Doomed teen’s story brought to life at Museum of Tolerance
by Leilani Peltz, News Editor
The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance presents a different approach to portraying its new exhibition, “Anne,” and provides an interactive experience for visitors.
The exhibition previews with artifacts and replicas from kids during the course of the war and is appropriately titled “Remember the Children.” The displays contain art from Theresienstadt, a ghetto where thousands of Czech Jewish children died; religious objects, including a Children’s Passover Haggadah— an illustrated book depicting the Jewish story of the redemption from slavery in Egypt—from before the Holocaust and from ghettos and concentration camps.
Heading into the entrance, an overwhelming silence and chill seems to flood the passageway, despite the city mural reflected in the mirrors and the bright yellow on the walls. It is as though the exhibition itself is coming to life and bringing the emotions of the past to the present.
Quotes from Frank’s diary are found scattered throughout the exhibition, documenting her thoughts during the war and while in hiding—many of them her longing wishes as a young teenager.
“I haven’t had much chance to get suntanned because we are not allowed in the swimming bath. That’s a great shame, but there’s nothing I can do about it,” Frank wrote in her diary.
Downstairs, a makeshift wall that runs along the length of the exhibition is covered with clothing and represents the millions of people who died during the Holocaust. The wall of clothes begins as a mix of colors and gradually fades into grays and blues toward the end of the exhibition.
While clutching a wooden Star of David necklace that a young boy gave her, Elisabeth Mann, who has been speaking at the museum for over three decades about her experience as a Holocaust survivor, looks solemnly at the photos of Frank and her family.
Unlike many exhibitions about World War II and the Holocaust, “Anne” features touch screens for people to interact with Anne Frank’s story and submit their thoughts and feelings. A screen poses the question, “How do you feel after your experience here today?”
One of the trademark items in the exhibition is the movable bookshelf which leads into a small, round room to watch a 10-minute film documenting what life was like for the Franks and Pels and, according to the LA Times, is narrated by Oscar-nominated actress Hailee Steinfeld. The bookshelf is a replica of the entrance to the Secret Annex where Frank and her family hid during the war.
Holocaust survivors speak about their own experiences during World War II to museum visitors. The presentations are powerful and moving, whether they are heard once or multiple times. Many stay after the speeches to express their gratitude, shake hands with the survivors and take pictures with them. Bill Harvey, one of the speakers at the museum and a survivor, was 19 years old when he and his family went through the Holocaust. His mother had left Europe to move to New York decades before World War II and returned later on.
“It’s amazing,” Harvey said about the exhibition, “that I lived it, too, but in a different way.”
The cost for “Anne” is $12.50 for students and is not included with general admission. The hours are Sunday through Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. with early closure on Friday at 3:30 p.m. from November to March. The museum is closed Saturdays.