Sunday, October 20, 2013

Seven Degrees of History: Anne Frank and Audrey Hepburn

In the winter of 1940, Nazi soldiers began rounding up Jewish villagers in Belgium, Holland. They shoved men, women and children into covered military trucks, the yellow stars on their chests picking up the last rays of sun from a cloudless sky. Beside the truck, a young German soldier shifted back and forth on his feet, his shaking hands trying to keep a cigarette in his mouth. He was far too young to have death on his soft hands. 

A young girl felt the butt of a pistol against her back as she was thrown onto the truck’s cold hard floor. Over and over again, she whispered to herself, 'Our Father Who art in heaven....Our Father Who art in heaven. ' This young girl was just another prisoner to be taken to a nearby concentration camp and disposed of without witness. Her name was Audrey Hepburn.

Audrey was not Jewish, but her family was believed to be sympathizers and that was bad enough. She knew she was headed toward her death. Several friends had already been taken away. Most painful of all, she had watched Nazi soldiers line up her uncle and cousins against a wall and then shoot them in the head.

Suddenly, a soldier on the other side of the truck began beating one of the prisoners with the end of his rifle. This was her chance. Live or die. Fear. Fear would not win. She slipped underneath the truck, her lithe figure going unnoticed in the shadows. And then she ran. She ran until her heart beat like a trapped bird inside her chest. 

Less than 150 miles away from Audrey’s escape, a young girl looked out her narrow window from an abandoned building in Amsterdam. Her hands were wrapped around the checkered red, cover of a simple diary – the diary that became her last connection with the world of hope, love and kindness.  Her name was Anne Frank.

Anne’s story so moved Audrey that when later asked to play the role of Anne Frank, Audrey refused. She had once escaped that pain. She would not revisit it.

Audrey and Anne. Anne and Audrey. Two famous people with similar dreams. Two famous people with similar suffering.  One awoke from the nightmare. The other did not. I often think children understand biographies far better when connections between famous people are made. Without these connections, historical figures seem to exist on their own plane, never bridging the gap between time and emotion.

Hoping to find many more of these connections. 


Brianna DuMont said...

Wow, great find. I never knew Audrey was in Europe in the 30s and 40s. And a very moving re-telling.

Tony V said...

Anne Frank may well have recorded the shooting of Audrey Hepburn's uncle and four other men who were with the Dutch Resistance. Audrey Hepburn wrote about it:

"We saw reprisals. We saw young men put against the wall and shot and they’d close the street and then open it and you could pass by again. If you read the diary [of Anne Frank], I’ve marked one place where she says, ‘Five hostages shot today’. That was the day my uncle was shot. And in this child’s words I was reading about what was inside me and is still there. It was a catharsis for me. This child who was locked up in four walls had written a full report of everything I’d experienced and felt."

Audrey Hepburn, a very emotionally sensitive person, was devastated by reading Anne Frank's diary. Later in life, she turned down the role of playing Anne Frank, not only because she felt she was then too old but also because it would have been too painful for her to relive that time and place.

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prince rahul said...

Goodness, extraordinary find. I never knew Audrey was in Europe in the 30s and 40s. What's more, an exceptionally moving re-telling.
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