“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.”
Stroum Center for Jewish Studies, University of Washington
March 28, 2016 | By Katja Schatte |
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Seattle’s recently inaugurated Holocaust Center for Humanity (HCH) demonstrates that teaching a bigger lesson does not have to come at the expense of representing a particular history. With its focus on the stories of local survivors, the center not only bridges the gap between the particular and the universal, it also demonstrates that the respect for, not the erasure of, particularity lies at the root of solidarity.
The Holocaust Center for Humanity’s own history is just as important as the history it represents. It leaves no doubt about how central the role of Holocaust memory and the fight against antisemitism are to its mission. Twenty-six years ago, a group of local survivors founded the center’s precursor, the Speakers’ Bureau, to tell their stories at local schools and universities in response to spreading Holocaust denial. Until this day, the Speakers’ Bureau and the recording of oral histories are vital parts of the Holocaust Center’s work.
However, in the face of diminishing numbers of survivors, the Center has come up with new ways to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive. But instead of giving in to what Professor Walter Reich calls “the itch to universalize,” the HCH continues to focus on the stories of Jewish survivors throughout its recently inaugurated exhibit. And instead of forcing the exhibit to choose between teaching about Jewish suffering during the Holocaust and teaching bigger lessons, the survivors’ stories accomplish both at the same time.
As Dee Simon, the Center’s Executive Director, summarizes it: “We learned that students learn best from stories. People learn best from stories. And the richest thing we have is the stories of survivors. That is what makes our museum unique: Holocaust stories from people who survived and came to live here.” As a result, the artifacts on display in the museum are also always “a symbol of someone’s story.”
The Center’s commitment to both preserving these artifacts and making them accessible becomes apparent in its cutting-edge archival infrastructure. After two major institutions, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) in Washington D.C. and the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, Seattle’s HCH is only the third institution in the United States to meet the strict preservation standards of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Collection in Oświęcim, Poland and thus has obtained artifacts from that collection.
Just as important as the preservation and display of the artifacts is the content of the stories the museum tells with them. As Dee Simon explains, specific curatorial decisions ensure that human experiences of the Holocaust, rather than sanitized historical timelines, structure visitors’ experiences of the exhibit. With the exception of a few images from the USHMM, all objects in the HCH exhibit tell the stories of local survivors. Rather than presenting history from the perspective of informed hindsight, the exhibit guides visitors through the lived experiences of identification, exclusion, the turning point of Kristallnacht, flight and rescue, and the mass murder of European Jews in the ghettos and concentration and extermination camps across Europe. Survival, too, is presented as part of the narrative. Ultimately, the exhibit succeeds in answering the oft-asked question “But why did no one see it coming?” by helping visitors understand how members of the European Jewish community experienced history as it was happening. READ MORE
By Jennifer Wing. LISTEN
An exhibit about the life of Anne Frank is currently on view at the Holocaust Center for Humanity in Seattle. It’s called, "Anne Frank: A History For Today." When it closes at the end of May, two strong connections to Anne Frank will remain in Seattle.
If you go to the exhibit, you will see large panels, about seven feet tall, lining the walls.They are split in half. The top has photos and text that chronicle the rise of Adolf Hitler, the Nazi Party and the horrors of the Holocaust. The lower half of the panels is all about Anne Frank and her family.
The Frank timeline begins with joyful pictures of weddings, the smiling faces of a young Anne and her sister Margot — happy times. Ilana Cone Kennedy is the center’s education director.
“I like that, because I feel like you kind of need to see where people are before the Holocaust starts in order to understand how their lives change once the world started changing,” said Cone Kennedy.
The exhibit shows how Otto Frank, Anne’s father, made the shrewd decision to leave Germany right away and move to the Netherlands.
“And so the Netherlands didn't come into the war until many years later and so the juxtaposition of the Holocaust history and what’s going on in the Netherlands is really interesting because you see pictures of Anne and Margot on the beach while other people are being deported in other countries.” READ MORE | LISTEN
The Holocaust Center's Director of Education, Ilana Cone Kennedy, speaks with Margaret Larsen from King 5 New Day Northwest about the Holocaust Center's exhibit on Anne Frank and the planting of the Anne Frank tree sapling in Seattle.
Click here to see the article and video on the New Day Northwest website.
“I know!” I said. “To think such a good writer only had the chance to write this book, and to die like that.”
“Exactly,” she replied.
This weekend I plan on taking both of my daughters to see the traveling exhibit Anne Frank: A History for Today at the Henry and Sandra Friedman Holocaust Center for Humanity in downtown Seattle. On display through May 18, 2016, this exhibit presents a history of the Holocaust through Anne’s life story. (It was developed by the Anne Frank House and is sponsored in North America by The Anne Frank Center USA.
“Even if you know her story, it personalizes her and gives the situational context as she was writing her diary,” says Ilana Cone Kennedy, the center’s director of education.
Frank's story is told timeline style. Each panel is split in half: the top tells Holocaust history while the bottom shows what was happening with the Frank family at that same time.
This is just a fabulous exhibit. I have to tell you, we had so many people come through on our first day,” says Kennedy. “Anne Frank is a universal human figure of this very terrible time period who suffered for no good reason. We’ve made her larger than life, but really she’s just a regular kid, a 13-year-old girl who’s thoughtful and a little annoying and she doesn’t like her mom.”
Although the museum's core exhibit is not displayed while the Anne Frank exhibit is up (read a review here), some artifacts from local survivors are still on display. While the center officially recommends the Anne Frank exhibit for fifth graders and up, Kennedy has seen parents show certain pieces of the exhibit to second and third graders and believes parents can judge if their children are ready to learn some of this story.
“Ultimately, we are learning to respect our differences, how we need to help each other and that our own individual choices matter. We don’t live in our own bubble. We have to extend a hand to each other and speak out when we see intolerance,” says Kennedy.
When you visit, the center’s staff are on hand to give parents and children the contextual context needed to understand Holocaust history. Kennedy encourages parents to ask for resources. GO TO ARTICLE