Perhaps she would have written books or become a formidable force in politics, but whatever path Anne Frank chose in life, she “almost certainly would have cared for the world”, said Eva Schloss of her late step-sister, who would have marked her 90th birthday on Wednesday (today).
It was on this day 77 years ago that a young Anne was gifted her beloved red chequered diary for her 13th birthday, while in hiding with her family in Amsterdam.
Anne often mused in her entries to her imagined friend “Kitty” that she might one day become a journalist or published writer. After her tragic death at Bergen-Belsen aged just 15, her father, Otto, who survived Auschwitz, made it his life’s mission to fulfil his daughter’s dream.
Today, the diary of the young Jewish teenager forced into hiding from Nazi persecution has sold more than 36 million copies around the world and been used to educate young people against the dangers of prejudice and discrimination.
For her part, Eva – who also turned 90 this year and became Anne’s posthumous step-sister after her mother, Fritzi, married Otto Frank in the years following the war – has also worked tirelessly to keep the young writer’s poignant message alive.
Reflecting on what life could have been had Anne survived the camps, Eva said: “We would have grown up together, we would have been like sisters and that would have been nice, especially as she lost her sister and I lost my brother. I always felt that most, that I had no siblings anymore, and like this we would have been a family.”
But Eva, who like Anne, went into hiding in Amsterdam before the family was betrayed and sent to Auschwitz, also recognises the diary might have been overlooked and never published had the young teenager survived.
“It was through the diary that she became a symbol of the 1.5 million children who couldn’t speak for themselves,” she said. “If she had lived, having gone through those terrible things, like me and most of the survivors, she might not have talked about it for many, many years. It’s very difficult to judge which way people would have gone after such a terrible experience.”
When asked if Anne’s message of tolerance is just as relevant nearly 80 years after the diary was first written, Eva – who was awarded an MBE in 2013 for holocaust education – responded that it was “more relevant than ever”.
She added: “We’ve made some progress over that year, but perhaps not enough. History is a very important subject. It’s important to go back to your roots and not always live for the future.”