During the week leading up to Holocaust Memorial Day, the Curator of Manchester Jewish Museum was putting the final touches to the “The Windermere Boys” exhibition. In the general office staff concentrated hard, taking phone calls and sending Emails against a wall of drilling and hammering. After the weekly staff meeting the Curator treated us to a preview of the exhibition. We had been watching the various elements coming together over the preceding two weeks, and yet we were still thrilled to imagine the reaction of people seeing it for the first time. This exhibition is part of Manchester’s history and one that we can be proud of.
Before the launch on Thursday, 26th January there was to be a ceremony to plant the Anne Frank Rose. There is an interesting story behind the Anne Frank Rose and one which few of us knew about until recently. After the war a rose was created and named after Anne Frank. Cuttings were taken from it and planted to remember Anne. At this time in Japan there was a young girl who heard Anne Frank’s story. She was about the same age as Anne would have been at the time she went into hiding. She became fascinated by her and searched until she found the address of Otto Frank, Anne’s father and started to correspond with him. He sent her cuttings of the Anne Frank rose, but all but one died. This one bush which did survive was nurtured in Japan and eventually cuttings were taken from it and planted all overJapan to remember people who had died at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Imagine this, that cuttings from one rose were being used to remember victims from both sides in the Second World War!!
So early in the afternoon of Thursday, 26th January a variety of groups gathered to participate in the ceremony, including a group wearing red T-shirts with “RAPAR” printed on their chests. These were representatives from a Manchester based human rights organization. Amongst other groups, there were also the pupils from Birchfields school.
While we were waiting for the ceremony to start, our Learning Officer kept the children occupied by teaching them a song in Hebrew called “Shalom Chaverim” which they really enjoyed.
The CEO of the Museum opened the proceedings by emphasizing how appropriate it is to have the Anne Frank Rose planted in our garden, especially as our mission is to counter xenophobia. After thanking people involved in the organization of the ceremony, he introduced Councillor Akbar, a governor of Birchfields school. Councillor Akbar stated that it is important to educate people about past atrocities and to show children “a path forward to peace, respect and tolerance.”
Rhetta Moran from RAPAR spoke about “resistance” against the evil of the Nazis in the past and in the present. The people who hid Anne Frank during WW2 resisted the Nazis in the past and by planting the Anne Frank Rose here we were resisting any attempt to reinvent Nazism in the present.
Adam Kirkby from The Anne Frank Trust pointed out that by watching the horse chestnut tree outside her window Anne able to watch the changing seasons whilst in hiding. After the war,this tree became a link to Anne for visitors to the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam. This special tree fell down a few years ago. Now each time the Anne Frank rose is planted there is a new link to her and the changing seasons.
Elisabeth Mansfield artistic director of Ensemble spoke about the research she did in Japan about the Anne Frank Rose, before she started work on the production “Souvenir D’Anne Frank”, a performance which tells the story of the Anne Frank rose.
During the speeches we were warm and dry inside the museum but we knew that outside it was windy and rainy. We knew that soon we would need to go outside and actually plant the rose bush in the garden. We pulled our coats tightly around us, opened the door leading to the garden and headed outside. The rain had stopped and the wind had died down. We gathered around Fahidi, a refugee from Iran who had been chosen to plant the rosebush. He said a few words and his brother read a short poem about peace and freedom. He planted the bush while the press took photos and the pupils placed ribbons on the “ remembering tree”, a wooden carving in the shape of a tree.
Appropriately the ceremony finished with a minute’s silence to remember those who had perished in the Holocaust.
Back inside we were given a taster of the “Souvenir D’Anne Frank” performance. Elizabeth Mansfield performed a song composed by Colin Decio in which the words of Anne Frank have been set to music.
We are glad to know that we have the Anne Frank rose planted in our garden and hope that it will flourish under the care of our volunteer gardeners (and in spite of the Manchester climate!!!!)