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Anne Frank House remodeled for younger public

Petra Lambeck | Carl Holm
November 22, 2018

The famous museum draws more than a million visitors a year but, more and more, they lack knowledge of the historical context of Anne Frank's story, which serves as a symbol of humanity amid the horrors of the Holocaust.

Anne Frank House in Amsterdam
Image: Anne Frank House/Cris Toala Olivare

The two-year-long renovation of one of Amsterdam's biggest tourist attractions, Anne Frank House, has finally been completed. Dutch King Willem Alexander will lead the inauguration of the modernized museum on Thursday. 

Anne Frank's story is world famous, thanks to the diary the Jewish schoolgirl wrote while in hiding from the Nazi occupiers. The house where she was hidden, Prinsengracht 263, Amsterdam, has long been a museum and is known simply as the Anne Frank House. Around 1.2 million visitors come through its doors every year.

But museum directors of the Anne Frank Foundation felt that the exhibition needed updating in order to be more relevant to a younger public, now separated by more than two generations from the Nazi reign of terror. The new exhibition has a lot more background, context and educational activities, to keep Anne Frank's story alive.

"The younger people who visit the Anne Frank House these days experience the house and its history very differently to my generation," says Ronald Leopold, director of the Anne Frank Foundation. "I myself grew up with the subject of World War Two and the persecution of the Jews — my parents told me about it," the 58-year-old Amsterdam resident explains.

Read more: Secret pages in Anne Frank's diary reveal her reflections on sex

New exhibition also probes how the Nazi Holocaust was made possible

"The young people, whose grandparents have been born since the end of the war, have a very different relationship (to this history) and they often know a lot less about it," he says.

That was the logic behind the decision to rejig the museum, adding background and context and learning opportunities. The Anne Frank House doesn't just want to show what happened during the Nazi occupation, but also probe into how it was made possible. The aim was to encourage reflection.

"Remembering history, thinking about history, and reacting to history are three steps which continue to guide the work of the Anne Frank House," say Ronald Leopold.

"Perhaps one of the most important lessons from the time of National Socialism, the Second World war and the Nazi Holocaust is the realization that this was all the work of people: the exclusion, the persecution and the deportation, and finally the murder of six million Jews," he says.

The secret annex, hidden behind a book case, where Anne Frank and her family hid for two years before they were betrayed, has been unchanged. Here the technology stops, the audio guide goes dead. It's an area of silence and reflection.

Anne Frank and her family were arrested when police and the SS raided their hiding place in August 1944. They were sent to the notorious Auschwitz concentration camp, on one of the last deportation trains to leave the Netherlands. It's believed Anne died of typhus in the Bergen-Belsen extermination camp, just two months before the Allies liberated the camp.


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