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Anne Frank: Lessons in human rights and dignity

Exhibit examines lessons of the past

Anne Frank’s diary teaches today.
[Photo from “A History for Today: Anne Frank.”]


© St. Petersburg Times, published January 12, 2000

Editor's note: Welcome back to Newspaper in Education! The series on Anne Frank continues, with the next few weeks focusing on the exhibit at the Florida Holocaust Museum.

The international educational exhibit "Anne Frank: a History for Today" premiered in Vienna in 1996 and traveled throughout the world to sites in Europe, Asia, Africa, South America and Australia.

"Anne Frank: a History for Today" made its North American premiere under the auspices of the Anne Frank Center USA on Jan. 15, 1998, at Rockefeller Center in New York City. Sites in the United States range from Long Island, N.Y., to Burlington, Vt., to Pittsburgh, Pa., to Lynchburg, Va., to Boise, Idaho.

The Florida Holocaust Museum in St. Petersburg will pioneer a new approach to the exhibit sponsored by the Anne Frank Center by showing "Anne Frank: a History for Today" for an entire year, starting Saturday.

Goals of the exhibit

This year's Newspaper in Education series

Anne Frank: Lessons in human rights and dignity
Introduction, previous chapters and Web Links

There are some important themes in the exhibit:

1. The Diary of Anne Frank and story of her life and death resonate with people of different ages and backgrounds. Children and other innocent civilians continue to be targets of violence, war and conflict today. The exhibit provides a vehicle for people to view and think about the human toll of discrimination and issues of human rights.

2. The exhibit introduces people to the history of the Holocaust and World War II from the perspective of Anne Frank and her family. The photos reflect how the rise of National Socialism affected the lives of a German Jewish family, showing the enormity of the state-directed killing of Jews, gypsies, disabled people, Slavs and others.

The exhibit stresses the importance of individuals' actions: Some people chose to join the Nazi movement, to become perpetrators, others chose to be bystanders and a courageous few chose to help and/or resist Nazi tyranny.

3. Part of the dignity and importance of each individual is that each of us has his or her own story, our own history, and each of us is part of larger world history. Anne Frank's writings and other personal testimonies throughout the exhibit demonstrate how history is part of each individual's own story. Testimonies include the stories of Hans Massaquoi, a schoolboy whose parents were German and African, who lived in Nazi Germany; Hannes Weiss, a gypsy targeted by the Nazis for extermination; Janina Baumann, a survivor of the Auschwitz extermination camp; and Patricia Williams, an Australian aborigine who talks about discrimination today.

4. The exhibit encourages becoming more aware of concepts such as "scapegoat," anti-Semitism, racism and genocide as well as tolerance, human rights, democracy and conflict resolution. The exhibit is designed to enhance knowledge and challenges the viewer to look for ways to resolve differences without conflict and to learn about international human rights laws, the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

5. Finally, visitors are encouraged to learn about current events and take an active part in their community and government. The ending panels portray current discrimination and violence, and young peoples' responses to prejudice and discrimination.

How do we live with the differences that exist between individuals in our societies? The recurrent nature of prejudice (and its most virulent form, genocide) means each of us must re-educate ourselves and others.

What can we learn from the past? How can we as members of our communities, as citizens of the United States and the world, work toward unity in diversity and each individual's right to human dignity and freedom?

Next: Getting to know Anne Frank

Dr. Joyce Apsel is director of education at the Anne Frank Center USA in New York. Please address questions or comments about this series to: Floridian, Anne Frank and Human Rights, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731, or e-mail

On exhibit

“Anne Frank: A History for Today,” an international touring exhibit, opens Saturday at the Florida Holocaust Museum in St. Petersburg, 55 Fifth St. S; (727) 820-0100. The exhibit, which traces Anne Frank’s life and times through family photographs and diary passages as well as examines prejudice and violence today, is made available through the Anne Frank Center USA. Exhibit sponsors include the Eckerd Family Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. Paul W. Martin Jr., the Sembler family and the state of Florida.

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