By Thérèse Chapman
AFO guest writer
The voice of Anne Frank speaks to us at the Henry and Sandra Friedman Holocaust Center for Humanity in Seattle, WA seventy-one years after her death in March, 1945. Until May 25th, visitors can stop by the exhibit’s intimate setting for a guided trip back to the 1940’s, or sit down to a film on The Short Life of Anne Frank. To get the most out of the excursion, do read Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl before-hand.
What makes this exhibit successful, and what makes Frank’s story memorable, is that we vicariously experience the devastating impact of discrimination and genocide because her voice is honest and relatable. While most today cannot directly understand the Holocaust’s horrors, nor living over two years confined inside a “secret annex,” most can relate to feeling stuck, depressed, or down-heartened by life circumstances or the injustices of the world. Yet Frank’s sense of humor and yes, even words of wisdom, show us the grace in which we might hope to handle such disasters ourselves.
On July 15, 1944 after two years in the secret annex, Frank writes, “It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart” (Diary of a Young Girl). These are the words that rang through meandering from one picture to another displayed across the exhibit’s walls—quotes from Frank’s diary and pictures including those of freight cars shipping men, women, and children to concentration and death camps, seen for probably the last time alive.
The exhibit preserves the story of a girl whose voice lives and belts out over injustice and inequality. A voice who reminds us that when we “think that [we can’t] change things,” (Diary of a Young Girl), to remember that even the smallest deeds can positively impact the world today, and the world tomorrow.
In fact, First Lady Michelle Obama recently reminded us of the need to keep talking, to keep demanding, to keep fighting for equality.
While the First Lady’s context pertains to women’s rights, the idea of not allowing ourselves to become complacent applies to all rights. This means, say something next time that distant relative cracks a racist joke. Say something next time that man in the office makes a sexual remark to a woman. Say something next time a person’s sex, gender, race, age, religion becomes a “reason” for anything other than what makes them beautiful and special. Because if we don’t speak up, discrimination and prejudices become normal.
Anne Frank said something. Not knowing that her words would be a powerful first-hand account of living in hiding as a Jew during WWII, Frank still showed us the long-term impact voice has on a global audience. A 13-year old voice “that’s been translated into more than thirty languages and adapted for theater, film, and television” (Diary of a Young Girl).
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl
A Bantam Book / published by arrangements with Doubleday
Doubleday edition published 1967
Bantam edition / July 1993
Material from Anne Frank, A Portrait in Courage by Earnst Schnabel, translated by Richard and Clara Winston, which appears in the Afterword, is used by permission of Harcourt, Books, Brace & World, Inc.
© 1952 by Otto H. Frank
© 1967 by Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc.
© Coverphoto 1986 by ANNE FRANK-Fonds Basle / Cosmopress, SA, Geneva, Switzerland.
Doubleday, 1540 Broadway, New York, New York 10036.