National World War II Museum hosts Anne Frank exhibit

On Jan. 20, the National World War II Museum in New Orleans will host “Anne Frank: A History for Today,” an exhibit developed by the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam and sponsored in North America by the Anne Frank Center USA.

The exhibition, which will be displayed until March 25, introduces visitors to the history of the two World Wars and the Holocaust from the perspective of Anne Frank and her family. The presentation contrasts personal photographs of the family, many never before seen, with images of historical events to show how the Franks and millions of other innocent people were victimized by the rise of National Socialism and the actions of many individuals.

Anne Frank was born in Frankfurt, Germany in 1929 and lived there with her parents Otto and Edith and her sister Margot until 1933. Concerned about the Nazi Party’s rapid rise to power and the ever-growing persecution of Jewish families and other minorities, Otto determined the family should start a new life in Amsterdam. He established a business there, and life was fairly normal for a few years.

In May, 1940, the German Army invades Holland. Jews were forced to wear yellow Stars of David on their clothing, and conscriptions for “work abroad” began – the first steps toward mass deportations and the death camps. The Frank family along with four other Jews went into hiding in “the Secret Annex” of the building occupied by Otto’s company. Miep Gies and three other employees of the company provided supplies and protected their secret.

Anne and her family remained in hiding for more than two years. When they were betrayed and arrested in 1944, they were first taken to Westerbork transit camp in the Netherlands and, from there, to the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp in Nazi-occupied Poland. Later that year, Anne and Margot were transferred to Bergen-Belsen, a concentration camp in northern Germany, where they died of typhus in March of 1945. Both still teenagers, they lived only seven months after their arrest. The following month, British soldiers liberated Bergen-Belsen. Anne and Margot had been buried in a mass grave.

During her two years in the Secret Annex, Anne’s diary was her solace. Miep Gies kept the diary and Anne’s other writings and, after the war, gave them to Otto Frank, the only survivor of the eight who had hidden in the Secret Annex. Since it was first published in 1947, Anne’s diary has become one of the most powerful memoirs of the Holocaust and one of the most widely read books in the world. It has been translated into more than 67 languages.

The exhibition encourages the visitor to learn more about scapegoating, anti-Semitism, racism, ethnic cleansing and genocide, as well as the positive lessons of tolerance, human rights, democracy and personal responsibility.

The museum is encouraging school groups to see the exhibit and explore the lessons of Anne Frank’s life. Student visits include a short introductory film, a docent-guided tour, and a post-tour discussion on contemporary issues of tolerance, to be held in the Frank Walk Student Activity Center.

On Jan. 21, the museum will host a Hidden Children panel of Jewish Holocaust survivors who were hidden during World War II, and sympathizers who helped other Jews hide. The panel will be from 1 to 2:30 p.m.

On Jan. 22, there will be a Teacher Open House at the exhibit, from 5 to 7 p.m.

Scenes from “The Diary of Anne Frank” will be performed by drama students from Lee Road Middle School, on Jan. 27 at 1 and 3 p.m., and March 3 at 1 p.m.

There will be a diary-making workshop on March 11 at 1 p.m., a Lunchbox Lecture on March 21 at noon, and a panel on tolerance on March 25 at 1 p.m.

“Anne Frank: A History for Today” is free with Museum admission and Museum members are admitted free at all times.

The National World War II Museum was dedicated in 2000 as The National D-Day Museum and recently has been designated by Congress as the country’s official National World War II Museum. The Museum illuminates the American experience during the war era and celebrates the American spirit, the teamwork, optimism, courage and sacrifice of the men and women who won World War II.

The museum recently completed the first phase of a $300 million expansion that, when complete, will create a six-acre campus of exhibition pavilions, an advanced format 4-D theater, USO venue, and a research and conference center in downtown New Orleans.