A statement on the war in Ukraine
by Tim Robertson, Chief Executive, The Anne Frank Trust UK

“I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.”

This famous declaration from Anne Frank’s Diary entry of 15 July 1944 might seem too
idealistic to relate to the conflict in Ukraine. But it was itself written in a time of terrible
oppression and war, and Frank, who saw clearly the likelihood of her own death at the
hands of the Nazis, is far from naïve. Grounded in the realism of “in spite of everything”,
her faith in humanity remains the fundamental guide to everything we do at the Anne
Frank Trust UK – both in our work to educate young people about prejudice, and in our
understanding of world events that impact on our work.

We condemn President Putin’s invasion of Ukraine because his armed forces are
trampling on the goodness and truth of a free and independent people. His pretence that
this is a process of “de-Nazification” is deeply insulting to a nation that so courageously
resisted the Nazis in World War Two, and which has a large Jewish population and a
democratically elected Jewish president.

We have been distressed to learn that the Russian army has severely damaged Ukraine’s
monument to the Babyn Yar massacre, one of the Nazis’ worst antisemitic atrocities. We
are even more concerned about the casualties of the current war, especially the death
and suffering of so many children and young people.

We never forget that, had Britain and other democratic countries offered more refuge to
victims of the Nazis in the 1930s and 40s, Anne Frank might still be alive. We call on our
Government and every Government to provide safe passage and asylum for refugees
from all wars and tyranny, including from the Ukraine.

At the same time, we remember the lessons we teach in schools in the UK about the
dangers of stereotyping. Some Russians are oppressors, but many are actively opposing
the war. Some Ukrainians and officials in neighbouring counties are failing to uphold the
principle of equality under the law, and we are dismayed to learn that people of colour
fleeing Ukraine have faced outright discrimination when trying to cross borders.
Nor are we irreproachable here in the UK, where much of our media coverage has been
marred by a racist “shock” that such an invasion could happen to “Europeans like us”, as
if all British and Ukrainian people were white, and as if people of colour in other war
zones were less worthy of our care.

We are fearful of a spike in hate crime towards Russian people in Britain – and people
who are perceived to be Russian. And we have a particular concern about the effects of
the war on the young people we work with in schools across the UK – young people
whose education, mental health and apparent life chances have already been
jeopardised by the pandemic, and whose youth media are now scaring them with the
prospect of being wiped out in nuclear war.

Here at the Anne Frank Trust, our hope above all is that Mr Putin and his oligarchs will
find in their hearts the true goodness that Anne Frank identifies – the goodness that is
the essential basis for liberty and peace.

In the meanwhile, we will continue to empower young people across Britain to call out
hatred and speak up for equality. In the uncertainty and complexity of the present crisis,
the young generation is our surest hope for a world where differences can be negotiated
from an unshakable commitment to our common humanity.
As Anne Frank wrote on 6 July 1944:

“We are all searching for happiness; we are all leading lives that are different and yet the