Heartbreaking. Of all the descriptive diction that could be used to imaginatively illustrate Anne Frank: A Private Photo Album, the newest exhibit at the Dallas Holocaust Museum, 'heartbreaking' seems most appropriate.
While many are familiar with Anne Frank and her plight as a Jewish school girl, first in Germany, then in Amsterdam, the traveling exhibit at the DHM highlights the pre-WWII life of Anne and her family.
Anne's father, Otto, an amateur photographer, made his daughters his most treasured photographic subjects. The photos were mounted in albums and captioned by Anne's mother, Edith, as well as Anne herself.
The exhibit includes 71 of Otto Frank's 400 photographs that originally filled four albums hidden in the secret Annex where the Frank family sought refuge from Nazi persecution.
The DHM provides an audio tour to accompany the photographs, which include baby pictures, family vacations, visits with grandparents and birthday celebrations.
It is the knowledge of what fate awaits Anne and her family that makes each photograph so emotional.
Otto's Leica camera documented Anne and her older sister Margot as babies in the late 1920s, and then as children in the 1930s. The exhibit includes a passage from one of Anne's short stories in which she writes about her dreams of becoming a movie star in Hollywood.
All of the smiles, laughter and happiness of the Frank family in these photographs become gut-wrenching reminders of the horror and injustice that hundreds of thousands of European Jews would face in the years to come.
Only Otto survived the Holocaust. With the rest of his family dead, he returned to the Annex in 1945 where he reclaimed the photo albums, along with the diary of Anne Frank.
According to Hilary Eddy Stipelman, Program Manager for the Anne Frank Center USA, the photo exhibit has been viewed by over 5 million visitors in more than 200 cities across the United States, Canada and Mexico.
Anne's legacy, Stipelman said, challenges each of us to ask ourselves what we can do to challenge prejudice and discrimination within ourselves, our schools, our family and our society.
"In a world where people are discriminated against based on race, religion, ethnic background, gender, sexual orientation, and mental and physical abilities, how can each of us work to eliminate discrimination and hatred?" Stipelman asked. "How can we create, in our lives, a community where the dignity of human life is valued and where differences strengthen and enrich — rather than tear apart the fabric of our lives?"
On Tuesday, children from area schools visited the exhibit, saw the photos and practiced writing in their own diaries — all the while learning about evils of intolerance.
Stipelman asked another question: "Why do we teach Anne Frank?"
This time, she gave an answer.
"Because hate is taught," she said. "Racism is taught. Intolerance is taught. And we seek to teach otherwise."
Stipelman, along with the DHM, invited the Dallas community to see the exhibit, hear the story and learn the lessons it teaches.
"Bringing Anne Frank's story into your community teaches us all to celebrate diversity rather than view differences as obstacles," she said. "I encourage you all to join with us in this noble pursuit, to bring Anne Frank into your lives and to share her legacy with all those in your world."
The exhibit, Anne Frank: A Private Photo Album, is accompanied by a 28-minute award-winning documentary film, The Short Life of Anne Frank, which will be shown in the DHM/CET Theater.
The exhibit and film, free with paid admission, will continue through March 31, 2013.
The DHM/CET, located at 211 N. Record Street in the historic West End of Downtown Dallas, is open Monday-Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on weekends from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.