Today marks 70 years since Anne Frank was given her diary. Her most beloved 13th birthday gift is now a valued educational tool. That red checked cloth-covered diary is now a symbol of a life lost, a documented demise, a glimpse into not just a personal history but of international history. Anne wrote on this day, in 1942:
“I hope I will be able to confide everything to you… and I hope you will be a great source of comfort and support.”
Seventy years on, I would like to express a similar sentiment myself, if I may, and thank those who have already been “a great source of comfort and support” to me (and my family) over the past 12 hours or so.
Two days ago I redrafted and republished the notes below this one, from my trip to Poland. That trip concluded with my mother and me putting our many, many niggles and differences to one side for a few hours as we marched alongside 12,000 people from all over the world against indifference, racism, injustice and prejudice.
These are not issues confined to the pages of a historical diary. Just as I said as I left Auschwitz: This is not about history. This is about the present and the future.
Yesterday, my mother – a teacher at a very small primary school – at the end of a non-school day, walked across a picturesque church green in Essex, just around the corner from the synagogue her parents used to attend, to find a swastika had been drawn on her car.
There were plenty of other cars around. Most of the school’s staff had been working that day.
The likelihood that her car was chosen as the target was a coincidence… who can say, really?
It is not 1942.
This did not end in 1945.
This was not Eastern Europe. This was not Germany. This was not Gaza or Jerusalem or 1930s Paris. This was Woodford Green. In 2012.
This week I am taking photographs and the testimony of a British Army veteran of the 11th Armoured Division. He was the second man through the gates at the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. On arrival at Belsen, 11th Armoured (or ‘The Black Bull’) found 53,000 prisoners and 13,000 corpses inside the gates. He is quite elderly and has rarely spoken about his service. Time is of the essence.
Please keep talking. Please keep learning. Please keep recording and sharing what you hear or see, whether it is heroic or harrowing, heartwarming or heartbreaking. There is no education without sharing information.