13 October 2023

Anne Frank’s sculpture
in the British Library
is a reminder that
antisemitism is alive

The sculpture of Anne Frank by Doreen Kern in the British Library (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Patrick Comerford

The death toll from the Hamas assault last weekend has risen to over 1,300 people in Israel and 1,500 dead in Gaza. According to the World Jewish Congress, this is the largest number of Jewish people killed – because they are Jewish – in any one single day since the Holocaust.

Teenagers, children and infants are among the dead and the hostages in Israel, all on Simchat Torah, a day that should have been filled with rejoicing and celebrations in all Jewish communities. But the attack also came on the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War in 1973, which I am old enough to remember in detail.

It is only a short while since I visited the British Library in London to see the bronze bust of Anne Frank by the sculptor Doreen Kern. Some weeks before, I had found the Anne Frank tree in the library courtyard, planted 25 years ago on 12 June 1998 and now difficult to find.

The sculpture of Anne Frank was commissioned to commemorate the 70th anniversary of her birth on 12 June 1929. When she died in Bergen Belsen in 1945, Anne Frank was as young as many of the young people taken hostage or murdered last weekend.

Annelies Marie (‘Anne’) Frank (1929-1945) is one of the most renowned and most discussed Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Her diary has become one of the world’s most widely read books, and it has been the basis of several plays and films. Her diary documents her experiences hiding during Nazi Germany’s occupation of the Netherlands in World War II.

Anne Frank was born in Frankfurt am Main in Germany and lived most of her life in or near Amsterdam in the Netherlands. The Frank family moved from Germany to Amsterdam in 1933, the year the Nazis gained power in Germany. By early 1940, the family was trapped in Amsterdam by the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands.

Anne Frank was a German national officially until 1941, when she lost her nationality under the anti-Semitic Nuremberg Laws in Nazi Germany.

As the Nazi persecutions of the Jewish population increased in July 1942, the family went into hiding in the hidden rooms in the office building of Anne’s father, Otto Frank. They were betrayed after two years and were transported to concentration camps. Anne and her sister Margot were eventually transferred to the Bergen-Belsen, where they both died of typhus in February or March 1945.

Otto Frank, the only surviving member of the family, returned to Amsterdam after World War II to find that Anne’s diary had been saved. Her diary, which was given to Anne on her 13th birthday, chronicles her life from 12 June 1942 to 1 August 1944.

Otto Frank’s efforts led to the publication of her diary in 1947. It was translated from Dutch and first published in English in 1952 as The Diary of a Young Girl. It has since been translated into many languages.

Doreen Kern had help from Anne’s step-sister Eva Schloss and her step-mother while she was working on her bronze bust of Anne Frank. The piece was placed at the British Library on the 70th anniversary of Anne’s birth, on 12 June 1999. It was a gift of Richard and Yvonne Sherrington.

Doreen Kern (1931-2021), who lived in Edgware, was a sculptor in bronze. She acquired her technical knowledge while working at the Morris Singer Foundry, and she also studied at the Hampstead Garden Suburb Institute. She showed at Bristol Cathedral, London University, Brighton Museum and Art Gallery, Waterloo Fine Arts, and widely abroad, and also did consultancy work for the British Museum.

The inscription on the base of the sculpture reads: ‘Anne Frank, 1929-1945, Sculptor Doreen Kern’. An inscription on a nearby plaque reads: ‘Anne Frank 1929-1945, “A triumph of the spirit.” To commemorate the 70th anniversary of the birth of Anne Frank 12 June 1999. Gift of Yvonne and Richard Sherrington. Sculptor: Doreen Kern.’

There is also a life size bust of Anne Frank by Doreen Kern in the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. A second copy was made for a museum in Israel.

Doreen Kern’s sculpture of Anne Frank stood in the forecourt of the British Library in 1999 and stood there until 2003. However, it was subjected to vandalism, and when it was repaired it was moved to the lower ground area, near the cloakroom.

The crisis in Gaza demands a humanitarian and compassionate international response, that it is unquestionable.

But the cruelty and barbarity of last weekend’s attacks in Israel were cruel and barbarous beyond words. Babies were maimed and beheaded, elderly people were burned to death. People who tried to hide like Anne Frank in secure rooms were burned out of their homes. The sad irony is lost on many commentators that the residents of the kibbutz that was attacked were committed to peaceful solutions and negotations, and many were involved in working actively for peace and for Palestinian rights.

Revenge and retribution or ‘collective punishment’ have no moral underpinning, and are contrary to all principles of international law. Nor can anyone be silent in the face of the kidapping or slaughter of innocent civilians, whether they are people or cramped into a tighly-controlled and overpopulated tiny strip of land, or the young people enjoying a weekend music festival, elderly peace activists who have retired to a rural kibbutz that they thought was their idyll, or babies sleeping peacefully. We need to avoid terms like ‘innocent casulaties.’ In any conflict, all civilians are innocent. There should never be such a phrase as the ‘wrong person in the wrong place.’ All of us have a right to live in peace, without the threat of violence, hatred, racism, revenge, retribition, antisemitism or murder.

I have not been silent when it comes to the Nethanyahu government’s police and actions in Gaza. I am vocal in condemning Nethhanyu’s corruption and his efforts to destroy the democratic, judicial and legal structures of Israel. I have long been committed to and active in both Jewish-Christian and Christian-Muslim dialogue. But the events of the past week are a heart-breaking reminder, and also an alert, that antisemitism is rife and that we must always separate it from any political programme or cause.

Antisemitism is always a hate crime, it is always racist, and it can never be extended any understanding, under any pretext.

May their memories forever be a blessing, זיכרונם לברכה זיכרונן לברכה

Shabbat Shalom.

Anne Frank depicted in a mural in Berlin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Daily prayers in Ordinary Time
with USPG: (138) 13 October 2023

The Anglo-Saxon tower of Saint Michael at the North Gate is one of the distinctive landmarks in Oxford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

We are in Ordinary Time in the Church Calendar, and this week began with the Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity XVIII, 8 October 2023).

Today (13 October), the Calendar of the Church of England in Common Worship remembers Edward the Confessor, King of England, 1066.

Before the day begins, I am taking some time early this morning for prayer and reflection.

The Church recently celebrated Saint Michael and All Angels last month (29 September). So in my reflections each morning this week I am continuing the Michaelmas theme of the last two weeks in this way:

1, A reflection on a church named after Saint Michael or his depiction in Church Art;

2, the Gospel reading of the day in the Church of England lectionary;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

Saint Michael at the North Gate may be the oldest building in Oxford (Photograph Patrick Comerford)

Saint Michael at the North Gate, Oxford:

Saint Michael at the North Gate stands on Cornmarket Street, at the junction with Ship Street, on the site of the north gate of Oxford when it was surrounded by a city wall.

The church claims to be Oxford’s oldest building. It was first built ca 1000-1050, and the Anglo-Saxon tower, dating from 1040, is one of the distinctive landmarks of Oxford.

However, all other traces of the original church are long disappeared. Apart from the tower, the earliest surviving parts of the church are the chancel, the east part of the south aisle, nearest the altar, and the south door, all dating from the 13th century.

The east window in the chancel contains four panels of high quality stained glass dating from the 13th century, and this is some of the earliest stained glass in Oxford.

The Lady Chapel and the north transept, where the organ is now located, were added in the 14th century. The north aisle and the nave date from the 15th century.

The Oxford Martyrs were imprisoned in the Bocardo Prison by the church before they were burnt at the stake nearby in what is now Broad Street, then immediately outside the city walls, in 1555 and 1556. Their cell door is on display in the tower.

The pulpit in the church dates from the 15th century and John Wesley preached from it in 1726.

Saint Michael’s location in the heart of the city left it open to a constant process of demolition, rebuilding and enlargement. Some of Oxford’s leading citizens, as well as scholars and undergraduates from neighbouring colleges, are commemorated on the wall plaques and memorials in the church.

William Morris and Jane Burden were married in the church on 25 April 1859.

The architect John Plowman rebuilt the north aisle and transept in 1833. The church was substantially restored by the architect George Edmund Street in the 19th century, and again after a near disastrous fire in 1953. Since then, the largest and most ambitious project has been the restoration of the tower in 1986.

Since 1971, Saint Michael’s has been as the ceremonial City Church of Oxford, regularly attended by the Mayor and Corporation of Oxford. That title was originally held by Saint Martin’s Church at Carfax, which was demolished in 1896, and then by All Saints’ Church in the High Street, which was declared redundant in 1971 and was converted into the library of Lincoln College.

The font is from Saint Martin’s Church at Carfax and may have been seen by William Shakespeare, who stood at a baptism in Saint Martin’s as godfather to the son of an Oxford friend.

Visitors can climb the tower, passing the church’s six large bells, and from the roof there are panoramic views of the ‘Dreaming Spires’ of Oxford and beyond.

The parishes of Saint Martin’s and All Saints’ are now amalgamated with Saint Michael’s. The ‘beating the bounds’ ceremony takes place each year on Ascension Day to mark out the boundaries of the parish.

• The Revd Anthony Buckley is the Vicar of Saint Michael at the North Gate and City Rector of Oxford. Saint Michael’s Church, the Tower and the Visitor Centre are open every day, usually from 9 am to 5 pm. The Choir sings at Matins or Holy Communion on Sundays at 10:30 am.

Inside Saint Michael at the North Gate in Oxford, facing the west end (Photograph Patrick Comerford)

Luke 11: 15-26 (NRSVA):

15 But some of them said, ‘He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons.’ 16 Others, to test him, kept demanding from him a sign from heaven. 17 But he knew what they were thinking and said to them, ‘Every kingdom divided against itself becomes a desert, and house falls on house. 18 If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? —for you say that I cast out the demons by Beelzebul. 19 Now if I cast out the demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your exorcists cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 20 But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out the demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you. 21 When a strong man, fully armed, guards his castle, his property is safe. 22 But when one stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, he takes away his armour in which he trusted and divides his plunder. 23 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.’

The Lady Chapel in the north aisle of Saint Michael’s (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Today’s Prayer (Friday 13 October 2023):

Today’s Prayer:

The theme this week in ‘Pray With the World Church,’ the Prayer Diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel), is ‘After the Storm.’ This theme was introduced on Sunday.

The USPG Prayer Diary today (13 October 2023) invites us to pray in these words:

We pray for the dioceses of Zambezia, Niassa, Rio Pungwe, and Nampula may their churches be places of refuge for those in need.

The Collect:

Sovereign God,
who set your servant Edward
upon the throne of an earthly kingdom
and inspired him with zeal for the kingdom of heaven:
grant that we may so confess the faith of Christ
by word and deed,
that we may, with all your saints, inherit your eternal glory;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The Post Communion Prayer:

God our redeemer,
who inspired Edward to witness to your love
and to work for the coming of your kingdom:
may we, who in this sacrament share the bread of heaven,
be fired by your Spirit to proclaim the gospel in our daily living
and never to rest content until your kingdom come,
on earth as it is in heaven;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

The reredos in the Lady Chapel dates from the late 13th century, but the figures were added in 1938 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

Saint George in the World War I memorial window by Beatrice French (née Cameron) in the north aisle (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)