Five things to do at the newly revamped Anne Frank Center USA
The NYC affiliate of Amsterdam's Anne Frank House is poised to open the eyes of a whole new generation to the life and work of the young writer.
Fri Mar 16 2012
Photograph: Lee Magill
Anne Frank Center USA
An affiliate of the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, the newly opened Anne Frank Center USA offers kids a way to learn about and connect with the brave diarist, who bore witness to life's wonder and fear even as she hid with her family in an attic during the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam. The permanent exhibit, "Anne Frank and Us," challenges all visitors to reflect on what personal responsibility to others means. (It is recommended for children in third grade and up but is open to all.) Here are five things to do there with your family.
Reflect on Anne's situation
Sit down with your kids in the reflection room, fashioned after Anne's room in the Secret Annex, and listen to audio loops of sounds Anne would hear there—church bells ringing, wind in the trees—and quotations of her diary. The experience lets children (and adults) connect to the young writer viscerally.
Learn lots on an iPad
Take the time to visit each iPad station in the reflection room. The first has the entire diary in it, so children can read passages of her work at random. The second has a short videotaped interview with Otto Frank, Anne's father, and two short videos: "Remembering Edith Frank," which pays tribute to Anne's mother, and "Remembering Margot Frank," filled with interviews with the close childhood friends of Margot Frank, Anne's older sister. The most moving of the stations is the last, which features a videotaped interview with Miep Gies, one of Otto Frank's trusted employees, who helped the Franks into their hiding place and procured groceries for the Franks throughout their time in the Secret Annex. Hearing the firsthand perspective of a close family friend who witnessed the Franks' trials is both riveting and very moving.
Orient yourself spacially
A dollhouse-like re-creation of the Secret Annex, a house behind a house, lets visitors get a sense of how the Frank family was able to live without their presence being noticed by neighbors. Opposite the model is a case containing a painstakingly re-created facsimile of Anne's original diary, a facsimile of the family photo album and an authentic yellow star, which Jews in the Nazi-occupied city were forced to wear for the purposes of identification and vilification.
Get a history lesson
Head downstairs to the auditorium and watch the 26-minute film "The Short Life of Anne Frank," ideal for adults and children ages nine and up. The excellent short chronicles Anne's story by placing it in the context of World War II events. It is neither simplistic nor bogged down in historical details, but rather strikes just the right balance, especially for budding historians.
Attend a family workshop
Beginning April 7, the center will offer a two-hour workshop, Conversations with Anne, once a month. Tweens and teens (ages 9 and up) learn about who Anne Frank was through the theatrical work of a trained actor, and bring questions they might ask Anne—were she their peer—about such kid-relevant subjects as "diary writing and giving to others," "nature and emotional intelligence," and "hopes, dreams and fears." (Visit the website for a schedule of topics). Participants forge connections with one another and learn about the life of the courageous teen as they let their hair down in engaging conversation. Reservations are required.
The not-for-profit The Anne Frank Center USA is now open.