The Dutch Canadian Club Edmonton installed a statue of Anne Frank at an Old Strathcona park on Sunday, in part to thank the Canadian military for its role in freeing the Netherlands from Nazi occupation during the Second World War.
The bronze statue of the world-famous diary-writer now stands atop a marble plinth at Light Horse Park off 86 Avenue and Calgary Trail. It was made with the same cast that Dutch sculptor Pieter d’Hont used to create an Anne Frank statue in 1960 for the Netherlands city of Utrecht.
Club president Frank Stolk grew up in the Netherlands after the war and heard stories about the Canadian army.
“That is a gratitude that is forever ingrained in our hearts,” he said in an interview Saturday. “The Dutch schoolchildren still maintain the graveyard of the Canadians in the Netherlands … they put flowers there, they burn little candles on the anniversary date.”
Besides honouring the Canadians’ sacrifice, Stolk said the club chose to commission a statue of Anne Frank because she represents the good in people.
“The undertone of her writing was that she always believed that humanity would prevail and be stronger than evil,” he said.
“Especially in today’s atmosphere … and the antisemitism, and the gloom all over the world, with Trumpism in America, we hope this will give everybody an opportunity to say, ‘No, we should fight for our freedom, we should fight for democracies everywhere we can.’ ”
Stolk said he hopes when people see it they reflect on what freedom truly means. In Frank’s case, the Jewish girl’s diary survived but she did not, dying in a Nazi concentration camp after her family’s hiding spot was discovered by the Gestapo.
“In all wars (even now) … people are in hiding and being massacred and slaughtered and tortured, so we should not worry that we could not go to a bar for a year-and-a-half. People should reflect on how good our life is in Canada,” he said.
“We have to be vigilant that our democracy is always at risk.”
The statue has a barcode people can scan with their phones and read about Anne Frank. The plaque also has information in English, Dutch and French.
It was unveiled during a ceremony Sunday afternoon that included music and poetry, and presentations from Dutch and Jewish organizations, military and city and provincial officials.
The event was initially planned for last year to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation, but was delayed because of the pandemic.