Memories 06 – Six and a Half Guilders per Jew

One of my old memories I can’t seem to shake is of a movie I saw in history class in junior high. Although calling it a “movie” is a stretch, as is using the term “history”. It wasn’t so much a movie as it was a serialized fictional historical docuseries based on Anne Frank’s final days in hiding. And the class wasn’t history per se, as lower American education doesn’t like to present historical facts nearly as much as providing an Americanized historical narrative, i.e. “Social Studies”. And I think this memory resurfaced because for one, it was an unsolved problem that my mind had filed away for future rumination; and two, that the current Israeli-Hamas conflict rekindled my ire for the aforementioned narrative.

The narrative goes something like this: the Jews, long an unfairly hated and persecuted people, became the ultimate victims of Nazi Germany’s “final solution”, wherein they were systematically murdered. America, either ignorant or unbelieving of the genocide, forced the world with Britain’s help to face the truth. Nazi leaders were tried for war crimes at Nuremberg and executed, and the Jews were granted their own nation state of Israel, enforced by western powers.

To question this narrative is to risk accusations of antisemitism.

The problem with this story is that it ends. What’s not taught in American schools is the aftermath: Israeli militarization, persecution of the Palestinians, Israeli-backed political assassinations, Israeli cyber attacks (Stuxnet). Or their ancient history of of violence: Zealots, Sicarii.

To mention this is to risk accusations of antisemitism.

The aftermath revealed more than anything that yes, the Jews are people. But they’re not an overly altruistic people. They’re just people, who now have the upper hand. And people who have the upper hand rarely compromise or forget old grievances. As an American who lived through the entirety of the 20-year Afghanistan War, I see this all too well with my own people.

Did the Americans feel bad for the Jews after World War II and use their influence to finally grant them their own safe harbor, or see an opportunity to exploit Allied sentiment and gain an unconditional friend and forward base with which to secure interests in the Middle East?

And did the Israelis in turn exploit their western backing to rekindle a grievance with old enemies? Did this increased hostility force a backlash and spark the Israeli-Hamas conflict? Some students and faculty at Harvard thought so.

And they were quickly accused of antisemitism.

I’ll leave these thoughts without my own conclusions.

Because I don’t want to be accused of antisemitism.


The movie followed the “adventure” of a neo-Nazi who for some reason visits the Holocaust museum in D.C. alone. I’m not sure who let a skinhead with swastika tattoos into such an exhibit, but whatever. Inside, the exhibitions burst into the surrealistic ether, swirling about Mr. Skinhead, which I presume is meant to indicate a religious experience, further enhanced by a Morgan Freeman-esque character who then appears to explain the error of Skinhead’s ways by sending him to live a simulation as a Jew in hiding with the Franks.

Things don’t work out for him. There’s a “surprising” personality clash and he leaves, gets arrested by the Gestapo, and betrays the Franks who then get arrested. Skinhead feels remorse, thus delivering the heavy-handed message.

The Gestapo captain then tells Skinhead that they normally pay 6.5 guilders per Jew, but where he’s going, he won’t need it; then proceeds to level a Luger at Skinhead’s skinhead before a cutaway. There doesn’t appear to be a historical consensus on who informed on the Frank family, so I guess time-travel isn’t ruled out.

So what’s 6.5 guilders worth? A brief history lesson of the German guilder reveals that its usage was discontinued late 19th century, so I figured this to be creative license. Then I remembered Anne Frank wasn’t living in Germany. She was in the Neatherlands. Turns out the Dutch were still using their own version of the guilder, which still has an active currency code of ANG. So 6.5ANG = 3.63USD. Anne Frank was arrested in 1944, so a little handy inflation calculator tells me that Anne Frank was sold out for $62.56 in today’s money, or $375.36 for the whole family of 6. A nice little sum I suppose?

Closure at last, though I can’t find any reliable account that this was the actual going rate.


And no – there isn’t a conclusion to this post. Just a rambling train of thought based on contemporary events.

–Simon

Memories 05

[A continuation of the series where I write down fragments of my life that exist in my memory as standalone instances, still vivid due to their novel or unusual nature]

School busses of my Lubbock childhood didn’t actually go into neighborhoods. Instead, they traveled between the city’s schools. So in order for me to catch the bus to my Junior High, I had to first go to the High School 2 miles away. It was an odd logistical system, especially since my sisters, due to age spacing, attended other schools, and in order to catch those busses, had to in turn go to other schools in the morning. Because the routing didn’t simply send all busses to just one nearby school. Oh no – too easy. Lubbock’s population density was pretty sprawling, too, so it wasn’t as if mom could have just driven us all to our destination schools. Instead, she drove us all to our point of pickup schools. This of course meant that every morning I was trapped in the Chevy Nova with two sisters and a mom. And since mornings always bring out the best in people, the routine wasn’t exactly enjoyable.

Now, I’m fairly certain that my mother hates all human males. As do my sisters. The verdict’s still out on how much, exactly, but they have a lengthy rap sheet of ex-husbands and ex-boyfriends, sooooo…

It’s easier to overlook youthful arguments with my sisters though, since, you know, sibling children always argue. But with mother I always felt that she was taking out her own childhood issues on me, while also trying to groom me into a…something less masculine. It’s not as if she were trying to make me a woman in the strictest sense of the word, but more like I should behave less man-like. As in, stereotypical masculine-like personality traits were tampered: confidence, competitive drive, too big an ego, etc. Traits my father exhibited regularly.

One of the ways she did this was through extreme belittlement if I ever said something unusual/incorrect or used a word wrong – then constantly bring up whatever I said so no one would ever forget and the experience could constantly be invoked to belittle me further (anyone who had a boomer mom talk extra loud to her own mother one the phone so she could be sure you could hear her would know what I’m referring to).

For example, one day I read an article on indoor farming, wherein was explained an experiment to extend the number of consecutive hours of lighting the plants were exposed to, essentially artificially changing the day/night cycle. For whatever reason, that sounded cool to me at the time, and I wanted to share what I read with mom. But I made the mistake of explaining it as: they give the plants 36 hours of light a day, to which my mother interrupted to explain there were only 24 hours in a day so that didn’t make sense. Further attempts to explain were brushed off with commentary on my intelligence, while my sisters joined in with the jeering. Every morning for months mom recounted that story during the morning drive to school.

But that memory isn’t the focus of this post, because I have a weirder one – also a morning drive belittlement attempt.

One morning my inquisitive mind asked what flour was. As in, the culinary ingredient. I was curious because it went into a lot of meals, and all I knew about it was that it made messes in the kitchen and I’d be assigned vacuuming duty. Cue the lesson on using a dictionary instead of asking mom. A normal explanation would have been something like: “It’s ground grain.” Not a completely accurate definition but close enough for a kid. I had already correctly assumed it was made from wheat (which is the most common type of American flour), but mother simply exclaimed “It’s flour!”

The remainder of the conversation went something like this:

“But what’s it made from?”

“Flour!”

“Okay, but it is made from wheat or something?”

“It’s made from flour!”

“So not ground wheat?”

“Flour!”

“So flour is a plant? Flour comes from the flour plant?”

“It’s flour!”

At this point, as per usual, my sisters starting chiming in with the belittling, chanting “It’s flour! It’s flour!” Thus ended my line of inquiry.

What a bizarre experience to have in the 7th grade. I had deduced the correct answer, but rather than simply affirming it, and by doing so validate me, mother turned the conversation into one of her belittling opportunities by denying me the confirmation. And for years after, I was under the assumption the flour was itself an agricultural crop. And my sisters, who probably didn’t either know or care, probably shared belief in that “knowledge” too.

Why would a parent dissuade their own child from the pursuit of information? Or mock the child for trying to independently learn and discuss knowledge? Or, lead the kid into accepting false information? I still think it was as simple as her hating men, and trying to discourage my own development of becoming an independently-thinking man (Down with the Patriarchy!) Whatever the rationale, the conversation still confuses me to this day.

–Simon