Six degrees

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 June, 2011, 12:00am

On this day 69 years ago, a girl celebrating her 13th birthday was given the autograph book she had eagerly pointed out to her father in an Amsterdam shop window a few days earlier. The book, bound with red and white checked cloth, would become the diary of Anne Frank. Three years later, Anne (below) died in a Nazi concentration camp, never knowing how profound an effect she would have on the world. 'One voice speaks for six million - the voice not of a sage or a poet but of an ordinary little girl,' wrote Russian journalist Ilya Ehrenburg ...

Ehrenburg was no fan of things Teutonic. In his subtly titled 1942 article Kill, he warned, 'If you have not killed at least one German a day, you have wasted that day.' His work has been blamed for the orgy of murder and rape by Soviet soldiers against German civilians that followed the Berlin surrender. During his years in exile in Paris before the 1917 Russian revolution, he made friends with bohemian artists and other writers. His gravestone in Moscow is embossed with a sketch of him drawn by an old drinking buddy, Pablo Picasso ...

The Spanish artist's lesser-known works include his two plays. The Four Little Girls was considered unstageable due to dialogue such as: 'The greediest silence will fill its pitcher of fire and the broken wings of the horse that drags its guts in the ashes will open their grenades to a mirror filled with moons.' His other play, Desire Caught By the Tail, garnered attention when it was given a reading by Jean-Paul Sartre ...

Although he would later identify himself as an anarchist, Sartre's flirtation with left-wing politics saw him become the star guest at the Communist Peoples Congress for Peace in 1952. The meeting, held in Vienna, Austria, was poorly attended and the 'peace' in the title rang hollow in the face of several vitriolic diatribes, one of which claimed: 'US soldiers in Korea knifed out the eyes of Korean children and forced their mothers to eat them,' voiced by the delegate sent by Kim Il-sung ...

Having been raised Presbyterian, Kim the devout communist would turn his back on religion and, with him, so would his newly founded country. In 1992, near the end of his life, Kim may have had a change of heart, because he invited a prominent American Christian to visit and preach to him. Kim then forged a deep and mutual friendship with the evangelist Billy Graham ...

During his 'crusades', Graham preached live on stage to 215 million people in 185 countries and territories, and has achieved a lifetime audience - also through radio and television - of more than 2.2 billion. A natter last year with Barack Obama brought the number of US presidents he has spent time with to 12. In 1999, such endeavours earned him a place on Time magazine's 100 most influential people of the century list, one place in the heroes and icons section behind diarist Anne Frank.


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