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Anne Frank exhibit in church aims for message of tolerance

Isabella Castillo, who plays Anne in a Spanish theater troupe's version of 'The Diary of Anne Frank,' sat in the office of Otto Frank, Anne's father, at the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam. Isabella Castillo, who plays Anne in a Spanish theater troupe's version of "The Diary of Anne Frank," sat in the office of Otto Frank, Anne's father, at the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam. (Peter Dejong/Associated Press)
Email|Print| Text size + By Rob Harris
Associated Press / January 5, 2008

LIVERPOOL, England - This port city will unveil an exhibition dedicated to Jewish teenager Anne Frank today, placing a re-creation of her Amsterdam bedroom beneath the towering arches of Liverpool's neo-Gothic Anglican cathedral.

Organizers hope that using a church to house a replica of the room where Frank wrote her diary will convey a message of tolerance in a city afflicted by gang violence and crime. But Liverpool's Jewish schools have banned pupils from attending because the festival is being held in a Christian place of worship.

The exhibition, part of a series of commemorations in Liverpool this month to mark the Holocaust, "conveys a powerful message of hope from Anne Frank's diary in a world that needs it," Canon Anthony Hawley said.

Jerry Goldman, organizer, acknowledged that he had reservations about placing the exhibit in a church, but said he hopes the thousands of children who are scheduled to attend will take a look at their own behavior and ask themselves questions about the consequences of hatred and intolerance.

"Hopefully they will realize how ridiculous it is to hate people because they are from another neighborhood and support another gang," Goldman said. The exhibition "should really challenge the reasons and differences hatred is based on still today."

Adorned with postcards and pictures, the replica shows the hideaway as it appeared after it was discovered in August 1944, when Frank was seized by the Nazis along with her parents and sister.

The 15-year-old died of typhus in Germany's Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in March 1945. Her father, Otto, survived and published her diary in June 1947. It has since been translated in 65 languages.

The multimedia exhibition also includes Oscar-winning director John Blair's films of British teenagers discussing racial hatred and conflict. The replica of the attic bedroom has crossed the country since it was first displayed in 2005 and was also housed in London's St. Paul's Cathedral in 2006.

But organizers say the exhibit's message to children has special meaning for Liverpool, which has been troubled by gang violence. Among the most prominent crimes in recent months here was one that involved an 11-year-old boy, Rhys Jones, who was fatally shot and whose killer remains at large.

Police believe he was probably an innocent victim of a feud between street gangs.

"The last few months have been dominated by horrific headlines about teens killing each other," Goldman said.

"It's fantastic that in Liverpool the first thing we have done at the start of European Capital of Culture year is have an exhibition reaching out to young people and teaching a culture of tolerance and peace."

In Amsterdam, a Spanish theater troupe visited the actual rooms where Frank lived as it sought inspiration to put on a musical version of "The Diary of Anne Frank," in Madrid next month.

The Anne Frank Museum has endorsed the concept and guided the 22-member cast and directors through the space.

"If you're doing a musical of the family and how they lived and the house and everything, I think it's very special, and a very important detail to come to this house," said Isabella Castillo, 13, who plays the role of Anne.

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