My Cousin, Anne Frank

An anonymous author said, “Dreams are like stars…you may never touch them, but if you follow them they will lead you to your destiny.”

A month ago, I talked with a close friend of mine from BYU-I. We were talking about big choices we were making with education and work as we neared graduating from college. We were also talking about the uncertainty of the future and deciding where to go in life. Decisions like that can be frightening, as all of you know. A destiny starts with a dream. Each of us has a specific role to play in this life and it’s up to us to choose how our destiny begins.

This summer I had the opportunity to correspond with Anne Frank’s only surviving cousin, Buddy Elias, and learned how the simplest of people can change the world. Anne Frank is well known around the world for the diary she wrote while hiding in Amsterdam from 1942-1944 before being discovered by the Nazis. Anne Frank was only fifteen when she died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp with her older sister, Margot, from typhoid.

Anne Frank was four years older than Buddy, who she playfully referred to as “Bernd.” Despite their age difference, Anne and Buddy were the best of friends because they were both adventurous. “When we played together she always had ideas on what to play or do,” said Buddy. “She loved to dress up and imitate actors. She also loved my puppet theatre. Also hide and seek.” A vivid memory Buddy has of his cousin is when she dared him to put on one of his Mom’s dresses, hat, and high heel shoes, then imitate his Mom.

Buddy’s father became a representative of a German firm in Switzerland and moved there in 1929. He was joined by the rest of his family in 1931. This move most assuredly saved their lives during the Holocaust. When the persecution of the Jews begin after Hitler’s ascension to power in 1933, Buddy’s father helped Anne Frank’s Dad, Otto, secure a job in Holland, helping the Franks escape persecution for a time.

The last time Buddy saw Anne was either in 1938 or 1939, just before World War II broke out. They vacationed at a villa in the Swiss Alps, being spoiled by the wealthy owner.

When World War II broke out, Buddy’s family was naturally afraid for the Franks. The last they heard from them in writing was on a postcard that was sent from Amsterdam in July of 1942 just hours before they went into hiding. The two families had corresponded via letters but it was implied in this postcard that the flow of letters would stop for a time.

The years went slowly by anxiously for Buddy and his family in Basel, Switzerland. They lived in constant fear of the Germans invading Switzerland. Their home was located just fifteen minutes from the German border. Despite being in Switzerland, Buddy also faced anti-semitism in school. A teacher in his school called him, “a dirty little Jew.” When World War II drew to a close, Buddy watched, from behind a tree, U.S. tanks move across the French border into Germany.

Buddy and his family soon heard from Otto Frank on the phone from Amsterdam. They learned that everyone in the Frank family had perished in the Holocaust. “It was a terribly sad day,” said Buddy.

One of Anne Frank’s dreams was to one day have writings of hers published. Otto Frank was initially hesitant to publish his deceased daughter’s diary but eventually did in Holland in the summer of 1947. Today Anne Frank’s diary is one of the most read books in the world.

Buddy still remembers when he read his cousin’s diary for the first time and cried when his name was mentioned in it. When I asked him how he felt when reading about himself in her diary, Buddy said, “Very, very happy and grateful.”

Buddy, like his cousin, has followed his dreams and helped change the world. In his lifetime, Buddy has been an ice skater, comedian, singer, and actor. Now he strives to keep the memory of Anne alive by giving lectures at various establishments and running Anne Frank Fonds, an organization based in Switzerland honoring her memory. “I live with Anne’s inheritance every day,” said Buddy.

Each of us has a part to play in this world. Anne Frank most likely didn’t see herself becoming a best-selling author one day. Anne was no wonder child—just a lively, intelligent girl who inherited the writing talent of the Frank family. Anne Frank was just a normal girl growing up in Europe during one of the darkest times in the world. She may have not seen herself as someone that could change the world through her writing, yet she did.

You may feel unknown in the world like Anne Frank did when hiding from the Nazis in Amsterdam, but you have the possibility to change the whole world through your actions. Never doubt your potential in life. Follow your dreams! Realize your destiny in life like Anne did and prepare to change the hearts of millions like she did in her short life.

To learn more about Buddy and Anne please check out these links:

BBC Interview: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-18549657

PR.com Interview: http://www.pr.com/article/1099

A book that details more about the relationship Buddy had with the Franks: http://www.amazon.com/Treasures-Attic-Extraordinary-Franks-Family/dp/038553339X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1376878408&sr=8-1&keywords=buddy+elias

The main webpage of Anne Frank Fonds, run by Buddy Elias: http://www.annefrank.ch/

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