Anne Frank was but one of thousands of Jewish children who were in hiding during the Holocaust. Had she survived, she would be celebrating her 85th birthday today, June 12, 2014.
Jewish children died at a rate far higher than adults in the Holocaust. Estimates are that only 6-11 percent of Jewish children survived, compared to 33 percent of adults. These children often had to deny their identities as Jews, housing with Christian families or religious organizations, or physically hiding in attics, closets, barns, fields, and cellars.They often lived in danger and fear.
Parents today find it difficult enough to let go of their children in even the happiest and most ordinary of ways – on their first day of school or going off to college.The thought of leaving them alone with strangers or buried behind dark, frightening barriers, is almost impossible to imagine. Often, Jewish parents could not accompany their children into hiding.They had to let them go alone, knowing full well it may be for good.
Despite her fervent optimism, even Anne could not deny the strains of living in hiding, writing on December 24, 1943, “Believe me, if you have been shut up for a year and a half, it can get too much for you some days. In spite of all justice and thankfulness, you can’t crush your feelings. Cycling, dancing, whistling, looking out into the world, feeling young, to know that I’m free – that’s what I long for.”
In 1939, almost one million Jewish children lived in Poland. At the war’s end, only 5,000 remained, mostly those who had been in hiding.The numbers were not much better throughout Europe as a whole.
The Anne Frank Center USA is proud to honor all those children tonight. And while far too few, we take solace in those who survived as they remind of us of how, as Anne herself put it, even “a single candle can both defy and define the darkness.”