivating series, brings our wise-cracking, sardonic but resourceful hero back to life in all his tarnished, tired but still irrepressible form.

Also Read: Book Review: ‘Blitzed – Drugs in Nazi Germany’- Straight dope about the Fuehrer and the Nazi war machine

While it is a thriller twice over, the real worth is the uncompromising light it shows totalitarianism in — especially Nazism, which despite its much touted high ideals, could not advance from the ambition, greed and conceit of its principal leaders. Stalinist Communism, with its readiness to employ former Nazis and be as violent, doesn’t come far behind.

Kerr also scores in his vivid but unflattering portraits of top Nazis — from the boorish Bormann to the devious Heydrich and their system of violent loot or just violence. Apart from the insight into workings of Nazism, there is an unforgettable insight into normalisation of terror and casual brutality to gain and keep personal power.

But as there are a couple of Nazis who are not so bad, our hero also shows that anyone with some dignity and honour can keep his mooring amid the direst evil. That is why Bernie Gunther’s exploits are a must read. IANS