At the garden of the Holocaust Education Center in Fukuyama stands a statue of Anne Frank.
The Holocaust Education Center was founded in 1995 by reverend Makoto Otsuka to commemorate the 1.5 million children who died in the Holocaust.
Anne Frank (1929-1945) was born to a Jewish family in Frankfurt, Germany. She was a spirited and outgoing child who loved playing games and reading books. When she was four years old, the family moved to Amsterdam, the Netherlands, to escape the increasing antisemitism led by Hitler and the Nazi party. There, Anne had a normal childhood and developed a passion for writing, aspiring to become an author. That ended in 1942 when Germany invaded the Netherlands and enforced their rules on Jewish citizens.
The Frank family tried to escape the country but eventually had to go into hiding to prevent Margot, Anne’s big sister, from being sent to a working camp. They moved to a secret annex in her father’s company building, where they lived together with four more people, and their only connection to the outside world was through a handful of employees of Anne’s father. Anne detailed her life in a diary, expressing her thoughts, fears, hopes, and perceptions of the world and the people inside and outside the annex.
After two years in hiding, the secret German police discovered the annex, and all its residents were sent to Auschwitz. Later, Anne and Margot were sent to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where they died of typhus, Anne at 15 and Margot at 18.
After the war, Anne’s father returned to Amsterdam, realizing he was the only one in the family to survive. His former secretary gave him Anne’s diary, which she kept for Anne’s return. He decided to publish it, showing the world the impact of the war on children like Anne.
The diary, published as a book titled The Diary of a Young Girl, became a worldwide best-seller, was translated into over 70 languages, and adapted into many theater productions, TV shows, and movies. Anne’s dream to become a famous writer has come true, and she is considered one of the most known holocaust victims in the world.
In 1971, while on a trip to Israel with a choral group, Rev. Otsuka met Otto Frank, Anne’s father. Inspired by Frank’s and his daughter’s story, the two began a decade-long correspondence in which Frank asked him to raise awareness in Japan of the Holocaust and to promote world peace.
To fulfill Frank’s wish, Rev. Otsuka established the museum with donations from the public and the Christian pro-Israel organization Beit Shalom.
The museum follows the buildup of hate and antisemitism in Germany and holds a collection of artifacts donated by European Jews from that era. There is also a reproduction of a Jewish ghetto with the original bricks of a ghetto wall.
The main exhibit is a replica of Anne’s room in the secret annex, where are on display over 100 items that belonged to Anne and her family, including Otto’s typewriter. Anne’s rose garden has a sapling of the horse chestnut tree that stood outside the annex and a life-size bronze statue of Anne.
While at Fukuyama City, do not miss a visit to the Fukuyama Art Museum, the Fukuyamashi Jinkenheiwa (Fukuyama City Human Rights and Peace Museum), and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.
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