Today is June 12th, the birthday of Anne Frank, a little girl of 15 killed by the Nazis.
Maybe you’ve heard of Simon Wiesenthal, maybe not. Recent news suggests a lot of people don’t even know what The Holocaust was, and if you don’t know what The Holocaust was, you wouldn’t know who he was. Simon Wiesenthal was a Jewish man who lost 81 members of his family to The Nazis, and he barely escaped death multiple times. What was the end of the war for most was not the end for him. He hunted many Nazis down, exposing them, helping them to be tried for their crimes, or at least exposed.
Perhaps I’ve been naive over the years in what I thought happened in WWII, in who I thought were the “good guys” and who committed atrocities. You might be surprised by some things, too. The US wouldn’t help uncover Nazis in America at all and tried to discredit Simon Wiesenthal. Perhaps that was because the US took scientists from The Nazi regime to the US to aid in developing nuclear missiles and the more politically palatable version of that science, the space race. The CIA also helped Nazis avoid prosecution for their own reasons. Some of this is documented in a 600-page U.S. Department of Justice report.
Another surprising fact was even in the late 50s there were Holocaust deniers. When one denier challenged Wiesenthal to find evidence of Anne Frank he set out to find Karl Silberbauer, the arresting officer who had pulled Anne Frank from hiding to go off to her death, cutting a beautiful little girl’s life short. Unlike countries that seemed willing to hide Nazis, or ones that picked the ones they wanted to hide, like the US, Silberbauer was not hiding his identity, and he had returned to his pre-war job with the Vienna police force.
Upon being uncovered for who he was in 1963, the Austrian government ruled that the arrest of Anne Frank didn’t make Silberbauer a war criminal. Otto Frank, Anne Frank’s father, who survived WWII and was known for his forgiveness of atrocities committed in WWII, testified that Silberbauer behaved correctly and only did his duty. The Vienna police assigned him to a desk job. He died in 1972.
Silberbauer’s memories of Anne Frank and her family seem quite lucid. He spoke with them, asked them how long they had been in hiding, and at some point before leading Anne and her family off to be taken to a concentration camp to be exterminated he told Anne Frank’s father “You have a lovely daughter.”
Let’s not forget what happened to Anne. Let’s learn to forgive, like her father did.