WATCH: Experiences of teenager 75 years ago still have power to shock
An exhibition on the young Holocaust victim, Anne Frank, at Alnwick's high school has led to pupils discussing issues from the past and present.
The information boards, provided as part of an educational scheme by the Anne Frank Foundation, were set up in the library at the Duchess’s Commmunity High School last week.
A number of the Year 9 students became ambassadors and were taught by representatives of the foundation about Anne Frank, the Holocaust and the wider issues before and during the Second World War.
Responsible for one of the display boards each, the rest of the school visited the exhibition in turn and the young ambassadors talked about Anne Frank’s story to the groups, made up of their older peers.
Lewis explained that his board was about how Anne managed to survive two years in anannexe without any disturbance, as well as more recent theories about their being found being due to investigations into black-market ration cards, rather than someone turning the Franks into the Nazis directly.
Reflecting on the experience of presenting to other students, he said: “At first, I was a bit nervous, but it’s been okay. I thought it was only going to be other Year 9s, but it’s been the whole school. No one has been silly or anything like that.”
Another pupil, from an earlier board in the exhibition, had been telling her schoolmates about Hitler blaming the Jews for Germany’s financial woes in the 1930s amid the aftermath of the Versailles Treaty at the end of the First World War.
She agreed with Lewis that it had been nerve-wracking at first, but added: “We have got quite a bit of positive feedback.
“I think younger ages should learn about Anne Frank, even though it is a bit upsetting, to get it in their heads what happened. It’s horrible what people do.”
Jamie Kelly’s board tackled Anne’s final diary entries and how, despite being afraid, she was still optimistic with a belief in ‘peace and tranquility’.
“It’s been a really good experience to have,” he said. “It’s really opened my mind to what it was like for people like Anne Frank and people in the camps.”
Georgia Foulis felt that she had ‘grown a lot of confidence doing it’ and said the people listening ‘found it quite interesting’.
Her section of the exhibition, which she said was ‘a good way to learn about it’, dealt with Anne’s journey to the concentration camp at Auschwitz in a cattle truck.
Georgia added that she had reflected on how ‘times have changed’ compared to what Anne went through.
Staff at the Duchess’s agreed that it had been a very worthwhile experience – for those taking part and those listening.
School librarianJulie McRoberts said: “It’s brought up a lot of interesting things. It’s led to discussions about issues such as North Korea and the Trump administration.”
James Thompson, head of RE (religious education), added: “We have seen a lot of emotion and from pupils that you might not expect.
“The ambassadors have gained a lot of confidence from it. Their performance has developed as they have gone through the week; there’s discussion, not just delivery of the information.”
And while it took up space in the library, meaning the bookshelves and tables and chairs had to be moved to one side, both noted that it was great to be able to use the space for the exhibition in this way, as it would not have been possible in the old school.