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Monday, March 29, 2010

Welcome Menno Metselaar - The Anne Frank House




















Anne Frank: Her Life in Words and Pictures from the Archives of the Anne Frank House by Menno Metselaar and Ruud van der Rol, translated by Arnold J. Pomerans was chosen as a Sydney Taylor Honor book for Older Readers.

Anne Frank is an iconic figure in Jewish history. Millions of young people have read her diary and her words have provided insights about WWII and the Holocaust that no other text can provide. Anne Frank – Her Life in Pictures and Words is an outstanding accompaniment to The Diary of Ann Frank. With never before seen photos, the bits and pieces of Ann’s life are reconstructed like a jigsaw puzzle, offering readers an up close view of Anne’s life before and during the war. Follow-up about Anne, her family and friends bring Anne’s tragic story full circle. The book also described the process of bringing the diary to life through the eyes of Anne’s father, the only surviving family member. I am pleased to introduce the co-author of Anne Frank – Her Life in Words and Pictures, Menno Metselaar who spoke with me about the Anne Frank book as well as other works produced by the Anne Frank House.

Menno is the Senior Project Developer in the Department of Education and Public Presentations of the Anne Frank House. The Anne Frank House was founded on May 3, 1957. Three years later, the museum opened its doors. Besides managing the museum, the Anne Frank House develops educational products and activities to promote tolerance and mutual respect in society.

Anne Frank Her Life in Words and Pictures is a unique collection of personal photos and items. Can you tell me how you were able to collect all the materials to make this book come to life?

We are very fortunate that Otto Frank was a passionate photographer and that the photo albums of the Frank family survived. Another thing is that the Frank family not only wrote a lot of letters, but also kept them. We really have to count ourselves extremely lucky that we have such an important and vast and unique collection to work with for our educational publications, websites and exhibitions. Especially if you keep in mind that we only have a handful of photographs and documents related to the Van Pels family, which by the way is really unfortunate.

What were some of the challenges you faced when researching Anne Frank?

Our main challenge is and will always be to find new ways to present Anne's story and the historical context to new generations. As we move forward in time this challenge will become bigger and bigger, as young people will have less and less 'automatic links' to that period in history through their own family members or family history.

A Family Secret/The Search – Sydney Taylor Notable books for 2010 - present stories about the Holocaust in a graphic novel format. Did Eric Heuvel submit the completed project to you or was it a collaboration?

No, the scripts, both of A Family Secret and of The Search were the result of a close cooperation between the Anne Frank House and Eric Heuvel, and in both cases there were a lot of other natonal and international experts involved to see to it that the historical details were correct.

Did you think this genre would fill a unique niche?

No, as a matter of fact we were hesitant at the beginning. Is a 'comic book' about such a difficult and sensitive subject such a good idea? We had that feeling when we started with A Family Secret (about The Netherlands and World War II) and we had the same feeling when we started with The Search (about the Holocaust). We feared that readers would feel that it trivialized World War II and the Holocaust. But our fears were unfounded. Both books were very well received and are now widely used in schools. Teachers do appreciate the educational possibilities that these books and the accompanying educational materials offer.

Menno – thank you for taking the time to talk about your work and all you do for the Anne Frank House.

To learn about other projects by the Ann Frank House, please visit:
http://www.annefrank.org/

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