Anne Frank House ren­o­vated to tell story to new gen­er­a­tion

The Progress-Index - - AMUSEMENTS - By Mike Corder

AM­S­TER­DAM — The mu­seum built around a se­cret an­nex in a canal­side house where Anne Frank hid from Nazis dur­ing World War II has been ren­o­vated to bet­ter tell the teenage Jewish di­arist’s tragic story to a new gen­er­a­tion of vis­i­tors who may know lit­tle about the hor­rors of the Holo­caust.

Mu­seum ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Ronald Leopold said Wed­nes­day the aim is to “pro­vide more in­for­ma­tion about the his­tor­i­cal con­text and back­ground of the story we rep­re­sent, which is the story of Anne Frank.”

What has re­mained the same is the mu­seum’s mov­ing cen­ter­piece: the Spar­tan se­cret an­nex where Anne wrote her world-fa­mous di­ary.

Anne, her sis­ter and their par­ents hid in the an­nex with four other Jews from July 1942 un­til they were ar­rested in Au­gust 1944 and de­ported to con­cen­tra­tion camps. Only her fa­ther, Otto Frank, sur­vived.

“Of course we did not change the hid­ing place it­self — the an­nex — which is the most au­then­tic place where Anne Frank was in hid­ing and where she wrote the di­ary,” Leopold said.

In a ma­jor over­haul span­ning two years, the mu­seum got a new en­trance and changes to rooms in­clud­ing the dark­ened space that dis­plays the iconic books that made up Anne’s di­ary.

The mu­seum also has re­vamped the way it tells the story of the Frank fam­ily, and by ex­ten­sion the Nazi per­se­cu­tion of Jews.

“What we tried to do is ... use the fam­ily his­tory as kind of a win­dow onto a larger his­tory,” said Tom Brink, the mu­seum’s head of pub­li­ca­tions and pre­sen­ta­tions.

That larger his­tory in­cludes the Nazi-oc­cu­pied Dutch cap­i­tal dur­ing the war “and, of course, Euro­pean his­tory be­cause all Europe was af­fected by the Nazi rule,” Brink said.

As well as the phys­i­cal changes, the mu­seum now has an au­dio tour which pieces to­gether frag­ments from the di­ary, fam­ily sto­ries and his­tor­i­cal per­spec­tive. That al­lowed cu­ra­tors to keep phys­i­cal ex­hibits sparse while still ex­plain­ing the Franks’ story and putting it in his­tor­i­cal con­text.

“We wanted to pre­serve the char­ac­ter of the house, which is very much its empti­ness,” said Leopold. “I think its empti­ness is prob­a­bly the most pow­er­ful fea­ture of the Anne Frank House.”

For ex­am­ple, a room that served as the of­fice for Anne’s fa­ther’s com­pany used to con­tain of­fice fur­nish­ings. Now it is vir­tu­ally empty with just a few pho­tos on the wall. One shows a group of Jewish men in Am­s­ter­dam kneel­ing, their hands on their heads, watched over by a Nazi sol­dier car­ry­ing a ri­fle.

On another wall is a map drawn up by Am­s­ter­dam civil ser­vants for the city’s Nazi oc­cu­piers with black dots rep­re­sent­ing the places where Jews lived.

The mu­seum re­mained open through­out the ren­o­va­tions. Dutch King Willem-Alexan­der will for­mally open the re­fur­bished land­mark on Thurs­day.

Af­ter the war, Otto Frank had his daugh­ter’s di­ary pub­lished, and it went on to be­come a sym­bol of hope and re­silience that has been trans­lated into more than 70 lan­guages. The build­ing hous­ing the se­cret an­nex was turned into a mu­seum in 1960.

Telling Anne’s story re­mains rel­e­vant more than 60 years af­ter Anne and her sis­ter both per­ished in the Ber­genBelsen con­cen­tra­tion camp af­ter con­tract­ing ty­phus.

Ear­lier Wed­nes­day, the head of the Euro­pean Jewish Congress, Moshe Kan­tor, warned at a con­fer­ence in Vi­enna that “Jewish com­mu­ni­ties in Europe are in­creas­ingly con­cerned about their se­cu­rity and pes­simistic about their fu­ture.”

Leopold said the mu­seum, which re­ceives 1.2 mil­lion vis­i­tors an­nu­ally, has an im­por­tant role to play in com­bat­ting anti-Semitism.

“We run a mu­seum and we know how pow­er­ful the in­flu­ence of this mu­seum is,” he said. “A visit ... re­ally has a huge im­pact on young peo­ple and en­cour­ages them to fight dis­crim­i­na­tion, anti-Semitism, racism in their own com­mu­ni­ties.”


Jour­nal­ists take im­ages of the ren­o­vated Anne Frank House Mu­seum on Nov. 21 in Am­s­ter­dam, Nether­lands. The mu­seum, built around the se­cret an­nex hid­den in an Am­s­ter­dam canal-side house where teenage Jewish di­arist Anne Frank hid from Nazi oc­cu­piers dur­ing World War II, is ex­pand­ing to bet­ter tell Anne’s tragic story to the grow­ing num­ber of vis­i­tors.

Ex­te­rior view of the ren­o­vated Anne Frank House Mu­seum, left, on Nov. 21 in Am­s­ter­dam, Nether­lands.

A mu­seum em­ployee emerges from the se­cret an­nex at the ren­o­vated Anne Frank House Mu­seum on Nov. 21 in Am­s­ter­dam, Nether­lands.

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