Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Soul of a Young Girl

At some point in middle school children usually learn about the Holocaust and will probably read The Diary of Anne Frank.  In 8th grade, my daughter was captivated by this sad story about a girl her same age, with similar hopes and dreams, yet living and dying in such tragically different circumstances.   It was a highlight of our trip to Europe that summer for her to visit The Anne Frank House in Amsterdam.  What a powerful experience of classroom learning becoming very real!  My daughter was deeply moved to walk in Anne Frank’s footsteps, to look out her window onto the tranquil canal, to touch the wallpaper in her bedroom.  Throughout the museum the idea of tolerance for all people is reinforced by inscriptions and video and audio recordings by Otto Frank, Anne’s father, who was the only family member to survive the Holocaust and was inspired by Anne’s writings to shed light on the lives and experiences of those who suffered persecution by the Nazis.  It is a clear and compelling message for all visitors to the Anne Frank House.

There is currently a wonderful interactive exhibit at the Anne Frank House called Free 2 Choose.  Visitors watch various video clips (with headphones and a choice of 6 different languages) which present situational human rights conflicts and are then asked to vote electronically on the “best” solution.  One's opinion is then compared to others’ choices by age groups, nationality, gender, etc., and it becomes clear that solutions are not always black or white.  The exercise is very thought provoking and even my 11 year old was engaged.

Another Holocaust memorial is the Dachau Concentration Camp near Munich, Germany.  Children are not forbidden to enter, but, in my opinion, the site is much too disturbing for them and for sensitive young adults.  The memorial site has several churches, a chapel and a Jewish house of prayer which may be visited and are, gratefully, somewhat separate from the gas chamber and crematory ovens if you wish to avoid these.

"Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart."  - Anne Frank

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