To build a future you have to know the past.
– Otto Frank, 1967
Visiting the Anne Frank was more than visiting yet another museum. Reading Anne Frank’s diary sparked a passion for history that motivates me to study it at the university level. To see the space where she and seven others lived in hiding was both moving and unlike anything I have seen before.
A quick refresher for those not familiar with the story: Anne Frank was a young Jewish girl who went into hiding between 1942 and 1944 in the secret annex of her father’s business in Amsterdam. She is famous for the diary she kept during this period, which was published by her father after the war. Tragically, an anonymous tip led the German secret police to their hiding place, and the seven hiding there were arrested and sent to the death camps in the east. Otto Frank was the only one of the eight to survive.
The museum was laid out really well, visitors start by watching a short introductory film and making their way through the downstairs warehouse and the offices upstairs. Throughout there were quotes from Anne’s diary. Then visitors can walk up to the secret annex through the original bookshelf that hides the entrance. The rooms in the attic contained original artifacts, including the pictures Anne pasted on the walls of her bedroom for decoration. They kept the windows blacked out which really gave you a sense of what it was like to live in darkness, closed to the outside world.
After a section on the story of Otto Frank’s decision to publish, there is a room in the exhibit that has several TVs showing clips of contemporary examples of prejudice. At the end of each clip, the screen prompted visitors to select yes or no in answer to a question related to the presented issue (there were buttons you could push from where you sat). Then the results of the group was displayed on the screen. This was a really great way to challenge visitors to think about the prevalence of different kinds of prejudice in light of what they just learned from Anne Frank’s story. As Otto Frank said, “To build a future you have to know the past.”