A pendant matching Anne Frank’s was discovered at a Nazi camp site

This little triangle treasure tells a big, human story.

Left: Pendant discovered at Sobibór, former Nazi extermination camp. Photo Courtesy of Yad Vashem. Authority. Right: Anne Frank at 6 years old at Montessori school in Niersstrraat, 1940, Amsterdam. Photograph by unknown photographer. Wikipedia

On my laziest Saturday mornings, I curl up on the sofa long before my family gets up and indulge 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.

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So when news hit of a pendant found in the dirt below a pre-gas chamber undressing area at a Nazi extermination camp, I clicked through story after story. I was fascinated and deeply moved. Especially since the pendant—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—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 Frankfort, 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. We know she endured horrors beyond imagination. We know she was human, and she could have been any of us.

Both sides of the pendant: On the left side is the name of God, written in Hebrew, surrounded by three Stars of David; On the right side, “Mazel Tov” us written in Hebrew with a birth date and place. Photo Courtesy of Yad Vashem

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. For all of us.

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In page after page of Anne’s diary, I met a girl my age who no longer spent her days not 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 still, 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, and to strive for better; to continue to care about our world and all of the people in it.

 

Caryn Rivadeneira
Caryn Rivadeneira
Caryn Rivadeneira is the author of five books and is a columnist for Her.meneutics and ThinkChristian. She lives outside Chicago with her husband, three kids, and one red-nose pit bull. Visit her at carynrivadeneira.com.

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