Interview with Stefan Vervaecke of the Anne Frank Foundation
Oct. 11, 2013
“Study history and understand others”
Stefan Vervaecke, 65, is on the staff of the Anne Frank Foundation, located in Holland. When we met Mr. Vervaecke during his recent visit to Hiroshima, he posed this question to us: “You have only a small bag, and can bring only your most important things, so what will you choose?” This was the same question posed to Anne Frank by her father, Otto, the night before they fled to their hiding place to escape the Nazis. Anne had to give up almost all of her possessions.
The hiding place where Anne and others lived for the next 760 days, until the Nazis found them, is in Amsterdam, Holland. While in that house they were unable to open a window, make any noise, or go outside. The hiding place held eight people, including Anne and her family, and the people that hid them held their breath for fear that they would be discovered.
By the end of the war, only Otto had survived and returned to the house. One of the people there, who had helped them hide, gave Otto the diary that Anne had written. Otto read it and published it as a book, in hopes that it would be read widely by young people. Since then, the diary has been published in many more languages and the home of Anne’s hiding place has become a museum, preserved as it was as an appeal against war and discrimination.
The Anne Frank Foundation works to convey the importance of mutual understanding to promote peace and oppose war and discrimination. Responding to requests for information about Anne, which arrive from around the world, they have helped organize panel exhibitions about Anne in many places.
“There are some people who try to deny that the Jews, including Anne Frank, were persecuted. Please study history. To preserve peace, please develop the skills of communicating and understanding others.” This is the message to young people that Mr. Vervaecke shares. He also recommends keeping a diary, like Anne.
Had she lived, Anne’s 85th birthday would be marked on June 12, 2014. On that day, Mr. Vervaecke hopes that people will remember Anne and reflect on peace by reading aloud Anne’s diary and engaging in other activities with a connection to Anne. (Written and photographed by Ishin Nakahara,15 and Shiho Fujii,11)
(Originally published on October 8, 2013)