No one put it better than Naomi Harper, Science NGSS Educator of Will Rogers Middle School, when she thanked Sacramento Waldorf School for “being a bastion of strength and educational excellence in our community.”
Ms. Harper was one of many who attended the “Anne Frank – A History for Today” exhibition hosted at the Sacramento Waldorf School September 18-27, 2018.
This traveling exhibit offered a window into the life of Anne Frank, revealing how her childhood was irrevocably altered by National Socialism during World War II. Her story serves as an example of the discrimination, violence, and utter hatred directed toward Jews while the Nazi Party held power in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s.
This exhibit forced attendees to confront a pivotal event in human history, one that has become increasingly relevant due to the rise of hate groups in America. Through compelling tours and pertinent subject matter, Sacramento Waldorf School reminded us to never forget Anne Frank’s story or the greater narrative of bigotry that was the Holocaust.
Perhaps the most powerful aspect of the exhibition was its docents, all of whom were SacWaldorf students. They underwent a two-day training before leading tours, and it’s safe to say that their instruction went beyond just memorizing facts.
Students were tasked with connecting to the material, discerning the relevancy in Anne Frank’s story and the importance of not letting it be forgotten. They examined events leading up to the Holocaust, and their impact on Anne Frank’s life.
Docents participated in exercises like writing down their daily activities, then crossing off each activity that was made illegal for Jews to engage in by the Nazi regime. Lists began with more than 30 activities, ranging from volleyball to homework to grocery shopping and often ended with less than five. Through such vivid exercises, students were able to intimately engage with Anne Frank’s story. Their connection to the material came across during tours, which were visceral, poignant, and moving.
This exhibition reminded us to never forget the violence and hatred that led to the Holocaust. It effectively displayed the gradual, yet pervasive spread of national socialism in Germany and the toll it took on Jewish individuals. The restricting of religious, intellectual, and physical autonomy was described through the lens of Anne Frank’s life.
After her family sought refuge from the Nazi party in Holland, they were forced into hiding for two years, during which time Anne composed her famous diary. Eventually, they were discovered by the Germans and sent to concentration camps. After five months of starvation, Anne died of typhus at Bergen-Belsen.
Despite her passing, Anne was not forgotten. Her diary gave a voice to those caught in this suffering, telling the story of a people who were senselessly murdered for their beliefs.
The “Anne Frank – A History for Today” exhibition reinforced the importance of standing against bigotry, especially if it is not directed toward one’s own “clan” or “creed.” No one better captures this sentiment than Martin Niemöller, an ex-Nazi who penned the striking poem “First They Came” over the span of WWII. It is included below.
First They Came
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
Compassion is a gift, one that is often paid forward by the unwaveringly generous and kind. Let us remember the tragedy of the Holocaust, and the steps that were not taken to prevent one of the worst genocides in recorded history.
If we can learn from both our triumphs and mistakes, we can subdue hatred before it spreads. Thanks to brave individuals like Anne Frank, overlooking the past is not an option. Thanks to Anne Frank, we will never forget.