Holocaust Memorial Day

Published on 23 February 2015

Holocaust Memorial Day

The History Department at Vandyke marked the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by delivering a series of special assemblies. ‘Keep the Memory Alive’, this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day theme, told the story of the most well-known victim of the Holocaust: Anne Frank. ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ is testament to the sacrifice, suffering and resilience of the Jewish people throughout their treatment at the hands of the National Socialists. This piece of drama sought to portray the importance of the written word and the human stories behind the Shoah.

This piece of drama was set in the late 1940’s when Otto Frank, played by Assistant Head teacher Mr Downey, was coming to terms with the loss of his family; wife Edith and daughters Anne and Margot. The Franks were German Jews who had fled Germany following the appointment of Hitler in January 1933. They built a prosperous life in Amsterdam however were trapped when the Nazis invaded Holland in 1940 during Blitzkrieg. The Frank family became increasingly fearful for their lives, experiencing increased persecution at the hands of the local Gestapo. When eldest daughter Margot received a call up for work duty the family decided to go into hiding. From 1942 the Franks, along with three other families, hid in an annex. Associates such as Miep Gies, a character performed by Mrs Akers-Jarvis, risked arrest in order to bring the families in the annex food and supplies.

Anne spent the two years recording her personal thoughts and fears in the diary she had received as a twelfth birthday   present. It was protected and concealed from the Gestapo by Miep, who gave the diary to Otto Frank upon hearing of Anne’s death in 1945. Otto delayed reading the diary, however was persuaded and soon saw the power behind his daughters’ words.  He spent the rest of his life publicising the diary and highlighting the issues surrounding discrimination and prejudice until his death in 1980.

There has been great speculation about the betrayal of their whereabouts to the Gestapo which led to their arrest in 1944. Adam Cavender, a Year 13 Drama student, played one of the prime suspects; Anton Ahler – a Dutch National Socialist and one-time blackmailer of Otto Frank. Fierce control and effective propaganda in the Nazi state led to the indoctrination of individuals like Ahler and subsequent denunciations to the Gestapo were common in Germany and occupied territories such as Holland.

Once the Franks were discovered they were transported to Westerbork – a transit camp – before being deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland in 1944. The last time Otto saw his daughters was on the train platform where men and women were separated. Edith, Margot and Anne were selected for work and suffered the hardships familiar to all prisoners of Auschwitz.

Anne was played by Year 11 student Stephanie Beaney – who turned 16 on the day of the performance. This was a poignant coincidence as Anne Frank died just short of this birthday. Both Anne and her sister Margot contracted typhus at Bergen-Belsen camp and are believed to have died in March 1945. Today Anne’s diary has been translated into 70 languages and is one of the most widely read books of all time. Its significance is clear: a human voice charting the pain and fear caused by the Holocaust.  Nelson Mandela said he and other prisoners found solace in the book while on Robben Island and were inspired by its innocence and hope. The diary today serves as a warning against prejudice but also as a stark reminder that this young girl’s ‘would-haves’ are our opportunities.

Mrs Quinn

Team Leader of History