Dallas Holocaust Museum’s event open through May 31
By Ben Tinsley
DALLAS — Anne Frank spent nearly two years hiding from the Nazis in a secret annex in Amsterdam. All the while, she wrote in a special diary about her experiences, her dreams, and her fears.
The “Anne Frank — A History for Today” exhibit running through May 31 at the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education & Tolerance examines the world events that shaped the life of this young girl, who is one of the most discussed Jewish victims of the Holocaust.
“People became so captivated with Anne Frank as a symbol for children and not a lot of people look beyond her diary,” explained Dr. Charlotte Decoster, the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance’s assistant director of education. “ … Many don’t know she died during the Holocaust, that she was sent to Auschwitz.”
Anne Frank’s memoir, The Diary of a Young Girl, documents her life in hiding for 25 months during the German occupation of the Netherlands in World War II.
After the Bible, the Anne Frank memoir is one of the planet’s most widely known books. It is the basis for several plays and films and has been translated into 67 languages — with more than 30 million copies sold.
The exhibit at the Holocaust Museum, 211 North Record St., is presented in collaboration with the Anne Frank Center USA.
Dr. Decoster, a native of Belgium, is a Holocaust scholar often referred to by colleagues as a “walking encyclopedia on all things Anne Frank and child rescue.”
Her insight stems largely from the fact her grandfather worked as a doctor helping victims in the concentration camp where Anne Frank and her sister, Margot, are believed to have died of typhus.
Anne Frank and her family moved from Germany to Amsterdam in the early 1930s when the Nazis gained control over Germany. But the German occupation of the Netherlands trapped them in Amsterdam by May 1940.
When the persecutions of the Jewish population started to increase in July 1942, the Franks went into hiding in concealed rooms behind a bookcase in the building where Anne’s father worked.
They were betrayed and transported to concentration camps in August 1944.
Anne Frank and her sister, Margot, were eventually transferred to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where they died in February or March 1945 — just weeks before the camp was liberated in April.
“People don’t realize how close she (Anne Frank) came to being liberated,” Dr. Decoster said. “If she had survived we could have learned from her in person but that is the ‘What if’ question.”
One of the interesting aspects of the exhibit for those who attend is the museum’s reconstruction of the movable bookcase that concealed the door to the secret annex where Anne Frank and her family hid alongside the van Pels family and Fritz Pfeffer.
“They can walk into our annex and learn about the annex in Amsterdam where the family hid,” Dr. Decoster said.
Anne Frank’s father, Otto, gave her the diary for which she would become so well-known.
But he did so in large part as a way to help her find a way to stay quiet while in hiding, Dr. Decoster said.
“She had a very bubbly personality and he would have to keep her quiet for months and years,” she said. “He had a find a way to help her express herself while in hiding.”
After his daughter’s death, Otto Frank prepared the first version of her diary for publication. Certain passages were removed — particularly those in which Anne Frank is critical of her parents as well as areas that discussed her growing sexuality. Also, pseudonyms were added to protect the identities of those in the attic with Anne Frank.
The exhibit — in Spanish and English — is sponsored by Clampitt Paper, Dallas Tourism Public Improvement District, Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs, and The Catholic Foundation.