On March 21, 2017 I discovered that the two links in this essay were broken.

The link to the Bergen-Belsen inmates singing Hatikva on the day of their release on April 20, 1945 was no longer available on NPR's website. After a little searching I found it on YouTube and so the link was revised to reflect that.

The link to the Bob Edwards interview of author Melissa Muller on his NPR program Morning Edition was also no longer available. I could not find another source for this interview. The best I could do was a YouTube video of an interview of the same author by Brian Lamb on C-Span

Both links have been revised as of March 21, 2017.

Anne Frank, Olga Benario, and Israel

Some sound recordings from the NPR archives

A friend recently recommended two interesting sound recordings from the NPR archives to me. The first is a recording made on April 20, 1945 in the former Nazi concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen. This camp, 87 km south of Hamburg, was liberated by the British army on April 15, 1945. The recording is of a group of Jewish inmates singing "Ha Tikva (The Hope)" at a Shabbat service. This song is now Israel's national anthem. Clicking on the link below will take you to the NPR website. A second click on "Weekend Edition - Saturday audio" will retrieve the sound recording from the NPR archive. [However, if you click this link, your browser "back" button won't get you back here. The same is true for the Anne Frank link below.]

The history of this recording is itself quite interesting. It was broadcast by the BBC's North American Service using a short wave radio transmitter. It was intercepted by Moe Asch, an engineer at the New York radio station WEVD. The recording found its way to the Smithsonian archives where it was recently discovered by Henry Sapoznik of the Yiddish Radio Project.

Note: This source of the recording is no longer available. An alternate source of the same recording is YouTube.


The second sound recording is from NPR's Morning Edition program for Nov. 16, 1998. It records an interview of Melissa Müller, the author of a then new biography of Anne Frank, by Bob Edwards.

Note: This recording is no longer available. The new link of the same recording is to the YouTube website.

Anne Frank

Anne Frank
Regarding the Melissa Müller interview: One thing that puzzles me is the difference in the public emphasis received by Anne Frank and Olga Benario. Both were German Jews and both were murdered by the Nazis in concentration camps.

Anne was a child and, beyond recording her life hiding from the Nazis in her diary, a passive victim of German Fascism. Olga, who was born in 1908, was, by the time she was Anne's age, an active fighter against fascism. In 1928 she led a daring rescue of Otto Braun, a German Communist, from a Berlin prison. In 1935 she was, as an agent of the Comintern, an active member in the ill-fated Brazilian Communist uprising.

After she was arrested, the Brazilian police, cooperating with the Gestapo, were able to determine her identity and she was sent back to Germany and certain death in 1936 aboard the S.S. La Coruña as a prisoner accompanied by two Brazilian policemen. She was turned over to the Gestapo when the ship docked in Hamburg. Her child, Anita, was born in prison and released to her in-laws. After the traumatic experience of losing her child, Olga was sent to the Ravensbruck concentration camp. While there she secretly organized and held classes for her fellow prisoners.

Olga Benario
In 1942 she was executed in a gas chamber at Bernburg. A world atlas that folds into a package the size of a pack of cigarettes that was hand drawn by her and used in the clandestine prison classes she organized is still in existence.

The stark contrast in the postwar public treatment of these two persons, one a child who died tragically, and the other a genuine martyr, is almost beyond comprehension. I say almost, because there is a sliver of comprehension, which if true, condemns the state of Israel to the most blatant opportunism. It is that Israel, anxious to sell itself to America, cognizant of America's crusade against communism, suppresses the memory of one Jew and emphasizes that of another. It is that Israel merely uses the suffering and persecution of Jews as an instrument of national policy. Those that serve Israel's national goals are remembered, those that don't are not just forgotten, their memory is suppressed. It is that Israel is not a Jewish state but a Zionist state.

In a deeper sense, we learn the lesson that states pursue national objectives amorally and immorally and when they invoke morality it is merely as propaganda and for the most cynical of motives.

Postscript (June 12, 2003)
Coincidentally, while I was updating the expired links in this essay, the NY Times published another article on Anne Frank ("Museum Gives Anne Frank Her Space," NYT 6-12-03). It reports the expansion of the exhibit relating to Anne Frank at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. Mrs. Laura Bush will officially open the expanded exhibit today. The new spin is that Anne was a budding writer. Formerly it was "Anne Frank, Jewish victim of the Nazis." The remarkable difference in the attention given to Olga and Anne continues.

Literature References

Melissa Müller, Anne Frank: The Biography, Henry Holt & Co., NY, 1998.

Anne Frank, Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, Doubleday & Co., Garden City, NY, 1952.

Fernando Morais, Olga: Revolutionary and Martyr, Grove Weidenfeld, NY, 1990.

April 28, 2002