Anne Frank history lesson gets personal for teen





While most teenagers are bragging about their cell phones, MP3 players and other gadgets, 16-year-old Courtney Van Goethem of Kewaunee [Wisconsin] is most proud of a letter she received from a 100-year-old Dutch woman.

The letter, written by Miep Gies, came in April and was in response to Van Goethem's own handwritten inquiry. Gies helped hide Anne Frank's family, as well as another family and a dentist, for two years during World War II. After the Franks were captured by the Nazis, she found 15-year-old Anne's diary and, years later, helped get it published into the renowned book, "The Diary of Anne Frank."

Last year, as a freshman at Manitowoc Roncalli High School, Van Goethem and her peers were assigned to read the book in their world cultures class. Van Goethem became immersed in Frank's writings....

When Van Goethem's teacher, Andy Berkhout, told the class that Gies still was alive and living in Amsterdam, she immediately wanted to reach out to the woman....

With Berkhout's help, Van Goethem tracked Gies down through the Dutch Embassy in Washington, D.C. She then wrote a letter asking those questions. Then she waited.

Four months later, Van Goethem was paged to come to the high school office. When she got there, a letter from Gies was waiting for her....

Gies died on Jan. 11, making Van Goethem's letter from the woman even more historically significant, Berkhout said....

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