Lessons from History

February 11, 2010 by Miriam Bell
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“All New Zealand children should see the Anne Frank travelling exhibition”, says the country’s Prime Minister.

The exhibition opened yesterday at the National Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington,

Speaking at its launch, Prime Minister John Key said he hoped every New Zealand child would see the exhibition and that, if any children were unable to, they should read Anne Frank’s diary.

John Key opens the exhibition

Key, who spoke of the impact the diary had on him when he first read it as a teenager, said that no-one who visited the exhibition could ever forget what racial hatred can do to a society. “This exhibition also reminds us of the bravery and courage of those who put their own lives on the line to hide the Frank family, and to save many others.”

Following its opening six week run at Te Papa, the free exhibition – which comes from the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam – will be touring New Zealand for at least two years, although the organisers are already taking bookings for a third year.

The exhibition is made up of an 11-panel timeline which depicts the life of Anne Frank and her family in parallel with the rise of the Nazi Party, the persecution of the Jews culminating in the Holocaust, and major events in World War II. It also includes an interactive “text” wall that allows visitors to contribute to the exhibition, and a specially made documentary featuring Holocaust survivors who now live in New Zealand.

Anne Frank NZ Committee chairman Boyd Klap, who raised the $250,000 necessary to bring the exhibition to New Zealand, said that growing up in Holland, and seeing what had happened to the Jewish people during World War II, had left him feeling a great responsibility, as well as deep commitment, to address the issue.

“It is our hope that, through the travelling exhibition, a whole new generation of young New Zealanders will learn about the value of freedom and how easily it can be lost, as well as about the depth to which human nature can sink and the strength of individual spirit and hope.”

Also at the exhibition launch, Wellington mayor Kerry Prendergast spoke of the Wellington Jewish school project to collect 1.5 million buttons, representing the children killed in the Holocaust, while pupil Kessem Goldberg explained how the school hoped to turn the collected buttons into a public monument.

Other guests at the launch included New Zealand’s minister for culture and heritage Chris Finlayson, the ambassadors of Israel, the Netherlands and Germany, several Holocaust survivors, a range of parliamentarians including the Speaker of the House Dr Lockwood Smith [who has given permission for the exhibition to be shown at parliament for six weeks of its travelling time], race relations commissioner Joris de Bres, and chairman of the New Zealand Netherlands Foundation Ben van der Kolk.

Meanwhile, NZ National Commission for UNESCO chairman Bryan Gould said the exhibition and the accompanying documentary will help young New Zealanders to learn to value the importance of tolerance and freedom in a just society.

“Education is our best safeguard to ensure these horrors are not repeated and the documentary, which accompanies this exhibition, features the stories of our own people, other New Zealanders, who survived the Holocaust and who need to be heard and learnt from.”

* For more information about the Anne Frank travelling exhibition go to www.annefrankexhibition.co.nz

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