For 20-year old Naomi Szulman, this was her grandparent’s home. A place where the family would meet on weekends. That was before it was donated and renovated. Now it’s a replica of Anne Frank’s hideout in Amsterdam during World War II.
Video courtesy of jn1.tv
"I’m proud of what the house has become. I think it has fulfilled its cycle," Szulman says. "It could no longer be what it was after my grandmother died. Both my grandparents opened their doors to those in need, even during the dictatorship in Argentina."
Argentina’s military regime ended 30 years ago, and Anne Frank would have been 84 had she survived the Holocaust. Yet this museum is a favorite among teenagers. Maybe because Anne was their age when she hid with her sister, parents and four others in an annex, behind a secret door.
Szulman says the difference between this museum and others is that all guides – including herself - are almost as young as their audiences.
"We have a different way of explaining things. We can communicate with teenagers and be understood by them because they see us as peers. It’s a different way of relating to history – a history that may seem more distant that what it really was," she notes.
Anne’s hideout was discovered by the Nazis two years later. She was 15 when she died. Only her father and her diary survived. But her legacy lives on in this house – one of four Anne Frank centers and the only one in Latin America.
Educators bring their students here to teach them about the Holocaust – but also about modern day situations.
Museum director Hector Shalom says that "today there are situations of discrimination, of violence, of mocking, of humiliation, and so the subjects are exposed in the same way, as in other periods in history, to three possible attitudes: Help the person that is suffering from discrimination or violence, join the people who are causing the violence who are the victimizers, or look the other way.
"The same thing happened in the Second World War, in the Holocaust, and during the dictatorship."
Shalom says Anne Frank’s story is a way of teaching teenagers to stop being passive observers and become protectors – like those who helped Anne and seven others survive in hiding for two years.
Argentina may be miles and ages away from Nazi Germany, but for Argentines, Anne Frank’s story is a unique way of teaching tolerance in a country which is home to the largest Jewish community in Latin America.