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Anne Frank Who? Museums Combat Ignorance About the Holocaust

With attendance swelling to 1.3 million annually, from one million in 2010, the Anne Frank House has begun reckoning with a striking dimension of its popularity: Many of the younger and foreign visitors who flock here nonetheless have little knowledge of the Holocaust — and sometimes none about Frank. The museum and some others dedicated to Jewish life are seeking new ways to address a declining understanding of World War II and the genocide that took the lives of six million Jews in Europe, efforts that have increasing relevance as anti-Semitic incidents intensify across parts of Europe and the United States.

“We find that, with the war being further removed from all of us, but especially for young people and people from outside of Europe, our visitors don’t always have sufficient prior knowledge of the Second World War to really grasp the meaning of Anne Frank and the people in hiding here,” said the museum’s managing director, Garance Reus-Deelder. “We want to make sure that Anne Frank isn’t just an icon, but a portal into history.”

Sara J. Bloomfield, the director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, said that more than 500,000 students visit annually, but “attracting and sustaining their attention is an increasing challenge.” The museum has increased its emphasis on personal stories and ideas — in addition to facts and events — in hopes of drawing in young people.

Read entire article at NYT