Forgiving the Germans
Oral History Item Type Metadata
Well, the captors, the SS, those people who were active at that time and who did all that: if I would ever meet one, I certainly couldn't forgive, and I certainly -- I think, you know, I would like to jump on them and scratch their eyes out or anything like that. For those people, I have certainly no forgiveness.
But, as I perhaps have told before, after the war I felt very, very bitter against really the whole world, because I felt that everybody had let us down: not just those people who did it, but as well the bystanders who didn't want to know about it. And I had become a very bitter person. This is why as well I said, you know, it was very difficult for me to live an ordinary life, because hate is a very negative sensation. And, you know, I was very unhappy with myself. That's why I was very withdrawn, and if I met anybody, I was always very mistrustful.
And I was actually a very, very happy person for many, many years, and it was really Otto Frank who helped me to overcome this, because he was quite an amazing person. So he was fifty-seven when he came out of the camp, and he had lost really everything he had lived for -- his family -- and he had no bitterness. And he had a big correspondence with many German people -- of course not with the Nazis, but with the children of those people who came to him for advice because they had a problem in their own family. They knew, for instance, that their father or their grandfather had been a Nazi and perhaps been in the concentration camps, and there was bad relationship within that family. And Otto helped those young people to overcome this again.
When they started in Amsterdam the Anne Frank House, the museum, they had first conferences for students and the other directors. Otto was one of the directors. The founding directors said, "Everybody can come, but not the Germans," and Otto said, "Just the Germans can come." And I think as well partly through reading the diary where Anne says -- though this has become a very controversial citation, she says deep down she still believes in the goodness of mankind. And I think this is what kept Otto going, because if my daughter still had the belief in mankind, so must I.
And slowly he told me that, you know, there's still a lot of goodness in people; you just have to get to know them and give them a chance. And eventually I realized that was true, and I became less bitter and I felt when I loved people what you -- it's like an echo. What you input, you put in, comes back to you. So you know, eventually I lost this bitterness and hate. So, I very often meet young German people, so I must say though German is my mother tongue, the language still reminds me of what I heard: especially if they are loud and shouting, that reminds me still of the commands we've heard. But, you know, I don't really can hate those young people who had nothing to do with that.