I have been to Denmark. I have been to Amsterdam and I have seen the house of Anne Frank. I did some crying there although no one around me did which was embarrassing. I mean for them obviously. I looked out her attic window through a mirror but I could not see her Horsechestnut tree (oh because it fell down http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/03/24/1196501/-Anne-Frank-s-beloved-Chestnut-tree-lives-on-to-inspire-a-new-generation#). I saw her actual diary full of handwritten Dutch words. I used the free wifi called Anne Frank House Line in the hour long line around the block outside to research the Danish rescue of the Jews that had been much discussed at my family reunion in Denmark. 99% of the Jewish population of Denmark was saved from the Nazis and I think all the Googling contributed to my crying.
It was on my mind because my Stepdad was among those who escaped for two years to Sweden and survived WWII. The Nazis had occupied Denmark for a couple of years before Hitler decided to arrest all of the Jews. Tipped off, the people of Denmark worked together to sneak everyone out overnight. See Wikpedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rescue_of_the_Danish_Jews
Sometime in between the sneak out and the tip off my Stepdad’s father, who was a German Jew, was arrested. His mother, a Christian Dane, per family legend talked the guards into letting him out and they and their 2 sons spent two years in Sweden until the war ended. My stepdad told me while standing on the beach that he remembered absolutely clearly seeing the headline in the paper that Denmark had fallen to the Nazis. He must have been 5. He asked his father if it was good or bad, and his father said it was really bad. The severity of the declaration burned itself into his memory where it remains 70 years later.
This is what I thought about while I was in the Annex: Anne Frank was about 7 years older than my Stepdad. She would have been in her 80s today and he is in his late 70s. He is working on oldmanhood. When I was little things that happened to my grandparents seemed slightly more believable than other historical/legendary eras and events such as Not Having Electricity, Not Having Phones and Noah’s Ark because a living person could talk to me about them, and I could ask a few follow up questions such as Gross how could you possibly share an outhouse with 10 people? Once those people are gone you are stuck with whatever has been passed along in the form of writing, or stories, or now I suppose videos and podcasts. But you can’t ask a podcast your questions. It is crazy that someone little during the Holocaust is now an old man, and if he is old, there can only be old people left who lived through and remember it.
Anyway, thank you Denmark for your hospitality and for saving my Stepdad and his family. I am very very sad that so many were not so lucky because I seriously cannot imagine my life without his grumpy old man self making inappropriate jokes and regularly refusing to share his bacon.
It was, among (many) other things, stolen by the Nazis and the whole giant room-sized thing was hidden in a salt mine. When the Allies won a Nazi attempted to blow up the salt mine filled with all the stolen art, but he was thwarted. It had been stolen and sold a few times after the van Eyck brothers completed it around 1430, the lamb itself was broken in a fire and painted over, and a panel remains missing (although one side was anonymously returned to a left-luggage area in a Brussels train station). It was in German possession until WW1, at which time its return to Belgium was written in to the Treaty of Versailles! I missed all this and more crazy information because that number was not on my audioguide sheet. Fortunately I bought a little book about it because I am not kidding I’m really into this thing. Just look at Adam and Eve painted in a way that was (my audioguide said) new for its realism and for showing Adam’s foot sneaking out of that frame. Imagine how you would stare at a painting displayed in a church if you had grown up without photography or even Crayola. I guess it is no wonder that everybody has wanted a piece of this Ghent, Belgium action.
I will return to writing about non-human creepers soon. For now I leave you with the following: The Ghent Altarpeice (Sacred Lamb) contains 20-some botanically identifiable (thanks to their detailed rendering) plant species! Get out your botanical keys please.
And I am happy to report that despite the threat of a new invasive fish species, nobody’s balls got bitten (or frozen!) off while swimming in the Danish fjords. Beware of the Pacu. http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2013/08/13/211628062/beware-the-pacu-experts-tell-european-men-who-skinny-dip
Rawr. (photo from NPR)