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Once More Unto The Breach, Dear Friends:

Anne Frank From Auschwitz To Camp David


By Chris Oakley

Based on the series "Sic Semper Tyrannis Germaniae" by the same author



In her teens, she survived the horrors of Auschwitz; in her 20s and 30s, she served with distinction in the Israeli Defense Forces as Israel fought to defend itself against its Arab foes; as a middle-aged member of the Knesset1, she helped nudge the Israeli government toward the discussions that led to the historic 1979 Camp David peace accords with Egypt; by the time of her death in 1992 at the age of sixty-three, she was being lauded as one of the greatest political and diplomatic figures in Israel’s history. Anne Frank left a mark on the world that won’t soon be forgotten.

Born in Germany in 1929, Anne fled to Holland with her family shortly after Adolf Hitler took control of the German government. The Franks managed to live fairly comfortably in their new homeland until 1940, when the Nazis conquered Holland; thereafter, the restrictions placed by the German occupation authorities on Holland’s Jewish citizens made the Franks’ lives increasingly hard, eventually forcing them to go into hiding in 1942. In July of 1944, shortly before Hitler was assassinated, Gestapo agents acting on a tip from a Dutch Nazi collaborator arrested the entire family and shipped them to the Third Reich’s most infamous death camp, Auschwitz.

Neither Anne nor her jailers knew it at the time, but the arrest of the Franks was one of the last major acts in the Nazis’ persecution of the Jews before the Third Reich collapsed in December of 1944. With Hitler dead, the fragile ties that had held the Nazi regime together frayed and soon broke; his successors, Hermann Goering and Heinrich Himmler, seemed to go out of their way to confirm the truth of the old adage ‘There is no honor among thieves’. By the time the Reich’s last chancellor, former Kriegsmarine commander-in-chief Grand Admiral Erich Raeder, inherited the reins of government following Himmler’s suicide, Germany was in the climactic stages of social, military, and political disintegration.

Whatever you might have heard about the abuses which the Nazis inflicted on Jewish prisoners at Auschwitz, the reality was a good  deal worse. Anne and her family were subjected to every possible form of physical and mental torture imaginable; as Anne herself would state in her testimony at the Nuremburg Trial, it was a miracle that she survived these horrors long enough to witness the inmates’ liberation by Soviet troops in the closing weeks of the war. By the time General Zhukov’s advance units reached the main Auschwitz camp, Anne was so gravely ill that Red Army medical officers feared she might not live to make the journey back home to Holland.

By sheer force of will, Anne managed to hang on long enough to make the trip home to Holland in January of 1945; shortly after Anne’s return, family friend Miep Gies visited Anne in the hospital and gave Anne back the diary she’d been keeping prior to her family’s arrest and deportation to Auschwitz. Two months later, when she was back at her old house and writing down her concentration camp experiences in that diary, she received another visitor-- this time an investigator from the U.S. Army judge advocate general’s office who was gathering evidence in preparation for the Nuremburg war crimes tribunal which the Allied powers would be convening that summer.

On August 12th, 1945, Anne and her parents flew to Rotterdam to meet with Allied military lawyers to go over their testimony for the trial; they arrived in Nuremburg on August 14th and were greeted by a phalanx of US Army MPs assigned to protect them from possible attack by anti-Jewish extremists. Two days after they came to Germany, the elder Franks watched as their daughter took the witness stand and told chief American prosecutor Robert M. Jackson about the horrors that the Nazis had subjected her to at Auschwitz. A Boston Herald-American European affairs correspondent who was among the journalists covering the trials at the time would recall in a book twenty years after the fact:


"In halting testimony that was interrupted more than once by bouts of tears, (Anne) Frank described the abuses she and her fellow camp inmates had endured at the hands of the SS. She also read several passages from her soon-to-be-famous diary about the torment she had been personally subjected to during the time between her family’s capture by the Nazis and their incarceration at Auschwitz; by the time she left the witness stand, many  in the courtroom, including (chief British prosecutor Lord Hartley William) Shawcross and Jackson, were themselves blinking back tears. General Roman A. Rudenko, the chief Soviet prosecutor at the trials, erupted in a fit of what he himself later described as "volcanic" rage; he leaped across the defendants’ table and tried to throttle the main defense counsel. It took the combined efforts of three MPs, two civilian police officers, and Rudenko’s own chief aide to pry the infuriated general off the unfortunate defense attorney."2

As Rudenko was being led out of the courtroom to regain his self-control, the understandably shaken defense counsel requested and was given a recess so that he might have time to recover from the impromptu assault. When the defense attorney finally returned to the courtroom for his cross-examination of Anne, he conducted it rather tentatively-- and broke it off after just three questions. She hardly saw the man again after that.

Frank’s testimony that day is widely thought to have sealed the fate of many of the Nuremburg defendants; it certainly made the prosecution’s job of convicting the SS officers on trial that much easier. Some even credit her with having singlehandedly sent Hermann Goering to the gallows.

In 1947, the Franks followed in the footsteps of thousands of other European Jews and emigrated to Palestine, where by then momentum toward establishing a modern independent state of Israel was building to the point where the question was less one of if such a state would come into existence at all and more one of if it would be born in the soft glow of peace or the fires of war.

It turned out to be the latter; shortly after she declared her independence from Britain on May 14th, 1948 Israel came under attack from her Arab neighbors. Anne and her family were forced to flee to the new nation’s capital, Tel Aviv, when the kibbutz (collective farm) where they’d been living since their arrival in Palestine came under attack from Syrian artillery. Anne, by then approaching her nineteenth birthday, enlisted in the Israeli army despite her mother’s objections; by the time the Israeli War of Independence ended in 1949, Anne had been wounded three times and decorated twice for heroism in combat.


Once the War of Independence was over, Anne enrolled at Tel Aviv University, majoring in journalism with a minor in classical Western literature. Knowing that public interest in her Auschwitz experiences was still intense, she contacted a London publisher in the spring of 1950 about turning her wartime diaries into a book; she would put the majority of the profits from such a book toward paying her university tuition. The fruit of her discussions with this publisher was The Diaries of Anne Frank, which was published in August of 1951 and awarded the 1952 Nobel Prize for Literature; Diaries would go on to be translated into 100 different languages and serve as source material for at least two critically acclaimed Hollywood films dealing with the Holocaust and the Nuremburg War Crimes Trials.

Shortly after graduating Tel Aviv University in 1953, Anne met and married a fellow Holocaust survivor who like her had been pursuing a major in Western literature at that school but had been forced to drop out when his father, a prominent shopkeeper in the Israeli capital’s business district, had suddenly died of heart failure and someone had been needed to take over the family business. The income from that business, combined with a nest egg Anne had been steadily building from some of the royalties earned by the English-language publication of Diaries, would later give the couple the means to move from their original modest apartment to a more comfortable home near the center of Tel Aviv.

While Anne had been mustered out of the regular Israeli army after the War of Independence ended, under Israeli law she was still eligible to be called up for the reserves once a year until the age of 45, and so it was that in October of 1956 she found herself on the front lines in Egypt when Israel joined forces with Great Britain and France in an attempt to reverse Egyptian ruler Gamal Abdel Nasser’s seizure of the Suez Canal. Around this time, Anne’s father finally passed away, succumbing to a heart attack on November 4th; when UN intervention ended the hostilities two days later, Anne was immediately sent home to let her assist her mother with the funeral arrangements.

In 1959 Anne, now thirty years old, returned to Amsterdam for the first time in nearly twelve years. One of her first stops there was at her former home, which since the Franks’ emigration to Israel had been proclaimed a national landmark by the Dutch government.3 It was a bittersweet moment for her; although a part of her wanted desperately to live in that house once more, her visit there confirmed once and for all that her identity and her future had become inextricably linked with Israel’s. When Anne published her biography a quarter-century later, she would cite her Amsterdam visit as the moment when she first considered going for a seat on the Knesset, Israel’s national parliament.

However, her next brush with fame would come not in the political arena but on the battlefield...


At midnight Tel Aviv time on June 3rd, 1967 Israeli warplanes wiped out the Egyptian, Syrian, and Jordanian air forces in a set of massive and intricately coordinated pre-emptive air strikes; those surprise attacks marked the beginning of the Five-Day War, a conflict that would see Israeli ground troops capture the Golan Heights, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem in rapid succession before it was over. It was also one of the last times Anne Frank would ever wear the uniform of the Israeli army reserves; she was 38 by then, and the time was fast approaching when she would no longer be called up for military service. Furthermore, Anne was starting to grow weary of the seemingly endless bloodshed which was a fundamental fact of life in Israel’s relations with its Arab neighbors. Surely, she thought, there had to be some sort of alternative to the constant cycle of violence and retaliation; if one couldn’t be found, it would have to be created. The future of Israel-- perhaps even the world itself --depended on it.

Anne’s husband, who at the time the Five-Day War broke out was serving as a mechanic with a Chel Ha’Avir4 reserve fighter squadron, shared her sentiments on that score. He’d seen too many friends die before their time, and he didn’t know how much more of that he could take before something inside him utterly broke. He also fretted about his wife’s safety to the point that it at times made him unable to sleep and interfered with his work; as he saw it, the day when her eligibility to be called up by the Israeli army reserves expired couldn’t come a minute too soon for him.

But until that day came, Anne would do her duty with valor and distinction; it was in the course of that duty that, during the third day of the Five-Day War, she pulled off an incredible feat which would thrust her into the public eye to a degree she hadn’t experienced since Diaries was first published. She was on patrol with an infantry unit when one of her comrades spotted an Egyptian machine gun team that was preparing to open fire on them from a nest just a few yards up ahead. In a bluff worthy of a master poker player, Anne duped the Egyptian machine gunners into thinking her unit was much larger than it actually was and gave the gunners the impression that they would be wiped out if they fired on the Israeli troopers. The machine gun crew surrendered without firing a shot.

For her daring feat of neutralizing the machine gun nest, Anne would be personally decorated by Israeli prime minister Levi Eshkol and lionized in the Israeli press. The story was soon picked up by the foreign media, and before she knew it Anne found herself being regarded in some circles as the new face of the Israeli army. CBS News correspondent Mike Wallace, later to be part of the reporting team for the newsmagazine 60 Minutes, met with Anne in Tel Aviv shortly after the war ended and came away from his interview marveling at the matter-of-fact way she told the story of her encounter with the Egyptian machine gunners.


Anne was officially discharged from the IDF reserves two months after her 40th birthday; in July of 1969, as her family and closest friends were gathered around a radio in Anne’s home to listen to Kol Israel’s5 coverage of the Apollo 11 lunar landing, a former comrade-in-arms from her IDF days casually asked her if she’d ever considered getting into politics. That simple question sparked memories of her trip to Amsterdam ten years earlier, when she had first contemplated trying for a seat on the Knesset. By the next morning, as she would later remember it in her biography AF, she had definitely made up her mind to enter the political arena.

She soon filed papers to run as an independent candidate in the next round of Israeli parliamentary elections; with the same determination that had seen her through her long imprisonment at Auschwitz and the hardships of combat in the 1948 and 1956 Arab- Israeli wars, she waged a relentless and ultimately successful campaign to attain a Knesset seat representing the region which included Tel Aviv. Her fortitude impressed another Israeli female political leader, Golda Meir; the two women subsequently forged a bond that would yield considerable dividends when Meir became the Israeli prime minister.

In 1972 Meir tapped Anne for a spot with Israel’s delegation to the UN; she established herself as a tireless advocate for her adopted homeland in the halls of the General Assembly, debating Arab diplomats with a passion and eloquence that never failed to leave an impression on her listeners. One of those diplomats, a member of the Egyptian delegation to the UN, noted in his private journal in the summer of 1973: "She seems to have, if you will, an almost superhuman ability to persuade even the hardest skeptic to embrace her point of view."

That ability would be tested to its absolute limit when Anne sought to enlist international support for Israel after the Yom Kippur War erupted in October of 1973. The Soviet Union and its Arab allies in the Mideast had been waging a virulently anti- Israel propaganda campaign in the world press of late, and Prime Minister Meir designated Anne as the point woman for the Israeli government’s PR counterattack against that propaganda. Anne’s eloquent statements in defense of Israel and its people would prove instrumental in rallying Western backing for the Jewish state as it fought to expel Arab invasion forces from its soil; they would also later be credited with helping bring to bear the diplomatic pressure that eventually compelled the Arabs to agree to a cease-fire.

A year later Anne’s mother finally passed away, leaving Anne heartbroken and severing one of the last remaining links to her past in Holland. In a Vanity Fair interview published shortly before her own death, she would reveal that her mother’s passing made her so depressed she seriously contemplated quitting her diplomatic post at the UN and retiring to a kibbutz in the Negev Desert.

Instead her husband convinced her to use her diary as a tool for working through her depression; this would also provide the initial basis for what eventually became her second book, AF. As part of her catharsis, she made a return visit to her family’s former home in Amsterdam and became active in three international charities involved with raising money for research into new ways of treating depression and other mental illnesses.


When Israeli commandos raided the Entebbe airport in Uganda in July of 1976 to rescue Jewish passengers of an Air France jet hijacked by Palestinian extremists, Anne took a personal interest in the operation-- her son Moishe was one of the IDF commandos who stormed the airport, took out the hijackers, and brought the jet and its passengers home to Tel Aviv. Wounded by gunfire from one of the hijackers, Moishe was personally decorated for valor by then-Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin.

That fall, Anne was approached by a senior member of the Egyptian UN mission in New York with a startling piece of news: Anwar Sadat, Nasser’s successor as president of Egypt, wanted to open a dialogue with Israel aimed at concluding a peace treaty with the Jewish state and setting up formal diplomatic relations between Cairo and Tel Aviv. After consultations with the head of the Israeli UN delegation and independent confirmation that the Sadat peace feeler was genuine, Anne flew back to Tel Aviv for a face-to-face meeting with the Israeli foreign minister.

In the spring of 1977 Anne was on the tarmac at Tel Aviv’s main airport to welcome President Sadat to Israel for a historic visit that would lay the groundwork for the first serious talks between Israel and Egypt on normalizing diplomatic relations. The following year, she was appointed to head up the negotiating team representing Israel at the Sadat-Begin summit in Camp David, the US presidential vacation retreat in Maryland. When the pact which resulted from this summit-- dubbed "the Camp David accords" by the American press --was signed by Egypt and Israel in March of 1979, Anne got a considerable share of the credit for bringing the historic agreement about. She also got a nomination for the 1980 Nobel Peace Prize, an honor she would eventually share with Begin, Sadat, and US President Jimmy Carter.

Anne and her husband were visiting friends in Britain in October of 1981 when she learned of Sadat’s assassination by Islamic extremists; within hours after receiving the news she was at the Israeli embassy in London, issuing a blistering statement denouncing the assassins as "cowards"6. She later flew to Cairo to offer her sympathies to Sadat’s successor, former Egyptian air force chief of staff Hosni Mubarak, and to accompany the funeral cortege bearing Sadat’s body to its grave.

Determined that this vicious and terroristic act would not deter her from continuing to work for peace between Israel and its neighbors, Anne took an active role in the quest to normalize diplomatic relations between Israel and Jordan. While her efforts would not bear fruit until two years after her death, they would further enhance her stature in the global diplomatic community.


In 1985 Anne took a sabbatical from her post with Israel’s delegation to the UN. Her main reason was to complete the final draft of AF, which she’d been working on ever since completing her mission as head of the Israeli delegation at the Camp David talks; additionally, her doctors had advised her that she needed a respite from the stress her diplomatic duties were placing on her. By then she was 56 years old and beginning to confront her mortality to a degree she hadn’t done since she was a prisoner at Auschwitz.

AF went to press in early 1986 and quickly made bestseller lists worldwide. From there, the book was adapted into a PBS-TV miniseries that aired to widespread critical acclaim; it was also nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in Literature. In the spring of 1989 she began writing her third book, this one a children’s book about her experiences growing up in Holland before World War II; her son Moishe would complete it after her death.

Anne spent her sixtieth birthday making what would be her final journey to Amsterdam. It was a sign of her stature that her arrival in the city was given major airtime by Holland’s largest national TV news service and was personally welcomed by the Dutch royal family, who also bestowed on her Holland’s highest civilian medal for her work exposing the truth about the Nazi death camps and her distinguished service as a diplomat. The United States Congress and the Israeli Knesset marked the occasion by passing resolutions honoring her role in making the Camp David accords possible; en route home to Tel Aviv she toured the Great Pyramids at Giza with Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.

When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1990 Anne flew to Moscow to meet with Boris Yeltsin, the new premier of Russia’s first post-Communist government, for a dialogue on what could be done to safeguard the civil rights of Russian Jews in the post-Cold War era. Later that same year, she was instrumental in helping to forge the multinational coalition that would drive Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait in the Persian Gulf War.

Anne retired from the Israeli diplomatic service for good in June of 1991. Her last service to the Israeli foreign ministry before stepping down from her post was to arrange the first-ever face-to-face meeting between the Israeli and Jordanian foreign ministers; that meeting would be a major stepping stone towards the establishment of normal diplomatic relations between Israel and Jordan in 1994.

Shortly after her retirement, she and her husband moved back to the kibbutz where Anne had spent her first few months in Israel. She intended to devote her remaining time to putting the finishing touches on her children’s book and strengthening her ties with Moishe’s children. However, fate would derail her plans in a most painful way-- in January of 1992, a routine medical checkup revealed that Anne had developed a terminal case of liver cancer. Within two months she would be confined to a bed at the intensive care unit of Jerusalem’s largest hospital; in a 2001 CNN interview, her husband would later admit that Anne’s steady physical deterioration left him so depressed he seriously thought about ending his own life and had to be talked out of it by the couple’s youngest son, Levi.7

Anne Frank Herzmann died on May 17th, 1992 at the age of sixty-three. Her memorial service was the largest Israel had seen for a public official since the 1973 funeral of Israeli founding father David Ben-Gurion; entire blocks of downtown Tel Aviv were closed off to normal traffic in order to accommodate the funeral procession to Anne’s gravesite. The list of foreign dignitaries who accompanied Anne’s body to its grave included former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher and her successor John Major; US Secretary of State James Baker; Catholic Church senior official Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI; Princess Diana, who would herself pass away five years later after being fatally injured in an auto accident in Paris; the widow of slain former Egyptian president Anwar Sadat; French president Francois Mitterand; Jordan’s Queen Noor, who in spite of the fact that formal Israeli-Jordanian diplomatic ties had not yet been fully instituted was granted a special visa at the request of Anne’s family;8 and South African anti-apartheid activist Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who credited Anne’s courage in withstanding her horrific ordeal at Auschwitz with being a major inspiration for him to survive his own troubles at the hands of South Africa’s racist government in the years when apartheid was the law of the land.

Anne’s remains are entombed beneath an eternal flame at a memorial site overlooking the kibbutz where her family settled upon their arrival in Israel in 1947. Beside the flame, inscribed on a granite plaque in Hebrew, English, and Dutch, is the famous line which sums up her philosophy and which gave her hope even in the bleakest moments of her imprisonment by the Nazis: "In spite of everything, I still believe that people are basically good at heart."9


The End




[1] Israel’s national parliament.

[2] Quoted from the book Verdict At Nuremburg by F.W. Mulder, copyright 1965 by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

[3] Part of the money which funded the Franks’ resettlement in Israel had been raised by selling their old house to an Amsterdam merchant, who in turn left it to the Dutch government in his will.

[4] The Israeli air force.

[5] The Israeli government radio network.

[6] Quoted from the October 7th, 1981 edition of the Times of London.

[7] Named after former Israeli prime minister Levi Eshkol.

[8] The visa was issued courtesy of the Swiss embassy in Jordan’s capital, Amman.

[9] Quoted from her diary entry of September 1st, 1944.


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