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Anne Frank's Mouth

05/16/2019 09:45:14 AM


Our congregational mission to Eastern Europe experienced so many different aspects of our history and heritage, and we could not avoid visiting many sites remembering the Holocaust and its victims. These sites have very diverse flavors and intentions.  Some identify culprits and collaborators while others deflect blame.  Some try to create perspective on the enormity of the horror, others focus on  the impact once victim at a time. They may be placed at the sites where events happened, or in public spaces where they will be noticed.  My experience of these memorials could not have been more timely because it coincides with a discussion of a resource within in our own city.

In Berlin we saw just a few of the over 20 that dot the city.  At one extreme is the “Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe,” a giant field of columns across a city block in Berlin.  The memorial provoked controversy.  It is quite striking, but with no way for the casual observer to understand who the victims or the murderers were.
Ironically, the graffiti-proof coating for these stones was made by the same company that manufactured the poison gas used to murder the victims, and purchased their gold teeth. 
The simple memorial at Platform 17- the train platform from which Berlin’s Jews were deported, is more comprehensible.  The platform is lined with 186 plates, each marking the date of one of the 186 trains that left the platform and the number of victims it carried.  The numbers, 50, 100, 730 Jews, still numb the mind .  At the other extreme are the “stumbling stones”- a project that was begun by one individual.  A tiny square- just a few square inches embedded in the sidewalk records the name of a single victim, placed in front of the building where they last lived. Over 70,000 of them have been placed so far across Europe, but each one has its own impact.  I was most struck by these stones, because they remind us that each victim was a unique person, really a whole world, with a home and a history.
Perhaps that’s why Anne Frank resonates for so many.  So many of the six million stories were lost, and we can’t even grasp the totality of ones that remain, but we can connect through the diary of just one person.  The voice of that one teenager still speaks to us.  In an area of street art, near a workshop that sheltered dozens of victims, there is a mural of her.  She did not live in Berlin, but the mural is a reminder of the power of a single story.  Our group stopped to admire the artistry, when we realized that a vandal had defaced it with a hateful message across her mouth.   Despite this vandalism, Anne Frank’s mouth remains open.  She still speaks to us.
I’m now back in Sandy Springs, where a conversation is unfolding about our local Holocaust memorial, the “Anne Frank in the World” exhibit.  It is important to Jews, in particular because it is not a uniquely Jewish place, but rather a tool for all to understand the dangers of hate and where it can lead, and the power of good people to make a difference. The existing exhibit must leave its current site, and there are plans proposed to keep the exhibit in Sandy Springs, relocating it to a site near City Springs, together with the Georgia Commission on the Holocaust and other civic organizations.
I support these plans to keep the Anne Frank exhibit prominently in Sandy Springs, because I believe that memorials are important, not just in the places where atrocities happened but in the places where people can be reminded how to prevent them from happening again. I feel that Sandy Springs should still be a place where Anne Frank can still open her mouth and have her message heard, speaking for the millions who cannot.

If you share my sentiments, particularly if you live or work in Sandy Springs, please join me in making your feelings known to our city council, and making sure that Anne Frank's mouth is not closed, but continues to speak to us and to the entire population of our state.  I've included the email addresses of our mayor and city council, and a sample message, below.,,,,,, 

The City of Sandy Springs is considering the building of a Cultural Center to house organiztions including the Georgia Commission on the Holocaust and the Anne Frank in the World Exhibit. I believe that it is important that the exhibit remain in a prominent location in our city, and the proposed Cultural Center would be an excellent way to accomplish that.
I encourage you to support for this measure by casting an affirmative vote with regard to the above.

Thank you,

NAME: ____________________________________________
ADDRESS: _________________________________________

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