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Why it Shocks To See the Anne Frank Footage

Last week, my 15-year-old son, a Facebook junkie like all his peers (and his mother), showed me the newly public only extant video footage of Anne Frank, which has raced around the Internet, mesmerizing many of us.

I think I’ve watched it 20 times.

The all-too-brief clip of a girl unknowingly at the apex of her all-too-brief life, shows Anne hanging out her apartment window as a newly-wedded, chicly attired bride and groom come out to the building’s entrance below and ride away in a car.

The newlyweds are presumably off to their honeymoon, though if they were Jewish, we now know that it was ultimately probably to the same fate faced by Anne and 5,999,999 other Jews during the Shoah.

According to this new article in the Los Angeles Times, the 21 second-long snippet of motion picture was taken on July 22nd, 1941.

Anne was a coltish girl of 12, who a year later would be in hiding with her family in an attic and penning the diary that has, for so many young people, put the only human face on the Holocaust that they will ever see.

The motion picture snippet we see of Anne has haunted me as it has Sarah Seltzer, who wrote about it here.

Sarah wonders if the burden of being the human face of the Holocaust should be borne on the shoulders of one young girl.

That responsibility became Anne’s with the first publication of her diary, in Dutch in 1947, and in 1952 in English.

The newly unearthed video of Anne haunts me because it is like seeing a ghost – the ghostly image of a lively young girl whose horrifying, terrifying fate we all know.

It has the shock of unexpectedly seeing video of someone we love who has died too young and yet still seems so alive to us.

Anne’s story is well known but bears repeating: with her family, and the little diary she was given for her 13th birthday, she went into hiding in secret space above her father’s office in July, 1942.

After a little over two years there, the family was arrested and Anne was sent to Westerbork, the Auschwitz and finally, to Bergen-Belsen, where she died of typhus two months shy of her 16th birthday.

You see her picture, taken when she was 12, on the Wikipedia page about her. She has unruly hair and a wide smile. She is what we want all of our 12-year-old girls to be, what we wish we had been – bright-eyed, free and unselfconscious.

To know the horrible death she died so soon after – this is what haunts about the video. Jewish tradition tells us that our souls are eternal, and live on after our bodies have ended their time on this earth.

I believe this is true, and pray that Anne Frank’s soul remains as eternally headstrong and optimistic, as eternally alive, as the girl was when that video was filmed.

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