Tag Archives: Netherlands

Jew of the Week: Anne Frank

A Diary that Changed the World

Anne Frank

Anne Frank

Annelies Marie Frank (1929-1945) was born in Frankfurt, Germany. Her family fled to Amsterdam shortly after the Nazis took over, and there her father started a new business selling herbs, spices, and fruit extracts. On her thirteenth birthday, Anne received an autograph book that she began to use as a diary, which she addressed as “Kitty”, her best friend. By then, the Nazis had already occupied the Netherlands, and a month later Anne’s family was ordered to report to labour camps. Instead, they hid in a space above her father’s company offices. Some of the employees were aware of this, and provided the Franks with food. During this time, Anne wrote in her diary of her experiences, struggles, and relationships, as well as deeper insights into human nature. In the summer of 1944, the Franks’ hiding place was discovered and the family was arrested. They were sent through various detention centres and labour camps, ending up in Auschwitz. There, her father was taken away and presumed dead, while Anne, her sister, and mother were forced into back-breaking labour. By the time that the two sisters were relocated to Bergen-Belsen, their mother had already succumbed to starvation. Not long before the camp was liberated, a typhus outbreak spread that killed thousands. Anne and her sister were likely among those victims. The only member of the family to survive was Anne’s father, Otto. He went on to publish Anne’s original diary in 1947. By 1952 it was published in the US as Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, and would go on to be translated into 67 languages. In 1955, the first dramatization of the diary premiered as a Pulitzer prize-winning play. A movie version followed in 1959. The diary is still among the top-selling books of all time, and included in La Monde‘s list of the 100 greatest books of the century. It is praised for its beautiful writing, and is powerful not only for capturing some of the horrors of the Holocaust, but also for its honest portrayal of a girl’s transformation into a young adult. Nelson Mandela read the diary while imprisoned and said how Anne Frank’s story inspired his struggle. Others who derived inspiration from Anne Frank include President Kennedy, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Hillary Clinton. TIME Magazine named Frank as one of its 100 most important people of the century. The Anne Frank House in Amsterdam still stands, and is one of the city’s most visited places.

Words of the Week

“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be.”

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

– From the diary of Anne Frank

Jew of the Week: Menashe ben Israel

Manoel Dias Soeiro (1604-1657) was born in Madeira, an island off of Portugal, where his parents fled from the Portuguese Inquisition. They soon moved to the Netherlands, where Soeiro grew up and became a respected rabbi and author, known by his Hebrew name Menashe ben Israel. In Holland, he established the first Hebrew printing press at the young age of 22, and his writings (in five languages!) would gain great fame, not only in the Jewish community, but among the greatest scholars and philosophers of the age, including Vieira, de Groot, and Huet. A portrait of Soeiro was even painted by Rembrandt! A great kabbalist, Soeiro wrote and published one of the earliest Jewish treatises on reincarnation, called Nishmat Hayim. Among his students was the infamous Baruch (Benedict) Spinoza. In 1638, Soeiro moved to Brazil. At the time, there was a popular notion that the natives were actually the Lost Tribes of Israel. This inspired Soeiro to take up the role of helping Jewish causes around the world. His first stop was England, where virtually no Jews lived since they were expelled in 1290. Soeiro worked hard to open the doors to their return, and in December 1655, the re-admittance of Jews to England was granted. Sadly, Menashe could not continue his work. Upon return to the Netherlands, his son passed away. Unable to contain the grief, Soeiro passed away himself in the midst of the funeral.

Words of the Week

As they set out from their place above, each soul is male and female as one. Only as they descend to this world do they part, each to its own side. And then it is the One Above who unites them again. This is His exclusive domain, for He alone knows which soul belongs to which and how they must reunite.
– Zohar (I, 85b)

Jew of the Week: Marcus Samuel

Oil & Seashells

Marcus Samuel, Oil Baron

Marcus Samuel (1853-1927) was born in London to a wealthy Iraqi-Jewish family originally from the Netherlands. On a trip to the Black Sea in 1890, he saw the potential in oil (still a novel resource at the time). Samuel ordered the construction of 8 tankers that met the highest safety standards, receiving permission to transport oil to Asia across the newly-built Suez Canal. Thus was born Shell Oil, taking the name of the Samuel family business, which began meagerly just a few decades earlier by selling painted seashells. Using one of his tankers, Samuel once saved the stranded ship HMS Victorious, a feat for which he was knighted. Previously, Sir Samuel had served as the Sheriff of London, and even its Mayor! For his role in fueling the Allies in World War I, he was made 1st Baron of Bearsted, and later 1st Viscount of Bearsted. Lord Samuel was known for his incredible devotion to his wife and four children. So much so, in fact, that he died less than 24 hours after the passing of his beloved wife. At death, he left his large estate to be transformed into a public park, an orphanage and a nursing home. Today, his company is known as Royal Dutch Shell, after having merged in 1907 with the Royal Dutch oil company in order to compete with Rockefeller’s Standard Oil. Shell is currently the 5th largest company in the world, with a yearly revenue of over $360 billion.

Today is Tu B’Shvat!

Words of the Week

If you live as though there will always be a tomorrow, then you’ll never make much of today.
– Rabbi Noah Weinberg