This little triangle treasure tells a big, human story.
My family and I love indulging in shows about archaeological excavations or mysterious trinkets tucked away in museum cases or high on bookshelves in stately old homes. I love little treasures that tell big stories — and one of my favorites is the mystery surrounding Anne Frank’s supposed matching pendant.
The pendant was found just last year in the dirt below a pre-gas chamber undressing area at a Nazi extermination camp. The pendant is shaped like a triangle with Mazel Tov written in Hebrew on one side and the Hebrew letter for God and three tiny Stars of David on the other. It is thought to have belonged to 14-year-old Karoline Cohn, and happens to match one belonging to Anne Frank.
We don’t know much about Karoline other than she came from Frankfurt, but there are plenty of clues to her story, thanks to this pendant. And, though we may never know the specific details of her life, we know Karoline was loved and celebrated. We know she was reverent and proud. And we know that her story — like Anne Frank’s — was one of love and loss and hope and pain. We know her bright future was cut off and she endured horrors beyond imagination. We know she was human, and she could have been any of us.
Like anyone with a beating heart and a soul, reading The Diary of Anne Frank changed the way I saw the world. Though at 13, I certainly knew about the Holocaust and all its horrible details, though I understood, at some level, the evils of perpetuated against the Jewish people, Anne Frank humanized it for me.
In page after page of Anne’s diary, I met a girl my age who no longer spent her days as I did — going to school, meeting friends, staying up all night giggling at sleepovers — but instead spent them hiding with another family in a crowded attic, praying to avoid capture from the Nazis. Even so, in her diary, I met a girl very much like me. One in the first blushes of boy crushes. One who got annoyed with her parents. One who loved to write. One who held out hope in humanity and in a bright future.
The great gift of Anne’s diary stretches beyond just learning about her and gaining a better understanding of what it was to be Jewish (or a brave Dutch person) during the Holocaust. Her diary reminds us of the humanity of everyone in our world — whether Karoline or any of the other millions who died during the Holocaust, or the victims of modern atrocities, or even just our neighbors — and reminds us that the history isn’t just information about the past, but stories of real, beloved, people. People, in many ways, just like us.
And though we may not always know everything about their stories, they deserve to be remembered and contemplated. Their brave lives will help us not to repeat the past, as well as to strive for better and continue to care about all the people of our world.