Pre-War Fountain Pens and Anne Frank

It struck me again how impossible it is to identify Anne Frank's fountain pen, yet someone may still be around from before the war, and before the annex, and remember. I wonder if Max were alive if he'd know, or perhaps James, a man who used a fountain pen.

Although serious fountain pen collectors know when, where and what pen they bought, people like me who have collected pens of all manner for "use" can barely remember how such a huge collection materialized.

And this fountain pen used by a journalist at the Nuremberg trials is the perfect example. Its owner had it stored away in a drawer, or in a box, and then after all these years, he donated it, capless to the Holocaust Museum. The arts and artefacts curator with whom I talked for ages told me that to the best of her knowledge no one had ever inquired about fountain pens.

I found that startling. And it startled me not because of the lack of inquiry but because of the other personal belongings the Museum holds. Even after all this time, 7 years to be exact, I can see the mounds of shoes in one of the galleries, and if I am not mistaken they were shoes from Vilnius, the city in which my own mother was born.

In the inquiry by FPn members, many wanted the pen to be a Montblanc, others turned their surmise elsewhere, but I ponder "what kind of pen would a Jewish grandmother send to her grand-daughter living in a strange and new country at age nine."

I wonder if it was a German pen. I also wonder if it was more obscure, a Geha, Kaweco or another school pen, the kind of pen I wish I could give my own grand-daughters.

When I saw the kugel nib, it was not just ideal curiosity that compelled me to search out more information, but Anne's words in her diary about the thickness of the nib, so thick it improved her handwriting. I imagined it was a kugel, a school pen, and than certainly German.

I tried to buy one from an online German dealer, but the price was in the end outrageous as I wanted it for sentimental reasons and not practical ones.

But my interest is so peaked I was actually thinking of either going to Amsterdam, or calling one of the two curators I knew when I lived in the Netherlands. Perhaps Beppi, an archivist when last we met at the Stedelijk, would have a better guess than other people I could call or write.

Perhaps I'll go to Amsterdam. Perhaps I'll write Beppi. Perhaps my fascination with this subject will compel me to finish my Holocaust series. I found the remnants of several of the collages I started in 2005, and in front of me each day I can look up an see "geboren."

Perhaps I am just home sick for canals, herring, brodtjes and vrienden.

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