Few things cause me to become a teary mess these days. I’ve been researching Ravensbruck Concentration Camp for over ten years now for my novel Lilac Girls and have read about the most depraved of the depraved, but a trip to Anne Frank in the World this past weekend did the job.
The permanent exhibit, which includes over 600 photographs, is located in a second floor space in a suburban Atlanta shopping center. It starts with a lovely short film, The Short Life of Anne Frank, narrated by actor Jeremy Irons, which provides an overview of WWII and Anne Frank’s story, featuring the only known live footage of Anne.
I’d visited the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam when I did a year abroad in college and it was incredibly moving, but the movie brought it all back. There is a reason a box of Kleenex is left on one of the chairs in the darkened room and I was happy to use a few before moving on to the exhibit area. The guide, John Karp, who knows so much about the lives of the Franks and is eager to answer questions, opened a secret bookcase and ushered us into the exhibit space, where I lost it completely.
A larger than life photo of Anne Frank as a sleeping infant opens the exhibit. If the numbers of photos you take of your child are an indication of how much you care, Mr. and Mrs. Frank adored Anne and her sister Margot. There are so many lovely pictures of them– at the beach, at a wedding, playing with friends.
The exhibit moves on to the rise of National Socialism and growing antisemitism in Germany where the Frank family lived before they moved to Amsterdam, hoping to escape the Nazis.
The exhibit spotlights German resistance to Nazism as well, below.
At first, life is good for the Franks in Holland. The persecution of Jews is not as widespread as it was in Germany.
But soon Nazism spreads to Holland and the increasing threat to Jews sends the Frank family into hiding.
The Franks go into hiding and live in several rooms behind Otto Frank’s factory, hidden by a secret bookcase.
While in hiding, Anne wrote in her new diary of her desire to become a famous author.
As the war progressed,Otto Frank kept track of it on his wall map of Normandy, France.
The Franks almost made it to the end of the war, but were denounced by an unnamed man and arrested. Anne, her mother and sister Margot died in concentration camps and only Otto Frank lived to make sure Anne’s diary reached the world.
The exhibit chronicles the end of the war, the liberation of the concentration camps and the celebrations, something Anne never saw.
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl becomes a bestseller around the world, giving Anne her dream of becoming a well-known author.
The exhibit ends with a reminder of injustice around the world including the famous photo below, of a woman hitting a skinhead with her handbag in Växjö, Sweden in 1985. It was taken at a provocative demonstration by ten Neo-Nazis, where they were attacked by the public and chased to the train station where they locked themselves in the bathroom and had to be rescued by police.
There is so much more to see at the exhibit, including a replica of Anne’s bedroom in hiding, below. The exhibit is well worth the trip. Even if you never discovered the world of Anne Frank as a child, it’s not too late to catch up on this fascinating, poignant story and to experience first hand what it was like to be Anne. Find out more at: http://www.annefrankexhibitsandysprings.org