Ever since Anne Frank House opened its doors to the public in 1960, it has continuously proven itself to be much more than a historic museum. Over the years, the House has hosted many informative exhibitions, never fearing to address sensitive or difficult social issues.
Otto’s vision for the organization that bears his daughter's name was to make it a place for young people, a place focussed on the future. One can see the way in which this vision has provided a guideline for Anne Frank House over its more than fifty year history. So, what does Anne's story mean to the youth of today and what does it say about the issues the world faces today and in the future?
The organization has constantly striven to highlight the relevance of Anne's story for a contemporary audience. Warning against the dangers of anti-Semitism, racism and discrimination has remained one of the key objectives of the Anne Frank Foundation.
The following are just a few examples of how Anne Frank House has addressed difficult social issues over the years.
From top to bottom: discussion with pictures of the nuclear bomb shown in the background; poster from Chile Exhibition 1975.
Pictures dating from the early years of Anne Frank House show that the first exhibitions - on subjects such as human rights - primarily consisted of photographs and newspaper clippings fastened to soft board with pins or thumbtacks. Folders containing relevant newspaper clippings often accompanied these exhibitions.
From the latter half of the 1960s, Anne Frank House increasingly addressed tough social issues, such as the US Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War. The museum’s guides, who were mostly students, often took the time to discuss these issues with visitors.
During the 1970s, Anne Frank House focussed on examples of injustice in the world. Attention was given to the issue of exploitation in South America, as well as South Africa’s immoral policy of Apartheid.
In the eighties, cautionary exhibitions such as “The Tolerant Netherlands" (Nederland Tolerant) and "Black-White '84" (Zwart-Wit ’84) used newspaper clippings and photographs to show how new ethnic minorities were exposed to discrimination and racist violence in the Netherlands.
Dutch football manager Ruud Gullit at the opening of "Black-White '84"
The war that erupted in the former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s was the focus of such exhibitions as "The Ugly Face of Nationalism" (Het lelijke gezicht van nationalisme) and "I Dream of Peace" (Ik droom over vrede), an exhibition that was created in collaboration with UNICEF. In this exhibition, children from the former Yugoslavia used drawings to convey the horrors they experienced during the war.
Dutch entertainer Paul Van Vliet opening the "I Dream of Peace" exhibition incorporating drawings and texts by kids from the former Yugoslavia, 1994.
Not long after the opening of the newly-renovated museum in 1999, a new concept was added to the end of the tour to force visitors to confront the contemporary relevance of the museum's message. Interactive film segments were added to provoke visitors into taking a stance on current social issues.
Informative film series such as "Out of Line" and later "Free2choose" present visitors with the dilemma of conflicting human rights and ask difficult questions of them; questions to which the visitor must first quickly respond, but afterwards is forced to reflect on his or her answer. In this way, Anne Frank House manages to continuously link human rights awareness with Holocaust education.