While reflecting on the Anne Frank: Private Photo Album Exhibit, Caren Leven, executive director of the Baltimore Zionist District, was struck by the sense of just how quickly life can go from perfectly normal to outright perilous.
BZD staff had the idea of inviting the exhibit — originally the creation of The Anne Frank Center USA in New York — to the Baltimore area as part of their Yellow Candle project, a Yom HaShoah commemoration in which yellow candles are handed out to members of the community. The exhibit opened April 24 at Beth El Congregation of Baltimore and will run until May 18.
“Before Otto Frank, the dad, decided to hide his family from the Nazis, more than a decade before Anne Frank wrote one of the 10 most-read books in the world, he was just merely a father who enjoyed snapping photos of his family,” said Leven, a resident of Pikesville and member of Chizuk Amuno Congregation. “And the exhibition includes 71 photos of the nearly 400 photographs that initially filled the four albums that he hid in the annex.”
While initially lost after the Frank family’s discovery, the photo albums were later returned, Leven said.
Taken between 1929 and 1940, the photos show Anne’s life from birth through her preteen years, Leven said. She noted that, as the photos are all from the family’s life before the war, the exhibit is family friendly.
A number of the photos in the exhibit are somewhat rarely shown to the public, said Morgan Bailey, director of educational programming and outreach at the Anne Frank Center. This is because they are not public domain images, but rather copyrighted images owned by the Anne Franks Fonds in Switzerland, the nonprofit founded by Otto Frank after the war.
“This exhibition showcases some of the more, just, intimate moments of their family, pictures like bringing home a baby from the hospital … sharing meals, playing outside, and it’s really beautiful and powerful for a lot of reasons,” said Bailey, a resident of Summerville, S.C.
The way the exhibit shows the process of Anne and her sister, Margot, growing up was particularly worth highlighting, Leven said.
“It really shows the progression of the two sisters growing up from 1927 to 1940,” Leven said. “Going on vacation, going to the beach, having a normal life, smiling a lot. Just [a] very normal family.”
When learning about the Holocaust, Bailey explained that students may only have a few class periods in which to learn a tremendous amount of history, forcing teachers to focus on factual information at the “macro” level, such as the number of people killed during the Shoah. While she acknowledges the importance of that information, she worries that some of the humanity and individualism of the greater story of the Holocaust, the aspects people most easily connect to, can be lost in that focus.
“I hope that this really just zooms in on the particular family of victims and helps humanize them a little bit,” Bailey said. “Because when we see our shared humanity, in a lot of ways, it’s harder
to look away when bad things are happening in the world around us.”