“Anne Frank, A History for Today,” about the Dutch teenager whose diary has become a symbol of Holocaust tragedy and of hope, has special meaning for writer and college student Nicole Einbinder.
I will never forget listening to Anne Frank’s childhood friend describe the moment she threw food over the fence at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Nazi Germany.
And Anne told her friend that she was hungry.
As my group — UW students participating in a 10-day trip to Israel through Birthright Israel in the summer of 2014 — listened attentively in one of the auditoriums at Yad Vashem, the official memorial to the Holocaust in Jerusalem, the room was silent.
Goslar secretly collected food and clothes to throw to her friend in the dead of night. They met at the fence and Goslar threw the package into the air, into the unknown. On the other side, another prisoner, also desperate for food, grabbed it from the girl too weak to put up a fight.
At the age of 15, Anne Frank died of typhus in the camp, weeks before its liberation in 1945.
The pain in Goslar’s voice, decades after the Holocaust, will never leave me. The devastation, the looming question: “What if Anne had got the package?”
Posted on a wall of the “Anne Frank: A History for Today” exhibit in Seattle’s Holocaust Center for Humanity is a quote from Goslar: “It wasn’t the same Anne. She was a broken girl. It was terrible. She immediately began to cry, and she told me: ‘I don’t have any parents anymore.’ I always think, if Anne had known that her father was still alive, she might have had more strength to survive.”
On display until May 25, the traveling exhibit, developed by the Anne Frank House and sponsored by the Anne Frank Center USA, is a glimpse into the life of a girl considered to be a universal figure of the Holocaust, according to Ilana Cone Kennedy, education director at Seattle’s Holocaust Center.
“People are so connected to her because we can all relate to her in a way,” Kennedy explained. “She’s a very average teenager that we all get, and she’s totally innocent. She’s done nothing to deserve where she is, and she doesn’t survive.
“That’s the really horrible tragedy of it all,” she said.
The exhibit includes a timeline of Anne’s personal story juxtaposed with general Holocaust history, personal photographs of the family, a replica of her acclaimed diary, and a model of the attic and house where she hid for two years from the Nazis.
As I toured the exhibit on a rainy Seattle afternoon, it was difficult not to feel connected. I am Jewish; my grandfather’s cousin Mordecai Anielewicz was the leader of the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, an act of Jewish resistance against Nazi efforts to transport the residents of the ghetto to the Treblinka extermination camp in occupied Poland.
But, I am also lucky. I was born in a time and place where I can express my faith freely and proudly. Anne, a normal girl who grew up in Amsterdam, who took photos with her family and loved to ice-skate and laugh and write, was not as fortunate.
“How resilient this young girl was and how she was able to create joy in her daily life and imagine a future,” said Karen Chachkes, the center’s strategic director, as we toured the exhibition. “She believed in life.”
Chachkes said that of the more than 100,000 Jews living in Holland during the Nazi regime, only about 5,000 survived.
The exhibit’s primary purpose is to educate the community, while reminding people that we all can make a difference in the world, Kennedy said. Around 60 school groups from across the state will be touring the center over the next couple of months.
“I think there is still so much hate in the world, I think there is still so much to learn, and I think so much has happened since the Holocaust in order to try to make these things not happen again,” Kennedy said. “And yet, when I see what’s going on in the world and people murdering each other for racist, extremist ideals so senselessly, you have to wonder: How can we stop this? What can we do so that people see each other as human beings?”
The Holocaust has so many names. There is Anne and her sister Margot and Mordecai and an infinite number of people who all had stories, who all had ears and eyes and hopes and dreams. In one quote on the timeline, Anne said that her dream was to be a journalist, and later a famous writer.
As an intern at The Seattle Times, I can definitely relate.
While the exhibit embodies humanity’s worst, it also exposes another truth: Margot laughing with a group of friends, Anne staring into the camera at school, a portrait of the family in their best attire.
They were more than a statistic, more than victims of the Holocaust.
“I was really surprised at how much I didn’t know and how moved I was by the way the exhibit is presented,” Kennedy said, pausing to add, “how humanizing it is.”