Anne Frank’s toy marbles rediscovered

In the summer of 1942, shortly before Anne Frank and her family moved into the secret annex on the Prinsengracht Canal that would be their entire world for two years, Anne approached her neighbor and playmate Toosje Kupers to ask her for a favor. Anne was concerned that her treasured marble collection would fall into the wrong hands, so she asked Toosje to keep them for safe until her return. She also gave Toosje a tea set and a book she had gotten for her 13th birthday for safe-keeping. The Kupers family also agreed to take in the Frank’s cat Moortje, although to perpetuate the ruse that they had quickly fled the country, they left the cat behind in their home and the Kupers pretended their decision to adopt her was spontaneous.

As we know, Anne never did return. She and her family were betrayed and on August 4th, 1944, they were arrested. Anne and her sister Margot died of typhyus at Bergen-Belsen in March of 1945. Their mother Edith died in Auschwitz. Father Otto Frank was the only survivor. He made it out of Auschwitz alive and returned to Amsterdam to look for his wife and daughters. By the summer of 1945, Otto knew that his entire family was dead.

Toosje Kupers had kept her promise to Anne. The marbles, tea set and book were still safe. She offered to return Anne’s treasures to her father, but Otto Frank told her to keep them. And so she did, for decades, eventually forgetting that she still had them. Toosje rediscovered Anne’s things in her attic just last year when she was packing up to move. She contacted the Anne Frank House Museum and offered to donate the precious artifacts of Anne’s childhood to the museum.

The book and tea set have gone on display in the year since their rediscovery, but the museum has been saving the marbles for a special occasion. The colorful set is part of an exhibition called The Second World War in 100 Objects that was officially opened Tuesday by His Majesty King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands at the Kunsthal Rotterdam. The 100 objects come from 25 Dutch war and resistance museums and give members of the general public.

They include the spectacles worn as a disguise by Dutch resistance fighter Hannie Schaft; a folding motorcycle that literally fell out of the sky during the parachute drops of Operation Market Garden; a decoy paratrooper dummy (known as a “Rupert”) used by the British to deceive the German troops; the grave cross of American pilot James M. Hansen, who lies buried at the Netherlands American Cemetery at Margraten; and a sweater made from dog’s hair during the “hunger winter” of 1944-45.

The marbles fit right in as poignant symbols of how Anne Frank, despite the extraordinary circumstances of the last two years of her life and her great writing talent, was still just a little girl who collected colorful marbles and kept them in a tin box.

[Teresien da Silva, head of collections at the Anne Frank House museum,] said Frank was one of many Jewish children who gave away their toys before going into hiding or being deported.

“For children during that time, marbles were a treasure. They worked very hard to win them,” she said.

While the marbles are old, she said, they are in good condition.

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19 Comments »

Comment by Tom Carroll
2014-02-05 02:22:58

Thank you for posting this. It breaks my heart. It really does. I am dying from Cancer but the story of Anne Frank really makes me cry.

I love you posts. Thank you. I read them everyday.

-Tom

Comment by livius drusus
2014-02-05 18:45:56

Oh Tom, I’m so sorry. I keep hoping one day you’ll comment that you’re in remission. I’m very glad to provide you with a little historical distraction at least.

 
 
Comment by Joe Bauman
2014-02-05 03:11:53

Truly a beautiful sad story. Thank you for posting it. We must never forget, never keep silent in the face of oppression.

Comment by livius drusus
2014-02-05 18:46:16

Very much agreed.

 
 
Comment by Sandy
2014-02-05 07:03:53

This is wonderful!

I’ve long felt an emotional link with Anne. Half of my bloodline is Hollander, so I relate to the people around her. Also, around the time I first read of her, about age 12, I happened on some photos my father took when his army unit liberated Dachau. For some reason, the trauma of seeing those photos and reading about Anne joined them, forever, in my mind.

I’m delighted by this discovery. It’s true, as you say, that it’s good to remember that Anne was just a little girl. I’m also in awe at the size of the collection. I know the effort it took to get them.

I was lousy at marbles.

Comment by livius drusus
2014-02-05 18:47:45

I never could stand to play marbles with my marbles because I didn’t want to damage them. The most I would do was run my fingers through them. I loved the clear ones with the twisty color thing in the middle. Anne liked them too, I see.

 
 
Comment by Cory Bauman
2014-02-05 15:00:32

I visited the Anne Frank house in 2007. The experience will always remain with me. Thank you for maintaining her memory.

Comment by livius drusus
2014-02-05 18:51:38

I visited it when I was in high school a couple of decades ago. It made such an impression on me because we were close to the same age and I was so spoiled I couldn’t even stand to think of years spent crammed in that small space with so many people. I can guarantee you I wouldn’t have written a journal of such breadth, honesty and intelligence. Anne Frank was a very special person.

 
 
Comment by Barbara
2014-02-05 17:03:52

I remember from my childhood how fascinating marbles can be–especially the aggies. Sometimes on archeological surveys we find kid’s toys, usually arms from small, jointed ceramic dolls and marbles. Surely the kids must have been unhappy to misplace the colorful glass shooters.

As Sandy mentions above, reading Anne’s book when I was the same age made her so familiar and relatable. It was difficult to believe someone so fully alive didn’t survive.

Comment by livius drusus
2014-02-05 18:52:50

Beautifully put. And she came so close to surviving, too, keeping her spirits up even mired in the hell of hard labor and death camps.

 
 
Comment by Hels
2014-02-05 19:45:16

I am glad there will be a Holocaust Exhibition, as well as Anne Frank’s actual house. Once all the members of a family were exterminated, there was usually no-one left to idetify the family objects and tell the story. In this case, they wrre very lucky – Otto came back from concentration camp alive and the neighbours were sympathetic.

My sister in law was only 15 when she was liberated from concentration camp. When she got back to the family home, she found her parents and six younger siblings had been murdered and the house and shop had been taken over by strangers. As far as I know there wasn’t as much as a family photo or book left.

 
Comment by Anonymous
2014-02-05 20:09:10

I completely agree. Her journal was a gift to all humanity. All from the mind, and more importantly heart, of a little girl who saw no difference in races. Saw all people as eat her kind and fascinating, or scary and dangerous. Anne Frank is a soul who makes me proud to have been a member of the human race.

 
Comment by anja
2014-02-12 00:17:08

I’m so tired hearing about Ann frank.

 
Comment by Tom
2014-02-12 00:41:15

Hello, I respect your thoughts regarding hearing about Anne Frank, but wonder why you would have such strong feelings as to say that. I am sure there is some reason why, and would beg you to share them with me.

Thank you kindly,

-Tom Carroll

 
Comment by Sandy
2014-02-12 06:12:24

If you are tired of hearing about AnnE Frank, why would you comment on a blog post about her?

Commenting would only make you hear more about her.

Comment by livius drusus
2014-02-13 11:24:43

My theory is it’s just your basic attempt to start a flame war.

 
 
Comment by Sandy
2014-02-13 11:50:05

Do people still do that? :P

Comment by livius drusus
2014-02-13 13:14:30

The Internet, much like Camelot, can be a silly place.

 
 
Comment by Sandy
2014-02-13 13:47:58

Indeed.

“A law was made a distant moon ago here…”

It’s too bad that there are still childish people who don’t realize that. I sometimes wonder if they are just 12-year-olds who have just discovered that Mommy doesn’t know how to track their Internet activity.

 
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