Holocaust Memorial Service
Based on the Diary of Anne Frank
By Rev. Barbara Hoag
First Unitarian Church of Wilmington, DE
|Note: I have done this service on
Sunday morning for UU worship as well as with a synagogue for town-wide,
interfaith observance of Holocaust Memorial Week. You may easily
intersperse bits of service "business" Ė offering, chalice
lighting, etc., between segments. It requires a liturgist,
someone comfortable handling some emotionally intense material, a narrator,
an actress (preferably an older woman) and (optional) a
younger actress to deliver Anneís closing speech.
Liturgist: This is Holocaust Memorial week. Today we choose to remember. We choose to honor those who struggled, suffered and died, those who survived, and those who risked their own lives to save them.
Narrator: One of the most important documents from the time of the Holocaust was written by neither scholar nor poet, but by an average young girl, Anne Frank. Her diary has now become famous, printed in more than 20 languages and performed in theaters around the world. Some believe that seeing this play in the 1950s was one of the first events to break through the Germansí defenses, and to weep about the atrocities committed for the firs time. In these first performances, audiences were instructed not to applaud, but to absorb the story in silence. We ask the same of you today.
We begin in an attic in Amsterdam, where Anne lived with her parents, sister Margot, a family called Van Daan Ė two parents and a son, Peter, who is a few years older than Anne. Throughout their stay of two years, they took two other boarders into their "secret annex" as Anne always referred to their hiding place. On August 4, 1944, there came the terrible knocks at the door, and the Dutch Nazi police took them away. The bright flame that was Anneís life went out soon after that in a prison camp hospital. But there was the diary. Shortly after the familyís arrest, one of their protectors, a Dutch woman named Miep, went up to the annex where she had brought food and news of the outside world.
Part 1: Memory
Miep enters from the side door with a candle. She crosses the room, peers out windows through the blinds to see if anyone can see her. Sadly, she surveys the jumble of papers and books on the floor, and sits down to go through them. As she straightens, she picks up a book, a piece of paper, and reacts silently Ė curious about one item, laughing at another. She then picks up the diary, opens it, and realizes what it is. Tears come to her eyes, she says, "Anna!" and cradles the book against her chest. A knock is heard offstage. She starts, gathers up several books and papers, blows out the candle and exits.
Liturgist: Lights the first candle on the candelabra. For a larger scale service, we made a large, hanging Star of David and wired an electric candle to rest on small shelves at each point of the star. In smaller services, Iíve simply lit candles on the altar.)
We light this candle to witness memory. We honor those who have preserved the memory of the Holocaust victims. Please join me in reading responsively:
Leader: In the presence of eyes which witnessed the slaughter, which saw the oppression the heart could not bear
People: And as a witness the heart that once taught compassion until the days came to pass that crushed human feeling
Leader: I have taken an oath: To remember it all, to remember, not once to forget!
People: Forget not one thing to the last generation when degradation shall cease, to the last, to its ending,
Leader: When the rod of instruction shall have come to conclusion. An oath: Not in vain passed over the night of terror.
ALL: AN OATH: LEST FROM THIS WE LEARNED NOTHING.
Part 2: Innocence
Narrator: Miep intended to give the diaries to Anne when she returned. She eventually passed them on to Otto Frank, the only member of Anneís family to survive in the camps. We can imagine her not wanting to invade a girlís privacy. But weeks passed, and, missing her friends deeply, she began to read them, all written as letters to an imaginary friend she named "Kitty."
Miep enters through the side door. She wears a shawl over her shoulders, the diary is under her arm, and she carries a pot of tea and cup in her hands. She sets down these items on the makeshift kitchen table, and lights a candle to read. She opens the book and reads:
Saturday, 11 July, 1942
Daddy, Mummy and Margot canít get used to the sound of the Westertoren clock yet, which tell us the time every quarter of an hour. I can. I loved it from the start, and especially in the night itís a faithful friend. I expect you will be interested to hear what it feels like to "disappear"; well, all I can say is that I donít know myself yet, I donít think I shall ever feel really at home in this house, but that does not mean that I loathe it here, it is more like being on vacation in a very peculiar boarding house. Rather a mad idea, perhaps, but that is how it strikes me. The "Secret Annexe" is an ideal hiding place. Although it leans to one side and is damp, youíd never find such a comfortable hiding place anywhere in the whole of Holland. Our little room looked very bare at first with nothing on the walls; but thanks to Daddy who had brought my film-star collection and picture postcards on beforehand, and with the aid of paste pot and brush, I have transformed the walls into one gigantic picture. This makes it look much more cheerful, and, when the Van Daans come, weíll get some wood from the attic, and make a few little cupboards for the walls and other odds and ends to make it look more lively.
Margot and Mummy are a little bit better now. Mummy felt well enough to cook some soup for the first time yesterday, but then forgot all about it, while she was downstairs talking, so the peas were burned to a cinder and utterly refused to leave the pan. Mr. Koophuis has brought me a book called Young Peopleís Annual. The four of us went to the private office yesterday evening and turned on the radio. I was so terribly frightened that someone might hear it that I simply begged Daddy to come upstairs with me. Mummy understood how I felt and came too. We are very nervous in other ways, too, that the neighbors might hear us or see something going on. We made curtains straight away on the first day. Really one can hardly call them curtains, they are just light, loose strips of material, all different shapes, quality, and pattern, which Daddy and I sewed together in a most unprofessional way. These works of art are fixed in position with drawing pins, not to come down until we emerge from here.
There are some large business premises on the right of us, and on the left a furniture workshop; there is no one there after working hours but even so, sounds could travel through the walls. We have forbidden Margot to cough at night, although she has a bad cold, and make her swallow large doses of codeine. I am looking for Tuesday when the Van Daans arrive; it will be much more fun and not so quiet. It is the silence that frightens me so in the evenings and at night. I wish like anything that one of our protectors could sleep here at night. I canít tell you how oppressive it is never to be able to go outdoors, also Iím very afraid we shall be discovered and be shot. That is not exactly a pleasant prospect. We have to whisper and tread lightly during the day, otherwise the people in the warehouse will hear us.
Someone is calling me.
Miep looks off for a moment, and blows out the candle. Exits.
Liturgist: Lights another candle. We light this candle as a witness to innocence. There will always be those who blame the victims, who say they shouldíve seen it coming, they brought it on themselves. This was Hitlerís argument, and we hear it in other places today. Anneís diary is an innocent voice. May we vow to protect innocence. Please read with me responsively:
Leader: We choose to work to preserve innocence, to preserve the freedom to enjoy what is natural and good in human life.
People: The freedom to live as open, whole beings.
Leader: The freedom not to hood our eyes, lock our hearts, or run at the sound of footsteps.
People: The freedom to live blessed Ė and not damned Ė from the start.
Part 3: Suffering
Narrator: What began in mystery and innocence was becoming more and more visible each day. Anneís fear was joined in sorrow in witnessing the suffering with her own eyes.
Miep re-enters. She sits in the rocker, realizing that sheís sitting on something. She pulls it out from underneath her and sees that itís a teddy bear. She places the bear on the floor as she reads.
Wednesday, 13 January, 1943
Everything has upset me again this morning, so I wasnít able to finish a single thing properly.
It is terrible outside. Day and night more of those poor miserable people are being dragged off, with nothing but a rucksack and a little money. On the way they are deprived even of those possessions. Families are torn apart, the men, women, and children all being separated. Children coming home from school find that their parents have disappeared. Women return from shopping to find their homes shut up and their families gone.
The Dutch people are anxious too, their sons are being sent to Germany. Everyone is afraid.
And every night hundreds of planes fly over Holland and go to German towns, where the earth is plowed up by their bombs, and every hundreds and thousands of people are killed in Russia and Africa. No one is able to keep out of it, the whole globe is waging war and although it is going better for the Allies, the end is not yet in sight.
And as for us, we are fortunate. Yes, we are luckier than millions of people. It is quiet and safe here, and we are, so to speak, living on capital. We are even so selfish as to talk about "after the war," brighten up at the thought of having new clothes and new shoes, whereas we really ought to save every penny, to help other people, and save what is left from the wreckage after the war.
The children here run about in just a thin blouse and clogs; no coat, no hat, no stockings, and no one helps them. Their tummies are empty, they chew an old carrot to stay the pangs, go from their cold homes out into the cold street and, when they get to school, find themselves in an even colder classroom. Yes, it has even got so bad in Holland that countless children stop the passers-by and beg for a piece of bread. I could go on for hours about all the suffering the war has brought, but then I would only make myself more dejected. There is nothing we can do but wait as calmly as we can till the misery comes to an end. Jews and Christians wait, the whole earth waits; and there are many who wait for death.
Miep picks up the bear, rocks, hums something to herself. Blows out the candle. Exits.
Liturgist: Lights another candle. We light this candle as a witness to suffering, to remember our need to take suffering seriously. It takes great strength to keep witnessing the pain of others and not say that it has nothing to do with us. Let us be a community that reminds ourselves of this.
Note: This is a good place for a prayer/meditation for suffering that is happening anywhere in the world at the time of the service.
Please join me reading in unison the words of Rev. Martin Niemoller:
UNISON: "First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out because I
was not a Socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak
out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not
Offertory: Depending on the resources of the congregation, I have had vocal soloists Ė or my personal favorite, a young girl doing an improvisational dance to Chopin.
Part 4: Wisdom
Narrator: When his daughterís diary was published, Otto Frank said, "Anne developed under our eyes in that room, but we went on treating her as though she was still a giddy little girl. All of us were too wrapped up in our own troubles to give her the understanding that she needed."
Miep re-enters. She lights a candle and reads from the diary.
Tuesday, 7 March, 1944
If I think now of my life in 1942, it all seems so unreal. It was quite a different Anne who enjoyed that heavenly existence from the Anne who has grown wise within these walls. Yes, it was a heavenly life. Boy friends at every turn, about 20 friends and acquaintances of my own age, the darling of nearly all the teachers, spoiled from top to toe by Mummy and Daddy, lots of sweets, enough pocket money, what more could one want?
All the teachers were entertained by my cute answers, my smiling face, and my questioning looks. That is all I was Ė a terrible flirt, coquettish and amusing. I had one or two advantages, which kept me rather in favor. I was industrious, honest, and frank. I would never have dreamed of cribbing from anyone else. I shared my sweets generously and I wasnít conceited. (Miep to herself: Hmph.)
Wouldnít I have become rather forward with so much admiration? It was a good thing that in the midst of, at the height of, all this gaiety, I suddenly had to face reality, and it took me at least a year to get used to the fact that there was no more admiration forthcoming.
How did I appear at school? The one who thought of new jokes and pranks, always "king of the castle," never in a bad mood, never a crybaby. No wonder everyone liked to cycle with me, and I got their attentions.
What is left of this girl? Oh, donít worry, I havenít forgotten how to laugh or to answer back readily. Iím just as good, if not better, at criticizing people, and I can still flirt if... I wish. Thatís not it though, Iíd like that sort of life again for an evening, a few days or even a week; the life which seems so carefree and gay. But at the end of that week, I should be dead beat and would be only too thankful to listen to anyone who began to talk about something sensible. I know quite well that the circle around me would be much smaller. But what does that matter, as long as one still keeps a few sincere friends.
I look upon my life up till the New Year, as it were, through a powerful magnifying glass. The sunny life at home, then coming here in 1942, the sudden change, the quarrels, the bickerings. I couldnít understand it, I was taken by surprise, and the only I could keep up some bearing was by being impertinent.
The first half of 1943: my fits of crying, the loneliness, how I slowly began to see all my faults and shortcomings, which are so great and which seemed much greater then. During day I deliberately talked about anything and everything that was farthest from my thoughts. Things improved slightly in the second half of the year, I became a young woman and was treated more like a grownup. I started to think, and write stories, and came to the conclusion that the others no longer had the right to throw me about like an india-rubber ball. I wanted to change in accordance with my own desires.
At the beginning of the New Year: I discovered my inward happiness and my defensive armor of superficiality and gaiety. In due time I quieted down and discovered my boundless desire for all that is beautiful and good.
And in the evening, when I lie in bed and end my prayers with the words, "I thank you, God, for all that is good and dear and beautiful," I am filled with joy. Then I think about "the good" of going into hiding, of my health and with my whole being of the "dearness" of Peter, of that which is still embryonic and impressionable and which we neither of us dare to name or touch, of that which will come sometime; love, the future, happiness and of "the beauty" which exists in the world.
I donít think then of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains. This is one of the things that Mummy and I are so entirely different about. Her counsel when one feels melancholy is: "Think of all the misery in the world and be thankful that you are not sharing in it!" My advice is: "Go outside, to the fields, enjoy nature and the sunshine, go out and try to recapture happiness in yourself and in God. Think of all the beauty thatís still left in and around you and be happy!" I donít see how Mummyís idea can be right because then how are you supposed to enjoy yourself if you go through the misery yourself? Then you are lost.
Miep blows out candle: lays head on table and dozes.
Liturgist: Light fourth candle. Wisdom can come to us in the unlikeliest circumstances, not always visible to those around us. It can come in sorrow, from the thing we do not think we can bear, and bear somehow. We light this candle for wisdom. Please read responsively with me:
Leader: We have learned this much: we do not live alone. We are Jews, and friends of Jews.
People: We are Germans and loved ones of Germans.
Leader: By now we must admit we all have in our possession the key to survival.
People: In a world of absurdity, we must invent reason; we must create beauty of out of nothingness.
Leader: We know how hopeless our battle may appear, we have to fight murder and absurdity, and give meaning to the battle, if not to our hope.
People: This is not a lesson; this is not an answer. It is only a question.
Part 5: Courage
Miep awakens, re-lights the candle and reads.
Tuesday, 11 April, 1944
Now there are debates going on all the time in the "Secret Annexe." Kraler reproached us for our carelessness. Henk, too, said that in a case like ours we must never go downstairs. We have been pointedly reminded that we are in hiding, that we are Jews in chains, chained to one spot, without any rights, but with a thousand duties. We Jews mustnít show our feelings, must be brave and strong, must accept all inconveniences and not grumble, must do what is within our power and trust in God. Sometime this terrible war will be over. Surely the time will come when we are people again, and not just Jews.
Who has inflicted this upon us? Who has made us Jews different from all other people? Who has allowed us to suffer so terribly up till now? It is God that has made us as we are, but it will be God, too, who will raise us up again. If we bear all this suffering and if there are still Jews left, when it is over, then Jews, instead of being doomed, will be held up as an example. Who knows, it might even be our religion from which the world and all peoples learn good, and for that reason and that reason only do we have to suffer now. We can never become just Netherlanders, or just English, or representatives of any country for that matter, we will always remain Jews, but we want to, too.
Be brave! Let us remain aware of our task and not grumble, a solution will come, God has never deserted our people. Right through the ages there have been Jews, through all the ages they have had to suffer, but it has made them strong too; the weak fall, but the strong will remain and never go under!
During the night I really felt that I had to die, I waited for the police, I was prepared, as the soldier is on the battlefield. I was eager to lay down my life for the country, but now, now Iíve been saved again, now my first wish after the war is that I may become Dutch! I love the Dutch Ė and even if I have to write to the Queen myself, I will not give up until I have reached my goal.
I am becoming still more independent of my parents, young as I am, I face life with more courage than ever, my feeling for justice is immovable and true. I know what I want, I have a goal, an opinion, I have a religion and love. Let me be myself and then I am satisfied. I know that Iím a woman, a woman with inward strength and plenty of courage.
If God lets me live, I shall not remain insignificant, I shall work in the world and for mankind! And now I know that first and foremost I shall require courage and cheerfulness.
(Miep, to photograph: But where will I be, without you, dearest Anne?) Blows out candle and exits.
[Note: the segment below, Kaddish Yatom, or The Mournerís Kaddish was a required part of the Jewish ceremony of Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Memorial Observance. I include it for your information, did not use it in services for UU congregations.]
Let Godís name be made great and holy in the world that was created as God willed. May God complete the holy realm in your own lifetime, in your days, and in the days of all the house of Israel, quickly and soon. And say: Amen.
May Godís great name be blessed, forever and as long as worlds endure.
May it be blessed, and praised, and glorified, and held in honor, viewed with awe, embellished, and revered; and may the blessed of holiness be hailed, though it be higher than all the blessings, songs, praises, and consolations that we utter in this world. And say: Amen.
May heaven grant universal peace, and life for us, and for all Israel. And say: Amen.
May the one who creates harmony above, make peace for us and for all Israel, for all who dwell on earth. And say: Amen.
Part 6: Hope
Liturgist: Lights candle. We light this candle as a witness to hope.
(Young adolescent girl may read, or also works well as a unison reading)
In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply canít build up my hopes on a foundation on confusion, misery and death. I see a world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever-approaching thunder, which will destroy us, too, I can feel the suffering of millions, and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again. In the meantime, I must uphold my ideals, for perhaps the time will come when I shall be able to carry them out.
Liturgist: Please join me in singing our closing song, "We Would Be One."