Visitors at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center experience the story of Anne Frank juxtaposed against world events.
Anne Frank is the subject of a new traveling exhibit.
Six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust, but the new traveling exhibit at the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center focuses on telling the story of just one.
A stark display of panels in the museum basement lays out the chronology of the rise of the Third Reich and shows how it affected Anne Frank and her family. Panels feature a mix of photographs, information on events such as the collapse of Germany's economy and the rise of the Nazi party, and testimonies from the Frank family about the increasingly worsening environment for German Jews. The otherwise bare walls feature quotes from the diary Anne Frank began writing at age 13, where she shared her experiences hiding from the Nazis.
"The Diary of Anne Frank" has been translated into 60 languages and become one of the most iconic pieces of Holocaust literature, said Noreen Brand, director of education at the Illinois Holocaust Museum.
"Because it's so accessible, everybody finds something that they relate to," Brand said. "Our message is that it's up to each individual to make a difference in the world. It was the resourcefulness and creativeness of individuals that allowed them to hide that long."
As the situation worsened in Germany, the Frank family fled to Holland. But when Hitler's armies invaded, they soon faced serious discrimination and made preparations with the help of non-Jewish friends and co-workers to hide in an annex above Otto Frank's office. Kept supplied with food, clothing and books for two years, Anne, her sister and parents were eventually discovered and sent to concentration camps where all but Anne's father perished.
"I think the takeaway that people are surprised by is how normal everyone in the story is," said Hilary Stipelman, program manager for the Anne Frank Center in New York City. "The woman who saved them was just a secretary trying to do the right thing. Anne was a teenager struggling with boy issues."
Stipelman noted that because of the pressures of standardized testing, many schools no longer are able to assign and discuss as many books. As Anne Frank's diary has slipped from a curriculum staple, she said the traveling exhibit has helped introduce many students to Frank's story and allowed them to put a face to a tragedy that can seem impersonal when just told through numbers.
Beyond providing a historical education, the exhibit also pays tribute to the power of the written word. Anne Frank dreamed of being a journalist and a famous writer and disclosed her personal hopes and fears within her diary. The museum plans to run a diary-writing workshop for students in January. The exhibit's scope also goes beyond the end of the Holocaust, providing information on more modern genocides such as Bosnia and encouraging visitors to read the contemporary "Zlata's Diary," written by a young girl living in Sarajevo during the Bosnian war.
"Anne Frank: A History for Today"
Location: Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center, 9603 Woods Drive, Skokie, (847) 967-4800, ilholocaustmuseum.org
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday; 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday through Feb. 28
Prices: $8, $6 for students and seniors, $5 for children ages 5 to 12