Anne Frank: The Untold Story At Bergen Belsen
March 17, 2010
Frail, bone-cold and surrounded by death, Jewish teenager Anne Frank did her best to distract younger children from the horrors of a Nazi concentration camp by telling them fairy tales, a Holocaust survivor says.
The account by Berthe Meijer, now 71, of being a 6-year-old inmate of Bergen Belsen offers a rare glimpse of Anne in the final weeks of her life in the German camp, struggling to keep up her own spirits even as she tried to lift the morale of the smaller children.
That Anne had a gift for storytelling was evident from the diary she kept during two years in hiding with her family in Amsterdam. The scattered pages were collected and published after the war in what became the most widely read book to emerge from the Holocaust.
But Meijer’s memoir, being published in Dutch later this month, is the first to mention Anne’s talent for spinning tales even in the despair of the camp.
The memoir deals with Meijer’s acquaintance with Anne Frank in only a few pages, but she said she titled it “Life After Anne Frank” because it continues the tale of Holocaust victims where the famous diary leaves off.
“The dividing line is where the diary of Anne Frank ends. Because then you fall into a big black hole,” Meijer told The Associated Press at her Amsterdam home.
Anne’s final diary entry was on Aug. 1, 1944, three days before she and her family were arrested. She and her older sister Margot died in March 1945 in a typhus epidemic that swept through Bergen Belsen, just two weeks before the camp was liberated. Anne was 15.
The stories Anne told were “fairy tales in which nasty things happened, and that was of course very much related to the war,” Meijer said.
“But as a kid you get lifted out of the everyday nastiness. That’s something I remember. You’re listening to someone telling something that has nothing to do with what’s happening around you — so it’s a bit of escape…”