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WE ALL WORE STARS by Theo Coster


Memories of Anne Frank from Her Classmates

by Theo Coster translated by Marjolijn de Jager

Pub Date: Sept. 27th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-230-11444-9
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

A handful of classmates relegated to Amsterdam’s Jewish Lyceum during World War II offer poignant, haunting memories of “Annelies.”

During the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, all Jewish children were forced to attend special schools—in the case of the author and Anne Frank, their families chose the Jewish Lyceum. Of the nearly 500 boys and girls at the school, only half survived the war; while in the Netherlands overall, the author cites 80 percent of the Jewish population were killed, twice the percentage of Jews in Belgium and France, thus undermining the myth about Dutch benevolence toward the Jews. The author, then 13, was known as Maurice and was cited by Frank in her diary as “one of [her] many admirers, but he’s a rather annoying kid.” He remembers how his schoolmates began to stop showing up for class—for example, by the spring of 1942, labor roundups for children as young as 16 were instituted and many families had gone into hiding, such as the Franks and the author’s own dispersed family. However, many others operated under a "ghastly delusion" that in Nazi labor camps they would at least avoid hunger and illness. (Coster was taken to a farm in Vaassen and passed off as a visiting nephew.) In a joint book and film project, Coster managed to track down several surviving classmates for reminiscing, revealing stories as freshly searing as when they first occurred. Several of the survivors who had also ended up in Bergen-Belsen, like Anne, actually spoke to her there, and were impressed by her conviction to survive the war. All speak of Anne’s vivacity and spirit, although they reveal some resentment of her singular fame. Details reveal the enormous pressure on the children in hiding to be quiet and not make trouble, and the absolute lack of professional help after the war in easing the emotional trauma.

The moving lore around the life of Anne Frank remains inexhaustible and eternal.