Friday, April 15, 2011

Remembering Anne Frank

1. Anne Frank as a young girl

Given name: Annelies Marie Frank

Date of Birth: June 12, 1929
Place of Birth: Frankfurt, Germany

Anne Frank is one of the most famous Holocaust victims, due in thanks to the diary that she kept throughout her entire experience in hiding during the war.  The book about her diary, The Diary of Anne Frank is one of the most well known in the world, and draws a lot of attention to the Holocaust and what it was like to be in hiding for so long, unable to experience life as a young girl.

         Anne Frank was born in Germany in 1929 to her parents, Otto and Edith.  They lived in Frankfurt with her sister Margot until 1933 when the Nazis seized power.  They then moved to Amsterdam, the Netherlands where her father had business connections.  They moved  into 263 Prinsengracht Street where Otto ran his business from. In 1940, the Nazis took over Amsterdam, and in 1942, Jews began to be    deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau and Sobibor to be killed (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum).

2. Anne Frank at school in 1941

3.  The Franks went into hiding in this
 apartment for over 2 years.
Quotes from Anne's diary:
“Not being able to go outside upsets me more than I can say, and I'm terrified our hiding place will be discovered and that we'll be shot.'- Anne Frank, 1942
 They hid in the secret attic, which Anne called the “secret annex” in her diary.  There was a staircase leading up to the secret annex which the covered with a bookcase, so it was hidden to anyone who entered the house. 

“Now our Secret Annex has truly become secret…Mr. Kugler thought it would be better to have a bookcase built in front of the entrance to our hiding place. It swings out on its hinges and opens like a door.
-Anne Frank, August 21, 1942

"If I just think of how we live here, I usually come to the conclusion that it is a paradise compared with how other Jews who are not in hiding must be living,"- May 1, 1943

"Would anyone, either Jew or non-Jew, understand this about me, that I am simply a young girl badly in need of some frolicking fun?" -December 24, 1943

"Finally I twist my heart round again, so that the bad is on the outside and the good is on the inside, and keep on trying to find a way of becoming what I would so like to be, and what I could be, if... there weren't any other people living in the world." - August 1, 1944

There were many workers coming in and out of the house, but none of them ever knew about Anne, her family and their friends, the van Pels, who were in hiding for two years.  They wouldnot flush the toilet during the day and avoid making any other noises” Miep Gies recalled in an interview done in 1997. Through the help of non-Jews such as Miep Gies, who has become extremely well known, Johannes Kleiman, Victor Kugler, Jan Gies, they were supplied with food and clothing thanks to these brave people.
On August 14, 1944, however, the Franks and van Pels were discovered and arrested by  the Gestapo, thanks to an unknown Dutch caller. 

“When the police found the hiding place I mainly felt a tremendous disappointment that so close to the end of the war my friends were caught. We honestly thought that we had made it. Paris was already captured by the Allies. Their troops were less than 250 miles from Amsterdam. Germany had actually lost the war. And then this happened.” –Miep Gies, 1997

The Gestapo sent the Franks to Westerbork, and then a month later in September 1944 sent them to Auschwitz, and then Anne and her sister Margot were sent to Bergen-Belson, a camp focused on child labor.
Edith Frank died in January of 1945.  
Anne and Margot died of typhus in March of 1945 just weeks before British troops liberated the camp in April.
Otto Frank was the only member of the family to survive.
4. The attic/ secret annex
6. The window that Anne could see her favorite chestnut tree from
5. Anne's old bedroom in the Anne Frank Museum,
restored to the way it looked when she lived in it, minus the furniture.

The Anne Frank Museum was established on May 3, 1960 by Anne's father, Otto.  It is unfurnished so that visitors can walk freely through the museum and truly take in everything that is inside.  I visited the Anne Frank Museum in November 2010 when I was in Amsterdam.  I was only there for a weekend and I knew this was something I had to see.  After waiting in line for 45 minutes, we got inside.  There are arrows pointing you all through the house so that all of the people stay organized.  It brings you through each room and explains what they did there.  There are also quotes from Anne's diary on the walls, on tables...they are just everywhere.  There are artifacts that were saved by Otto as well as videos informing visitors about the situation.

Anne Frank is one of the most famous Jewish victims of the Holocaust, and because of her diary and museums all over Europe, her legacy can truly live on.  Anne went through the toughest struggles as a young girl, and although many survivors who were in concentration camps the whole time may think she had it easy while in hiding, she is a world wide hero and definitely an inspiration to everyone, myself included.  She tried to stay as positive as she could for so long, not knowing what the outcome would be.  However, sometimes she was extremely confused and hurt.  Reading quotes from her journal shows that.  She will go from talking about the chestnut tree she longs to play in that she can see out of her window, to questioning God and the humanity and souls of people.
I believe that Anne Frank will continue to live on forever as one of the most famous women in all of history.

1. Anne Frank, World Citizens
2. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
3. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
4. Anne Frank House
5. European Jewish Press
6.  Anne Frank House


Thursday, April 14, 2011


In 1942, Heinrich Himmler ordered the first brothel to be opened in a concentration camp.  It was opened at Mauthausen, and a short time later, another was opened in Gusen.  Many women from Ravensbruck, a concentration camp for all women, were forced to work in these brothels as prostitutes where they were sexually abused. 
Male prisoners could visit the brothels if they worked especially hard and pleased the guards.  Later on, these prisoners said that the women in the brothels received more, better food, better clothes, and a more frequent opportunity to bathe.
            The fate of the women in these brothels is hard to hear: once they retunred to Ravensbruck, many of them had sexually transmitted diseases or were pregnant, subjecting themselves to the medical experiments, and forced abortions and sterilizations (Halbmayr).

1.  Brothel at Mauthausen 
2. Forced women "prostitutes" in Mauthhausen.
“The existence of camp brothels makes clear how women during national socialism were sexually humiliated and exploited as well as robbed of all self-determination. Women were forced into sex work with male prisoners in a total of ten concentration camps" (Halbmayr).
This YouTube video is an interview between an American woman and a German man who survived the Holocaust from 2008.  He is talking about his experiences with the brothels at Auschwitz.  He never actually went inside to be with a woman, but several times he was sent to do jobs in the brothel, such as washing and changing sheets, and picking up the body of a woman who killed herself outside one.  He made it seem as if no one cared about these women at all.  

Before doing this project, I had no idea there were brothels in a lot of the concentration camps during the Holocaust.  I knew that women were sexually abused and harassed, but I never knew that it was ever as organized as a real brothel.  I learned that though the Nazis banned brothels and prostitution overall, many of the camps, including Auschwitz, Mauthausen and Gusen ignored those laws and set them up anyways. I truly could never imagine being one of those women picked to work as a prostitute.  Sure, they were sometimes given more food and sometimes given more frequent opportunities to bathe, but the result of being a prostitute for all of the SS soldiers to take advantage of, and even some prisoners had major consequences.  When many of the women returned to other parts of the camps, they had sexually transmitted diseases or were pregnant and had forced abortions.  The mental pain these women went through surely was enough to put a damper on their spirits and cause them to give up.

Pictures: 1. Halbmayr
2. . Newly Discovered Death Camps Horrify Civilized World

Humiliation of Girls in Concentration Camps

 “I stare directly ahead as I take off my clothes. I am afraid. By not looking at anyone I hope no one will see me . . . I hesitate before removing my bra. My breasts are two growing buds, taut and sensitive. I can't have anyone see them. I decide to leave my bra on. Just then a shot rings out. The charge is ear-shattering. Some women begin to scream. Others weep. I quickly take my bra off...A burden was lifted. The burden of individuality. Of associations. Of identity. Of the recent past."
 -Livia Bitton-Jackson (Halbmayr).

Livia Bitton Jackson, was fifteen years old when she was deported to Auschwitz.  It takes just the slap of a whip by an SS guard to begin to realize what is going on, and what she is going to have to go through.  She understands that she is going to have to undress in front of all of the guards and other prisoners.  Being only fifteen, she is shy and humiliated.

1.  The novel Bitton-Jackson wrote about her experiences in the Holocaust as a young girl.

"In the concentration camps, the Nazis perfected a process of sexual humiliation that disoriented girls and women at the very same time that they were separated from their families. Girls and women who, on their arrival at a camp, were not chosen for immediate death, underwent a gamut of humiliations, including exposure, crude body searches for hidden jewelry, painful body shaves and sexual ridicule. Even at the moments before death, SS men tried to demoralize Jewish women" (Women and the Holocaust). 

Lieb Langfuss, one survivor was a member of the "sonderkommando", or the group of Jewish prisoners chosen by the SS guards to aid with the disposal of victims killed from the gas chambers.  He witnessed a lot of things, mostly having to do with the degradation and humiliation of women, before and after their deaths.

He recalled that before girls were gassed, the SS guards "had the custom of standing at the doorway… and feeling the private parts of the young women entering the gas bunker. There were also instances of SS men of all ranks pushing their fingers into the sexual organs of pretty young women."
After they were gassed,"mothers with small children are on principle unfit for work.  After they were gassed, they were searched to see if they had not hidden jewelry in the intimate parts of their bodies, and their hair was cut off and methodically placed in sacks for industrial purposes" (Woman and the Holocaust).

One source, Irena Liebman, a survivor from Mauthausen described the scene she witnessed when she first arrived at the camp:
“Then suddenly one of the criminal Germans came and he had two tins of sardines.  And he went to one woman and e had intercourse with her, one of those thing scarecrows…he gave her the two tins, she stood up and he did his thing.  And it was the first time I saw that, you understand what that means?”
Everyone knows women were treated extremely poorly during the Holocaust.  Everyone was;  men, women and children.  However, with most of the German soldiers being men, women were victimized most frequently.  Being sexually assaulted and abused by German SS soldiers who made their power and presence known did not help anyone’s self esteem, outlook on life in the camps and chance of survival.  
Many women were traumatized by these experiences, but some actually benefited. 
“Through a relationship with an SS man or a prisoner of higher rank within the hierarchical system, a women prisoner could significantly increase her chance of survival” (Hedgepeth, 35).   These women would sometimes receive more, better food, clothing, items to take care of herself and also easier work.  This book goes into great depth explaining how women were abused, the different types of abuse they endured, and has some survivors to tell their stories. 

Survivor Zipora Nir recalls: “Afterward they shaved us and that is one of my traumas- that was very hard for me…that was one of the greatest degredations.  That they shaved us from head to toe, all that- that, that is a terrible humiliation” Hedgepeth, 35).
2. Women with shaved heads being selected for labor; Auschwitz, 1944

All of the research I have done on humiliation and sexual assault of women in the concentration camps gives me the chills.  The Nazis truly did not care about these humans one bit.   In Lieb Langfuss' testimony, he recalls the SS guards demoralizing women and girls even after the were killed, by shaving their heads and searching for hidden jewelry.  It is truly disgusting what these people put the Jews through.  These people are forced out of their homes and into concentration camps.  They are most likely separated from their families upon arrival or killed right there.  They are hardly fed and are preforming intense labor.  On top of all of this, they have to try to keep positive and try to stay alive for as long as they can, while being sexually abused and harassed at the same time?  The stories these girls told were heartbreaking.  All they could talk about was the humiliation, the feelings of hopelessness.  How low they felt once their heads were shaved, how they lost all hope of getting out of the concentration camp alive.  Many women also talked about the lack of menstruating once they arrived at the camps due to lack of nutrition or medical experiments done that resulted in sterilization.  Often times, that was the hardest thing for women.  Some felt that their lives meant nothing anymore without menstruating, therefore without being able to have a baby.  Most gave up all hope and gave themselves up to the Nazis.

Pictures: 1. "Homepage News"
2. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Liza Chapnik's Story: Women in the Ghettos

"In the ghetto all Jews were potential victims of Nazi sadism.  Members of the Gestapo would come to the ghetto - alone or with friends - for entertainment. This entertainment consisted of taking potshots at a child, raping a woman, cutting the beard off an old man, humiliating people in the street, and so on" –Liza Chapnik (Chapnik, 113).

1. All of the ghettos established by Nazis during the Holocaust.

           Liza Chapnik was a just a young woman when the Holocaust started, born in Grodno, Poland in 1922.  She lost her entire family, but she managed to survive and tells her story in “The Grodno Ghetto and its Underground: A Personal Narrative”.  She tells us about the many difficult experiences she went through, which included fleeing the Nazis and heading east, coming across towns where all of the Jews had already been killed, and finally going back to Grodno just before it was turned into a ghetto (Chapnik).

                            2.  Grodno Ghetto when it opened.                   Soldiers harassing Jews.

        When Liza Chapnik was in the Grodno ghetto, there were two main groups of youth.  The first group wanted to start an armed uprising in the ghetto.  They knew it was a risky idea because they would be incredibly outnumbered by the stronger, better-armed Nazis.  However, still wanted to go through with it because they felt they should honor the Jewish nation and seek revenge for the deaths of their loved ones.  The second group argued that they should join together and escape the ghetto at night and run into the forests to join partisans and fight the Nazis together.  The downside of this plan was that they had very few weapons, definitely not enough to take on the entire German army, and this was made clear when on February 7, 1943, people escaped the ghetto.  Most of them were shot before they even reached the forests, but the ones who made it got weapons, went into hiding, and plotted against the Nazis (Chapnik).
            A group of young women who escaped from the Grodno ghetto acted as couriers in and out of the ghettos.  One of these girls was Liza Chapnik.  They had fake identification documents made and she became a Christian Polish girl named Maria Mrozowska.  She got a job peeling vegetables and cleaning by day, and sneaking into and out of the ghetto by night.  There was a secret opening in the ghetto wall through which she collected messages and jobs for her to do from inside the walls.  People asked her to help them find safe rooms for underground meetings and weapons to use to escape the ghetto (Chapnik).
            Many women took part in going to the partisan every day to deliver messages, weapons and materials for uniforms.  They joined forces with the antifascist groups of Germans who when the Germans were leaving Bialystok for good, they were going to mine the entire city, but the Germans on the inside gave the information about the mines to the Jews so everyone could escape and survive (Chapnik).
            The women played a huge role in the resistance against the Nazis in the Grodno ghetto and surrounding ones.  As you can see from Liza Chapnik’s experiences, sometimes women were the best people to escape the ghetto and start helping all of the people on the inside get food, clothing and planning escapes.  They communicated with Jews all over trying to sneak around the Nazis, stop what they were trying to do, and save the lives of their people.  Liza and the other women who joined her in escaping the ghetto proved to be extremely heroic and show that women played a large role in helping people out in the ghettos, something most people would not assume without further research.

Photographs: 1. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
2. "The Grodno Ghetto"