Today, May 4th, the Dutch commemorate the victims of war. At 20:00 hours we are two minutes silent in respect of those who have died so we can live in peace. 74 years after World War II started, the tradition of being silent has faded a bit, but still many people, old and young are keeping the tradition alive. Just like there can be no Easter without Good Friday, it is impossible to celebrate “Liberation Day” (at May 5th) without “Rememberance Day”.
During the national commemoration of Remembrance Day we remember all Dutch victims – civilians and soldiers – who have been killed or murdered in the Kingdom of the Netherlands or anywhere else in the world in war situations or during peace-keeping operations since the outbreak of the Second World War.’
My father was 9 years old in 1940, my mother was 6. When we were liberated in 1945 my father was 14 and my mother 11. Both have seen terrible things in the war as a kid. And so “the war” was a topic that frequently raised at our dinner table when I was young. The two minutes on May 4th (standing up in silence) was taken for granted. I did manage to pass on the respect regarding to the two minute silence, but to my daughter the war is some abstract event in time. It all happened so long ago.
Last year I gave my daughter Anne Frank, the diary of a young girl, on her birthday. And this year I’m reading (as a part of my Goodreads challenge) “Anne Frank remembered” by Miep Gies. Reading this book makes the war less abstract, I think. Miep Gies wrote that “every evening when the sun goes down somewhere a play is staged about Anne Frank”. They are building a new theatre in Amsterdam to stage a new interpretation of Anne Frank’s diary.
On the tube there was a documentary about two institutions, The House of Anne Frank and the Anne Frank Foundation. Both institutions quarrel about who is the owner of Anne Frank’s legacy. The copyrights of the diary of Anne Frank that made the Anne Frank Foundation in Basel a wealthy foundation will expire next year so they are on the lookout for other means of funding. It is about money. It is a bloody disgrace to quarrel about money, it has nothing to do with Anne.
In the new stage play in Amsterdam Anne Frank is made less Dutch, because according to the Anne Frank Foundation she was a German Girl. And so the play will show us a “different Anne”.
I don’t think it is important whether Anne was Dutch or German. I think it is important that people read her story and remember what it is like to be free.