Lessons From the Secret Annex
Friends of the Library work to bring story of Anne Frank to Madison
By Kathryn schiliro
Anne Frank photo special,
Photo Illustration by Katie Davis
Her story is one of history, secrecy and childhood. It takes place behind a bookcase in an office building in Amsterdam and ends in the Nazi German concentration camp Bergen-Belsen.
This is the story of Anne Frank, and it is the goal of Morgan County's Friends of the Library to bring her story, and the lessons learned from it, to local residents.
While bringing Anne Frank to Morgan County would require bridging the gaps of place and time, the Friends of the Library have come across a traveling exhibit, “Anne Frank: A History for Today,” that would do just that. Moreover, the exhibit comes at the recommendation of one of Morgan County's state legislators, Representative Bob Smith.
Smith, who has had the very same exhibit visit his district twice before – in Athens and Watkinsville – and mentioned it to Morgan County Library manager Miriam Baker at an event last year.
“Representative Bob Smith was here when Steve Schaefer retired,” Baker said. “He mentioned it then and said he would love for us to get it.”
With that recommendation, Baker made it her task to learn more about the exhibit.
According to literature provided by Baker, the exhibit “chronicles the Holocaust through the eyes of Anne Frank. The goals of the exhibit are to inform the viewer about the history of the Holocaust from the perspective of Anne Frank and her family and to teach the viewer that differences between people exist in all societies. Special attention is paid to attitudes and ideologies that can lead to acts of discrimination and persecution. The exhibit will challenge the viewer to think about fundamental social values such as tolerance, mutual respect, human rights and democracy, as well as to educate the viewer about our individual and collective responsibilities to understand and respect diversity in our society.”
“Anne Frank: A History for Today” features 34 large panels that include pictures and text explaining the history behind Anne Frank and the Holocaust; “The Anne Frank Secret Hiding Place,” a three-dimensional representation of the Secret Annex, where Frank and her family hid from the Nazis for roughly eight years, from 1934 until their discovery in 1942; the “Witness to the Holocaust: WWII Veteran William A. Scott III” exhibit, which recounts the liberation of Buchenwald through the eyes, or lens, of photojournalist William A. Scott III, who was also a member of a segregated, all black Army unit; and a 28-minute film, “The Short Life of Anne Frank,” which includes parts of her diary combined with archival footage and the sole existing footage of Frank herself.
In addition to all of this, a Holocaust survivor or the child of a Holocaust survivor speaks at the opening reception each time this exhibit is unveiled in a community.
“For the students in this community, and for this community to come and hear it from a survivor of the Holocaust or the child of a Holocaust survivor is pretty phenomenal,” Baker said.
Not only is the exhibit a study in history, it's also a study in character education.
Sylvia Wygoda is the executive director of the Georgia Commission on the Holocaust, a member of the advisory board to New York-based Anne Frank Center USA (which is affiliated with the Anne Frank House) and the daughter of a Holocaust survivor. According to her, the whole point of the traveling exhibit is to take the lessons learned from Anne Frank’s story to small communities.
“We want them to travel,” Wygoda said. “We want to go and do outreach projects…It’s learning about discrimination, diversity, getting along. We use the Holocaust to demonstrate these character traits.”
And, because character education is part of schools’ curriculum, many Morgan County students, as well as students from all over the area, provided they are of age for the content, would be able to get involved.
Baker learned last week that the exhibit, currently on display in Texas, could be made available for the Morgan County Library from Friday, April 10 through Friday, May 1. The only barrier to obtaining the exhibit would be coming up with the $3,500 is takes to be able to host it.
To that end, the non-profit organization affiliated with the library, the Morgan County Friends of the Library, are accepting donations from the community in an effort to fund “Anne Frank: A History for Today.” And, because the organization has just obtained its 501(c)3 status, any donations made would be tax deductible.
“It’s a really big deal if we get this,” Baker said.
Those who wish to contribute should make checks payable to Morgan County Friends of the Library, and should deliver or mail checks to the Morgan County Library, 1131 East Avenue, Madison, GA 30650.
Any contributions over the needed $3,500 will go to purchase Holocaust-related books, DVDs and audiobooks.
Should the Friends of the Library come up with the necessary funds, the exhibit will open to the public, at no charge, on Friday, April 10 and close on Friday, May 1.
Have more questions about the exhibit, or how the library is funding it? Contact Baker at 706.342.1206 or email@example.com.
Printed in the March 19, 2009 Edition.