anita-frank

It is December 1942 and Sinterklaas, the Dutch Santa Claus, is expected any minute. I am six years old and terrified, sitting with four other children in a small room in my “foster parents” house. I am the youngest and know he’ll address me first. Will he call me by my real name Anita, or Liesje. Anita is a Jewish fugitive in hiding. Leisje is a nice Christian girl not wanted by the Nazis. I feel sick to my stomach and want to crawl in a hole, but I have nowhere to go.

Before my brother and I were whisked away from our home, our parents had made it clear: Tell no one you are Jewish or be killed. So I could not tell our foster mother our secret. There was no way Sinterklaas could have been forewarned.

Sinterklaas enters with his helper Zwarte Piet. He looks at me and says: “Well, Liesje have you been a good girl?” A wave of relief sweeps over me and I think, “Sinterklaas knows everything.” I can now enjoy his little present. I do wonder how he found out about my situation, but I can breathe again, safe and grateful that his omniscience knows no bounds.

I am now 80, but will never forget where I sat, what I thought and how I felt during those excruciating minutes before Sinterklaas called me Liesje. I marvel at that little girl, still believing in Santa Claus, yet so aware of the constant danger. Though we would be among the few to survive, the emotional damage was profound.

A lifetime later, I worry for all those who must live in shadows – the undocumented, the Dreamers, worshipers of unfavored faiths. We are not living in Nazi Germany, but talk of registries and deportation is profoundly unsettling to this survivor of official hate. It must be profoundly unsettling to them.

In this holiday season, I pray for their safety, and peace of mind.

With a Perspective, I’m Anita Frank.

Anita Frank is a retired adjunct professor of communications and human development. She lives in San Anselmo.

  • Hillary Clintub

    Might want to explain Zwarte Piet (Black Pete), Sinterklaas’s “helper”, to readers here who might not be familiar with him in Dutch Christmas tradition.

    • Curious

      Still portrayed in blackface today.

      • Hillary Clintub

        Yep, and his reputation and public image still stink. He terrifies the little ones.

  • Susan Bowyer

    Wow!! Anita’s story was itself so inspiring and profound, even before she gently, eloquently used her own experience to encourage listeners to widen their circles of compassion. I moved, and motivated, to consider and support vulnerable people in her name.

  • Kevin McCracken

    I heard this on the way to work this morning, and all I can say is THANK YOU!!!

  • Joe Melvin

    I just heard this while sitting at my desk at work this morning and my eyes are still teary. Thank you for sharing such an extraordinary memory and for your humanity and compassion.

  • jyg

    Thank you, Anita.

  • Barry Valiasek

    I’ve heard many perspectives on KQED. And while many of them are insightful, I have to say this one moved me the most. It’s profound and touching. Hopefully we can learn from stories like this. Thank you.

  • David

    I loved this perspective, it should remind us all about what this country has tried to standfor. We need to be very careful in the coming years.

  • Bobbi

    Thanks so much for this, Anita! You’re message is so important that I’m going to share this link with friends on Facebook.

  • Curious

    I believe that the Jews were German citizens, present in Germany legally, and contributing to the country.

    • Bambissima

      At the time of this telling, in December 1942, Anita Frank and her family were Dutch citizens living in The Netherlands.

      • Curious

        And, your point is?

        • alameda auntie

          That even citizens can have their right to exist taken away by a fascist government. And your point?

        • Bambissima

          My point is that you mentioned Jews in Germany, and I wanted to clarify that Anita Frank and her family lived in Holland, not Germany.

          Now I ask you: What was YOUR point with the comment about Jews in Germany being there legally and contributing to the country? I don’t understand what your statement has to do with Anita Frank’s “Perspective”.

          • Curious

            My point is that comparing the attempted extermination of an entire ethnic group to a country’s enforcement of its immigration laws to prevent the continued invasion of millions of people who come here illegally and commit crimes and live on the taxpayer dime, is extremely insulting to the memory of the millions murdered in the Holocaust.

          • Long

            The fears by the children are the same, with legal or illegal status. If we feel for Anita, we would feel the same for the children of the illegal immigrant families in this country.

            I am not a supporter of illegal immigrants. But, I would want our government deal with it with sensitivity for innocent children.

          • Curious

            Illegals are not being threatened with death camps. There is no comparison between the two situations and making the comparison is insulting.

  • Jamie Pereira-Quon

    Thank you Anita.

  • Bruce Jenett

    Anita,I was so moved by not only what you said, but the gentleness and power of your voice, when I heard your Perspective on KQED this morning. It really was a profound piece of writing and speaking. Thank you so much for pointing out, and how sad it is that it needs to be pointed out, that what you experienced in your youth has come again in a different, but really the same, form into full and horrific view in this country and it is both disturbing and beyond sad, it’s deeply dangerous. If we do not show compassion and gentleness for those who are not in the majority, whether by religion, skin color, nationality/country of origin, gender identity or sexual preference,or just plain “views about something,” then, to quote a famous saying by Pastor Martin Niemöller in 1945, “When they came for me, there was no one left to speak up” — the vitriol, exclusion and hatred can be expected to be directed against any of us. I really would hope that your Perspective radio piece could be broadcast across the PBS network in this country and abroad. Thank you again, and may SInterklaas put an apple or a lump of sugar in your stocking for many years to come.

    • Curious

      Hysterical pablum.

  • Tracy Gary

    Oh how you moved us all! Thank you so much for such an important and eloquent and critical piece. Yes!! You inspire my greater activism and perspective!!
    Gratefully, Tracy Garyl

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