Anne Frank in the World: 1929-1945
The "Anne Frank in the World: 19291945" exhibition begins with Anne Frank's birth in Frankfurt, Germany, on June 12, 1929. Anne Frank was born in the waning years of the democratic Weimar Republic. Unemployment, inflation, labor unrest and rising violence were all associated in the popular mind with the inability and inefficiency of the Weimar politicians. The Nazi Party was among those benefiting from the unsettled political and economic times. Its program promised to restore honor and greatness to Germany. To accomplish these goals, they advocated a Germany free of Jews, and other groups who endangered the destiny of the Third Reich.
"Anne Frank in the World: 19291945" examines the Nazis' rise to power and the growth of fascism in Germany. Many aspects are covered in the exhibit: race and population policy, the judicial system, the labor situation, the Hitler Youth, and the power of government propaganda. The increasing persecution of political opponents and Jews is described in panels discussing the anti-Jewish boycott and "Kristallnacht."
By 1933 the Frank family decided to move to Amsterdam, the Netherlands, which had a history of political and religious tolerance. Once in Amsterdam, Anne and Margot attended school, played with friends in their neighborhood, and Otto Frank established a new business. But the Nazis already had plans to expand the Third Reich throughout Europe. The Franks' safe haven quickly disappeared.
In May 1940, Nazi forces turned westward and invaded the Netherlands, Belgium, and France. Dutch Jews were forced to wear the yellow Star of David, and their actions were severely restricted. With the increasing threat of deportation, the Frank family went into hiding on July 6, 1942. For over two years, Anne Frank, her family, and four others shared the small annex above her father's business. During this time Anne recorded her thoughts, feelings, and the horror going on around her in her diary.
While Anne Frank and her family were hiding in Amsterdam, the Nazis were implementing what they called "The Final Solution," their plan to exterminate every European Jew. On August 4, 1944, the Nazis raided the Franks' hiding place, deporting all the annex residents to Westerbork, and then Auschwitz. Anne and Margot Frank were later sent to Bergen-Belsen, where they died of typhus in March 1945. Of the eight people hiding in the annex, only Otto Frank survived.
AFTER THE WAR
The exhibition portrays the end of World War II, the liberation of the camps, and the subsequent post-war Nuremburg Trials. The immediate political aftershocks of the war, such as the division of Europe, and contemporary topics, such as neo-Nazis, are also examined.
"Anne Frank in the World: 19291945" touches on four basic educational themes:
DISCRIMINATION IS CRUEL AND IRRATIONAL
The exhibition illustrates that Anne Frank and her family, like the other victims of the Holocaust, were ordinary people. Hitler and the Nazi party blamed Jews for many of Germany's problems, turning them into scapegoats. Anne Frank's story is an example of the horrendous consequences of anti-Semitism and discrimination.
ORDINARY PEOPLE DISCRIMINATE AGAINST OTHERS
Hitler achieved power through democratic means and popular support. Playing on feelings of anti-Semitism, nationalism, and racism, the Nazis found a wide base of support in Germany. Millions of people began to believe in the Nazi idea that Aryans were the "master race." This belief allowed the Nazis to target Jews for extinction. It also contributed to persecution against many others, including the handicapped, the Gypsies, homosexuals, and Jehovah Witnesses.
DISCRIMINATION IS A MATTER OF PERSONAL CHOICE
Through examples of help and resistance during the war, the exhibition shows that participating in discrimination is an individual choice. Deciding to discriminate is not based on one's race, ethnicity, or religion. Instead, one's belief in human rights is a personal choice.
Racism, anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination, based on stereotypes, continue to be prevalent today. Stereotyping is common because it is a convenient, easy way to explain pressing social problems. But stereotyping is extremely dangerous because it dehumanizes people.
Choosing to believe in equality and human rights, rather than in racism and discrimination, is instrumental to creating a just world. As the exhibition demonstrates, the lack of such convictions played a powerful role in the Holocaust.
Copyright Anne Frank Center USA. Reprinted with permission.