The lessons of the Holocaust are relevant to everyone, say the leaders of Maitland’s Holocaust Center, and they think Anne Frank is just the person to convey that message – in both English and Spanish.
The girl whose diary touched the world’s heart after she died in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II is the centerpiece of a new exhibition opening Jan. 23 at the Holocaust Memorial Resource & Education Center.
Titled “Anne Frank: A History for Today,” the exhibit is presented bilingually – which spurred the center to translate the information accompanying its permanent displays into Spanish, as well.
An audio guide to the center is offered in Spanish, and among the events associated with the Anne Frank exhibit will be a Spanish-language discussion of “Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl,” led by a multilingual Holocaust survivor.
“The fact this is bilingual allows us to connect with the Spanish-speaking population in an authentic way,” said Terrance Hunter, the center’s programming coordinator. “We want the Hispanic community to see themselves reflected here. At the heart of everything, the center champions the appreciation of diversity.”
More and more, museums nationwide are reaching out to Spanish speakers, though it is a still a growing movement locally, said Flora Maria Garcia, president of United Arts of Central Florida, the region’s chief arts fundraiser and financial supporter of the center.
“It’s the wave of the future,” she said. “This is occurring in many cities with a high level of Hispanic residents. In Central Florida, the Holocaust center is leading the way.”
The touring exhibit was developed by Anne Frank House, the Dutch museum in the Amsterdam building where Anne’s family and other Jews hid from the Nazis during the war. While in hiding, Anne recorded her thoughts and feelings in a diary.
Eventually, the Nazis raided the building and sent the secret residents to death camps, including Bergen-Belsen, where Anne died in 1945 at age 15. Her father, Otto Frank, survived and published Anne’s reflections in 1947 as “The Diary of a Young Girl.”
Presented throughout North America by the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, the exhibit features diary excerpts accompanied by rare photographs and offers historical context explaining how the Nazis’ rise to power became possible.
The power of the diary can be found in Anne’s words, Hunter said.
“Anne had a certain purity to her,” he said. “There’s such honesty in her writing. Anyone can think back to their own childhood, you can see yourself in her.”
Anne’s diary is standard reading for many schoolchildren and has inspired films, a stage play, a ballet and choral works. Her story still resonates: The book has been checked out of the Orange County Library System 113 times in the past 15 months, a spokeswoman said. Last year, the electronic version was checked out 75 times; the audiobook, 35 times.
Anne’s story is still used in education, such as at Trinity Preparatory School in Winter Park, where Janine Papin’s seventh-grade theater students read the book, then perform a one-act stage adaptation.
At the center, Anne’s diary will be discussed in February during separate English and Spanish sessions. Inge Koele, a native German who has lived in Orlando since 1997, will lead the Spanish event, which is free and open to the public.
Born two years before Anne, as Nazi leader Adolf Hitler was solidifying his power, Koele escaped the fate of other European Jews when she attended summer camp in Switzerland in 1938 at age 11. She never returned home, instead moving to Belgium, then England and eventually settling in Colombia, where she lived most of her adult life and learned Spanish.
Still, the anti-Jewish bigotry of her childhood is burned in her memory.
“We were called all kinds of names,” said Koele, 89. “And at the end, I wasn’t allowed to go to school.”
She appreciates the center’s efforts to welcome Spanish speakers – an initiative Garcia said symbolizes the “thoughtfulness of the institution.”
Before she leads the Feb. 12 discussion, Koele is re-reading “The Diary of a Young Girl” in Spanish to make sure she gets the language’s nuances just right.
“Language is the most important custom,” she said. “You just feel more comfortable when you’re used to the language.”
‘Anne Frank: A History for Today’
- Where: The Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center of Florida, 851 N. Maitland Ave., Maitland
- When: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays; 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Fridays; 1-4 p.m. Sundays; through March 13
- Cost: Free
- What else: Among the exhibit’s associated events are a discussion of ‘Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl’ in English at 2 p.m. Feb. 5 and in Spanish at 1 p.m. Feb. 12. For a complete list of events or more information, go to holocaustedu.org
- Call: 407-628-0555