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Decades on, a Murdered Teenager Still Has a Lot to Teach Us

12/06/2014 15:43 BST | Updated 11/08/2014 10:59 BST

Had she lived into adulthood, and then into old age, on the 12th of June, Holocaust victim Anne Frank would have turned 85. She will forever be a feisty, dark haired and bright eyed teenager, whose ambitions and life were cut short by the brutal racial hatred of the Nazis. It is an opportune moment to speculate on what Anne Frank's life could have been in the post war years, and what could have become of her much loved diary.

Maybe she would have become a professional writer as she speculated on so poignantly. The publication a few years ago of a wealth of expressive and eloquent Frank family letters going back over a century to mid 19th century Frankfurt shows writing was coursing through Anne Frank's genes. She may have decided to seek out a publisher for her diary herself, but as a survivor not a victim she may have found even more resistance to it from publishers than her father did in the immediate post war years.

As a Dutch speaker and writer, she may have decided to remain in Amsterdam after her tortuous return from Bergen-Belsen, or could have taken a ship 'across the pond' and become a US citizen like so many Holocaust survivors who chose to leave behind the bitter memories of Europe. American writers Philip Roth and Shalom Auslander have imagined this outcome, and a new play in Amsterdam, Anne, starts with the premise of a surviving Anne sitting in a Paris café talking about her book.

Or like those who filled the ships across the Mediterranean, would Anne have gone to Palestine and become a Hebrew speaker? Anne wrote that her older sister Margot wanted to be a nurse in Palestine after the war - so maybe Anne would have joined her sister in Haifa or Tel Aviv.

Imagine the diary with Anne having written her own foreword or afterword. The body of the book would have remained essentially the same, although I am sure there would have been further editing by Anne, but would world leaders such as John Kennedy, Bill Clinton, Vaclav Havel and Nelson Mandela have been so inspired by a teenage girl? Would theatre and film directors from around the world have clamoured to interpret her story?

All we know is that this can only ever be speculation. Just as much speculation as those who have put words into Anne's mouth, or imbued her with the power to forgive her persecutors, or chosen to associate her writing with just one line, taken out of context of the long extract it features in: "In spite of everything I still believe people are truly good at heart".

But there is hope in Anne's terrible story. Here in the UK, 40,000 young people a year learn about and are inspired by Anne Frank's writing to try to make a better world. We take Anne's story to some of the most economically deprived and communally divisive areas in the UK, both multi and monocultural. Anne Frank and identifying with her by teenagers is helping to break down ignorance and suspicion about "the other", whatever that "other" is.

A recent externally conducted impact assessment on the before and after Holocaust knowledge of our young beneficiaries and the impact of Anne Frank programmes on respect for each other, are giving us some hugely encouraging statistics.

In an increasingly divisive world, and at a time when Europe is alarmingly turning to nationalism and extremist politicians, this tragic teenager, who died nearly 70 years ago and who never got to live out the life she planned, can do more than many politicians to demonstrate how we should live together as members of one human race.