Imprisoned during the Holocaust, a member of the Dutch resistance spoke to a Northern Kentucky University audience about what he learned on humanity, courage and hate.
Cornelis Suijk’s lecture, on Jan. 14, was entitled “The Meaning of Courage: The Holocaust and Mission Against Hate.” More than 375 people filled the room in silence until Suijk’s last sentence was spoken.
“I like to convince people to look always at other people as individuals,” Cornelis Suijk, CEO emeritus Anne Frank House and Anne Frank Center USA, said.
Suijk was born in the Netherlands. His parents helped to hide a Jewish mother and her son, which was a great risk to everyone. Suijk’s father asked him to take a list he had prepared for him with 81 families to contact to see if they would be willing to help. Out of those 81 families only seven were willing to help and only 11 Jews were rescued.
Suijk was arrested for his anti-Nazi activities. He was incarcerated in a Gestapo prison for several months. One day some Nazi officers saw that there was something in his socks. Then they made him strip and found 25 Jewish identity cards in his socks. So they took him away in a truck.
After WWII ended Suijk became an economist and an auditor. In the 1960s he met Otto Frank, the father of Anne Frank, and the only surviving member of their immediate family. Mr. Frank asked Suijk to join the board of the Anne Frank Foundation in Amsterdam. Suijk was the director of Anne Frank House for 20 years and later became the International Director of the Anne Frank Center, USA.
I like to reach out to other people,” Suijk said.
During the lecture Suijk stressed to have courage to help others in need. Suijk said that true courage isn’t getting the approval of your enemies. Courage is to face negative opinions from friends and family members.
Suijk said, “I don’t want you to look at me as a hero.”
I was thinking of the future, Suijk said, I would live an unhappy life if I ignored those cries of help.
Suijk said to look at how many people lost their lives by trying to help in the Sept. 11 events. It is worse to live a life not taking chances by helping than losing your life.
In a personal interview with Mr. Suijk he mentioned what others who knew Anne Frank would say about her.
Suijk said that Mepgies, helper of Anne Franks, said Anne was a bit loud and disobedient when she was young. She had very curious eyes and was a very lively kid. Anne had a way to ask questions where you absolutely had to answer her questions. She always wanted to know what the Germans were doing and if her friends were still there. Even though Anne loved to talk if someone else would start talking Anne would shut up. She would just listen. Anne would never interrupt people.
Suijk also mentioned that Mr. Frank said he felt sad when he read his daughter’s diary. The diary tells about Anne’s feeling and her ideas. Mr. Frank felt that he was close to Anne, although she never shared these things with him. According to Suijk, Frank assumed Anne never shared her ideas because she would have felt that he would over look it because of her immaturity.
Suijk said that Mr. Frank encourages parents to pay more attention to their children and learn their ideas.