About two weeks ago, I was browsing in McNally Jackson Books on Prince Street when I came across "Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife" by Francine Prose.
In the back of this latest volume related to the life of the World War II diarist, Prose looks at the challenges teachers face when presenting Anne Frank's story to middle school students. Nearly sixty-five years after Anne's death, some teachers report that today's students are not fully aware of the brutality of the Holocaust and become emotional when faced with the diary's epilogue.
I thought back to the first time I read "The Diary of Anne Frank." I was about 11 or 12 years old when I picked up my mom's old copy with yellow pages. If memory serves, I read it quickly and cried at the end.
Becoming emotional when learning about Anne's short life and horrible death is an appropriate response. Moreover, it's something young people should experience -- a sad but important reminder that such immense hate and intolerance really were part of the world's recent history.
This all came home for me last Monday when I read about the death of Miep Gies, one of the good Dutch people who helped to hide Anne Frank, her parents and sister and four others in "The Secret Annex." She was 100 years old.
Miep, her husband and a few other hiders supplied the Jews with food, drink, reading materials and news of the war. They risked the wrath of the occupying Nazis to be lifelines to the outside world.
It is fitting to be remembering Miep today, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Miep exemplified a kind of non-violent resistance that Dr. King would later articulate.
Like Dr. King, Miep and her friends risked their own safety and comfort in an attempt to protect the human rights of others. They were points of light in a time of great darkness.
May God grant us all the courage to do the same when we are faced with injustice in our own time.
Flashbacks: MLK Days 2009, 2008 and 2007.
The photo above is attributed to Steve North/Associated Press.