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Opinion: On what would have been Anne Frank's 85th birthday, let's remember our shared history

Anne Frank never lived to tell her tale but we can honour her memory, and that of all the murdered, by challenging anti-Semitism where we find it.

Dr Otto Frank standing before an image of his daughter, Anne Frank, who died aged 15 at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
Dr Otto Frank standing before an image of his daughter, Anne Frank, who died aged 15 at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
Image: AP/Press Association Images

TODAY MARKS WHAT would have been the 85th birthday of Anne Frank. Anne has become, for many, a symbol of the extermination policy carried out by the Nazis during the Second World War.

Anne died aged just 15 in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany having been betrayed after over two years of hiding in a ‘secret annexe’ in Amsterdam with her family, where she penned The Diary of Anne Frank – one of the most popular accounts of life for Jews under Nazi rule. She was one of 11 million European Jews earmarked for extermination by the Nazis – but that was not confined to the European continent. Irish Jews were threatened also.

Anti-Semitism in Ireland

In January of this year, the former Minister for Defence Alan Shatter (who is Jewish), said that anti-Semitism is on the rise in Ireland. Yet this was also the case during the Second World War.

The late 1800s and early 1900s saw a major rise in the number of Jewish immigrants in Ireland, mainly from England and Poland, prompting a major rise in anti-Semitism in Ireland, often led by influential clerics. The Limerick Pogrom of 1904, inspired by Redemptorist Father John Creagh, encouraged people to boycott Jewish businesses and caused many Jews to feel forced to leave the city.

Some attempts were made to give protection to minority communities in Ireland after the enactment of the Free State. The Jewish politician Ellen Cuffe was appointed to the Seanad by William Cosgrave in 1922 and served until her death in 1933.

The Blueshirt movement led by Eoin O’Duffy bore significant resemblance to fascists in Europe, and was also said to show signs of anti-Semitism. Cork-born Gerald Goldberg, a Jew who became Lord Mayor of Cork on 1977, recalled an incident when he was studying at UCC in which he was not permitted to speak at a debate on the Blueshirt movement because he was deemed a “foreigner”, and was reportedly silenced by the auditors.

Yet despite Eamon de Valera’s efforts to ensure constitutional protection to Jews in the 1937 Constitution, anti-Semitism was apparent in Ireland at this time and this continued even after the Second World War.

This is illustrated by a notorious speech made by a newly-elected TD in the Dáil in 1943, at the height of the Holocaust. The Independent TD Oliver J Flanagan advocated ”rout[ing] the Jews out of the country”. Even before this, the major demand for asylum in Ireland for Jewish refugees in the run-up to the Second World War was often rejected due to strict criteria requiring immigrants to be Roman Catholic. And it can’t be forgotten that DeValera sympathised with the German people on the death of Adolf Hitler in May 1945, but had failed to do just that when US President Franklin D Roosevelt died passed away three months earlier.

Ettie Steinberg and the Wansee Conference

Among the many Jewish immigrants to Ireland during the Second World War was Ettie Steinberg, the only Irish Jew to perish at the hands of the Nazis. Ettie grew up in Dublin, the daughter of Czechoslovakian immigrants, but moved to Belgium and later Paris in the late 1930s after marrying a Belgian man.

Ettie and her young son, born in Paris, died in the Holocaust along with Anne Frank and six million others. She was to be the only Irish, Jewish victim of the Nazis’ plan – but she was not the only one they originally intended to kill.

The Wansee Conference, held in a suburb of Berlin in January 1942 by the SS, was called to ensure the cooperation by various Nazi government departments to ensure that the Final Solution to the Jewish Question, otherwise known as the Holocaust, was being implemented. The evidence presented by the US government at the Nuremberg Trials show that approximately 4,000 Irish Jews were earmarked for extermination by the Nazis.

Anne Frank never lived to tell her tale but her story lives on through her diary, which her father had published after the war. It is one of the most widely-read books in the world but only tells half of her story – we must depend on eyewitness accounts to determine what Anne’s final few months of life were like when she entered the horrific extermination camps run by the Nazis.

Amy Bracken is originally from Co Meath and moved to London in 2012, where she works as a TV researcher and journalist.

Read: Police arrest 93-year-old Nazi concentration camp medic

Read:  Neo-Nazi linked to Breivik arrested amid fears of ‘major terrorist act’

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