Anne Frank exhibit holds tale for future

We are still reliving the Holocaust. What’s going on in Israel, and in France today, keeps reminding us.
There is probably no more poignant reminder than the Anne Frank story, and the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance reminds us once again with its new exhibit. Anne Frank: A History for Today has just opened, and will continue through May.
Millions of Jews suffered during the years before, during, and after the Holocaust. Six million died, a million of them children. Anne Frank continues to provide her face and her words as reminders. Because she was so young at the start of her ordeal, and morphed into a remarkably mature teenager during it, she is a bridge to our understanding of what happened to so many of all ages. Varied exhibits honoring her memory can be found virtually everywhere.
In 2013, the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles opened a huge, permanent exhibition — 9,000 square feet, at a cost of $4 million. When you’re in the city, for a $15.50 admission fee, you’ll encounter an array of “films, touch screens, reproductions and artifacts,” according to Edward Rothstein, who reviewed it at its start for a headlined article in The New York Times’ Oct. 14 art section that year.
The critic applauded this exhibit for doing more than just repeating the heartbreaking story that we all know — or should know — already: it sets Anne firmly into a different context, that of actual history, by showing a copy of a letter that Otto Frank, her father, sent in April 1941 — well before the Franks finally went into hiding — to his American friend Nathan Straus, Jr., an heir to the Macy fortune, looking for help in getting U.S. visas for his family. “I would not ask if conditions here would not force me to do all I can in time to be able to avoid worse,” he wrote. “It is for the sake of the children.” However, his plea was defeated by State Department restrictions. Anne’s diary moves us sentimentally, but it does not provide us with history like this.
That’s why, as we again honor and learn from Anne Frank in our new local exhibit, we must visit the Holocaust Center’s other exhibits at the same time, to remind us of the searing, nonsentimental history of which that one young girl has become a symbol. And we must also look at France, and realize — in advance of whatever more might happen there tomorrow — that today we are witnessing sad new Jewish history as it’s currently being written.
Remember Denmark’s King Christian X, who wore the Yellow Star to show his solidarity with Jews forced by the Nazis to display this cruel badge of identity? When the chief rabbi of Marseilles recently advised his city’s Jews to stop wearing kippot because they might provoke anti-Semitic attacks, social media rose up in disagreement, urging everyone — not just Jews — to do the opposite; in one day, the world woke up, and for one day, heads were covered around the globe.
This is a touching tale of support, but history will remember it, if at all, only as a gesture. The reality is that thousands of Jews are leaving France for Israel. Their home country’s prime minister is pleading for them to stay, but to no avail; they are choosing the many present insecurities of our ancestral homeland in preference to what is happening in the land that has been their home for many, many years.
Remember: Our local Holocaust Museum is also our Center for Education and Tolerance, so it will offer many educational, tolerance-encouraging activities for children, families and adults during the remaining four months of its new Anne Frank exhibit. Please attend. But when you do, please view it not just as a sentimental sad story from our Jewish past, because it is a prescient piece of history.

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