Optimists learn about the Anne Frank Center

St. Andrews Optimists received a presentation by Gabrielle Johansson on May 5.

Johansson, a recent graduate of USC, is an Education Specialist at the Anne Frank Center, located on the USC campus. It is the only such center in the United States that partners with the Anne Frank Center headquarters in Amsterdam.

During two years of the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam, Frank had written daily entries in a diary. She was among the eight Jews who were sheltered in an annex of the business operated by her father, Otto Frank.

When the Nazis discovered the hiding place in 1944, all eight occupants were captured. The Nazis then ransacked the building, seeking anything of value. The captives were all dispersed to concentration camps. Anne was 16 when she was captured and imprisoned, and ultimately died at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. 

Afterward, a family friend found the diary among the rubble the Nazis had left. Otherwise, it most likely would never have seen the light of day. Notes in the margins of the diary seem to indicate that Anne had hoped ultimately to publish a novel based on her experiences.

Originally titled “The Diary of a Young Girl,” the work has become popularly known as “The Diary of Anne Frank.” It has now been translated into more than 70 languages. It is frequently used to counter anti-semitism and to refute Holocaust denial. It continues to encourage kids to pursue knowledge of history, with a clearer understanding of how Hitler rose to power and of the progressive nature of the removal of personal liberties.

Within the Center at USC, visitors can be led by Johansson or one of her colleagues through a collection of manuscripts, artifacts, videos, and other media. Otto Frank, who was the only survivor of the original eight captives, was an avid photographer, and some of his photos are on display.

Access to the Center is by appointment, and individuals, families, and groups are all welcome. There is no charge for admission, although there is an optional recommended donation of $10 per person. Its location is 1731 College Street.


Pictured are Optimist Club Vice President Kerry Powers, Gabrielle Johansson, and speaker sponsor Roger Johansson, the speaker’s father.