Saturday, April 7, 2012

Traveling from Anne's first home in Germany, to her place of death in Bergen-Belsen, I wrote this poem. . .

That's What Faith Can Do

Give you hope to go on
Move you to step forward,
when others laugh.

Help you get out of bed in the morning
(or in the afternoon).

That's what faith can do. . .

Be fanatically radical,
blindly devoted,
help you stay married, 
be a friend, 
and believe the unbelievable.

That's what faith can do. . .

Press through pain, 
love others who are unloveable,
see beauty in what's not beautiful.

That's what faith has done.
In the summer of 2012, I spent 7 weeks traveling, retracing Anne Frank's footsteps.  I departed on the same day as Anne Frank's birthday - June 12.  Due to my budget, I didn't follow her footsteps in exactly the order she lived.  Doing that would have cost me almost two times as much. 

So. . .here's how I started.  

I first visited Frankfurt Am Main in Germany.  Anne was born in Frankfurt Am Main.  Frankfurt am Main is so called because it is located on the Main River. It is one of Germany's biggest cities. "Frankfurt" is a smaller city and is located about 50 miles east of Berlin on the Oder River.  

Frankfurt Am Main is a beautiful city.

We found the house where Anne lived at 3:30 pm, after plugging the address into the GPS on our rental car,  307 Marbachweg.  For all I knew we'd end up at a museum or an empty lot.  We didn't!!  We pulled up right in front of the house and it looked exactly like the pictures I've seen!

Anne was born on June 12, 1929 in Frankfurt Am Main.  She was the second daughter of Otto Frank (1889 - 1980) and Edith Frank-Hollander (1900 - 1945).  Anne had one sister, Margot, four years her elder.  The Frank family lived at 307 Marbachweg in an assimilated community of Jewish and non-Jewish citizens of various religions.  

The house is a three-story, off-white, stucco home with shutters.  It's in a pretty, quite part of Frankfurt Am Main.  There is a gate surrounding it.  The yard is well kept and there's a small garden in the back.  There are two huge trees in the front yard (I'm sure they must have been there when Anne lived in the house).  One of them is a cherry tree.  The Frank family lived in a flat in the house.  Someone else lives there now, so I didn't go inside.

There was a sign on the street corner - a small sign.  It was written in German, but had pictures of Anne, her sister, Margot, and one other girl, so I'm sure it was talking about these three girls living in the house.  There is no other indication that anyone special lived in this place.  

Anne lived at 307 Marbachweg for the first four years of her life.  In 1933 the ballot box changed everything.  Adolf Hitler was elected to power in a democratic election.  In 1933, after the Nazi party won the elections, the Franks began to fear what would happen to them if they remained in Germany.  Six weeks after the elections, Edith, Anne, and Margot temporarily moved to Aachen, Germany where they stayed with Edith's mother - Rosa Hollander.  

Otto Frank headed to Amsterdam in the Netherlands to move forward in relocating his family. 

"Those years on Marbachweg were among our best times."  - Edith Frank

After spending time walking around, taking pictures, and just taking in everything in the surroundings I walked across the street to a little restaurant.  I sat outside on their patio, with Anne's house still in full view.  The waitress didn't speak English, so the got the owner of the restaurant.  He was very kind.  Others outside were completely preoccupied watching the world cup soccer game.  I was preoccupied with the view.  

As the owner/waiter asked about where I lived in Indiana, I told him I had come to the city to specifically see the house across the street.  His reply was interesting. . .

"Not many people know this, but a writer used to live in that house.  She was deported and died shortly after that."  

I thought to myself how Anne wasn't deported, at least not from this place that she lived.  Maybe he just got the story confused.

"Why was the girl deported?" I asked.

"She was Jewish."  He replied.  "She died in a concet.  I'm not sure how you say it in English."

"Concentration camp," I told him. "Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp."