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Anne Frank: A History for Today


How often do you cry in a museum? If you can visit a museum with the Anne Frank: A History for Today exhibit you will. I visited the MOSH (Museum of Science and History) in Jacksonville to see the exhibit about that beautiful, young, Jewish girl whose life was brutally ended by Hitler’s Nazi “Final Solution.”  Naturally, I had read the book and seen the film long ago. I have since seen many stories related to her and the Holocaust.  It was mandatory reading in the late 50’s and still widely used in schools today.

The exhibit should be begun with a viewing of the video about Anne Frank which runs continually in the small theater space within the exhibit. It is one of the most moving documentaries I have ever seen. There are many actual photographs of Anne and her family as she is growing up first in Germany and then in the Netherlands where her father Otto takes his family in the hopes of being safe from what he see coming.   It shows the time spent in hiding with four other Jewish people on the top floors of Otto’s factory and through the family’s betrayal.  It then tells how the diary is accidently left behind when the families are dragged off, herded into cattle cars, and separated at the concentration camps. Anne and her older sister, Margot, died of typhus at Bergen-Belsen. The film shows where each of the others died. Only Otto survived. When he learned Miep Gies, one of the people who had been hiding the Franks, had saved the diary and he was able to read it and learned that Anne wanted to be a writer, he published the diary in her honor. The exhibit has a replica of the actual diary on display.

The actual exhibit is a very complete chronology beginning before Anne’s birth with family history. Youe see Anne’s grandmother, Anne Frank-Stern was a nurse in a military hospital during WWI. You learn that both Anne’s father, Otto, and her uncle were in the German army during WWI. Her family were strong loyal Germans. Then it leads you through Hitler’s rise to power.

While in prison Hitler made no secret of his hatred for the Jews when he wrote “Mein Kampf.” Still because of his appeal to the working man and high unemployment and poor economy in Germany, he was able to gain control of Germany. In his campaign, he promised to bring jobs and strengthen Germany again. Technically, Paul von Hindenburg won the election by a large majority public vote but the Nazi party won the majority positions in the Reistage leaving Hindenburg no choice but to appoint the Nazi party head, Adolph Hitler, as his chancellor. When Hindenburg died in 1934, Hitler ascended to the presidency and then abolished the office of President and appointed himself Führer und Reichskanzler. He appointed his friends to the highest offices and slowly the persecution of Jews played out with those in the media who tried to publicize it being discredited. Hatred spread. First there was a yellow star to make Jews recognizable then a registry of all Jews. That made the later round up and extermination easier.

It’s not by accident that the exhibit is named Anne Frank: A History for Today. The current climate formats a similar hatred: this time of Muslims instead of Jews. The lesson I left the exhibit with was beware of hatred of any race or religion. WWIII could lurk in the background when hatred reigns supreme.

MOSH is an excellent museum which I have written about in the past but to me this exhibit is one of its finest moments. Sharif Frink, MOSH Director of communications, told me “There were very few who objected to the exhibit. I would say response was about 99% positive but there was one Holocaust denier, a man in his 80s, who told me this exhibit ‘made me a believer.’”

Mr. Frink said there were having lots of schools visiting.  I saw many of the messages posted in the place where anyone could write their feelings about the exhibit. One that seemed to be a childish handwriting said “I am sad because I am a Jew….” Many gave a view of hope as “Anne Frank did not die in vain…”

I so hope that is true. If this exhibit changes even one mind, awakens one soul, to the value of all humans regardless of race or religion, alerts people to the danger of grouping all people of one nationality as a single entity to be hatred and feared, wherever it is shown then perhaps Anne Frank did not die in vain.  


Ongoing schedule: (there may be other places it will be shown but this is what I found)

Elkhart, IN                     Elkhart Central High School                        January – March 2017

Maitland, FL                  Holocaust Memorial Central of FL           January – March 2017

Farmington Hills, MI      Holocaust Memorial Center                       January – June 2017

Jacksonville, FL              Museum of Science and History             January – February 2017

Orange City, IA              Northwestern College                                January – March 2017

Cincinnati, OH               Center for Holocaust & Humanity Education   February – June 2017

Thomaston, CT              Landmark Community Theatre                   March – April 2017

Lincroft, NJ                    Center for Holocaust Education                 March – June 2017

Sarasota, FL                   Selby Public Library                                April – May 2017



My Best Airport Tips 

After the horrific events at Fort Lauderdale Airport, I thought it was time to offer some airport travel tips to keep you safe and make the trek through the airport less of a minefield. Nothing can guarantee you a safe trip but I intend to do what I love most, keep traveling. I will not let deranged terrorists scare me away. However, I will do all I can to minimize my risk and make the “getting there” part as pleasant as possible.

Here are some of my personal favorite tips culled from lots of flights in my career as a travel writer:

  1. Before you plan a trip and before you leave on it, check with the US security site . They make you aware of known situations.

  2. If you travel internationally be sure to have the address and phone number of the American embassy or consulate with you. Make a copy of your passport in case it is lost or stolen. Make a family member or friend aware of your itinerary. Also make you credit card and bank aware of where you will be traveling. If a credit card gets a charge from another country they may not approve it until they contact you in case of a stolen or hacked card.

  3. Since the front portion of the airport before you pass through security is considered a “Soft Target,” you want to get past security ASAP. Be alert for anything unusual as you head for the checkpoint. If you see someone acting suspicious or an unusual object, walk do not run as this makes you look suspicious and alert the nearest security officer. Even if you are at the airport long before your flight time, go through at once. You can always shop or dine past the security checkpoint.

  4. Being prescreened helps get you through without waiting in long lines. If you travel a lot you may want to get Pre Check  or  Global Entry if you travel internationally often. Currently Pre Check is $85 and good for 5 years. Global Entry is $100. You will want to check on airport status and general information related to TSA here.

  5. Keep documents safe. I use a small pouch with a lanyard such as you might be given as a name badge holder at conventions around your neck or a small stick-on pouch that attached to the back of your phone case. In it put your boarding passes, ID, your cell phone and a few dollars or a credit card. That way, everything you need is right at hand with our having to dig in a purse or pocket.

  6. Print out your boarding pass either in paper form or online the day before. Most airlines allow this 24 hours ahead. Most hotels have a way for you to print them out or you can place them on your cell phone for scanning when you board. Either way be sure no one else can access the pass.

  7. Try to facilitate passing TSA checkpoint as easily and quickly as possible. Wear slip-on shoes you can get in and out of without buckling or tying laces. Have everything like coats, liquids and laptops easily accessible and ready to place in bins as soon as you enter the checkpoint. Remember TSA personel have gotten a bad rap. Sure there are a few bad apples but most are just doing a thankless job to help keep us safe. A smile or plesant word is usually appreciated and returned.

  8. If you are flying alone and hope to have a vacant seat next to you to sprawl out, ( I am using "sprawl" loosely considering the seat size on planes now.) choose either aisle or window seat  on a row with three seats and pick a row that has the opposite number from your seat (aisle or window) taken. Most people do not want to pick a middle of the row seat unless there is nothing else available so unless the plane is full you have some chance of that middle seat being left unoccupied for your purse or book.   

  9. Avoid going to the airline counter to check luggage. Either go with carry-on or check at outside or self check baggage. If you want to skimp on paying luggage fees, try packing your carry-on with all items you would not mind checking. I use the largest carry-on that meets regulations (does not exceed overall dimensions of 45 inches length + width + height for most airlines. Do check your airline's regulations before packing.) Then for women, use a super large "purse" that can carry your laptop or tablet, camera, all you regular personal items and any snacks you want to carry (unless you fly first class, you will not get much to eat on a flight.) Inside I use a smaller tote or regular size purse to compartmentalize items.  For men, pretty much do the same except substitute a computer bag or extra large briefcase that holds all of the above. What will often happen if the flight is full and overhead space is limited, and that is the rule now, the gate attendants will announce that any passengers wanting to gate check their carry-ons to their final destination may do so for free. I then check the one bag and split the contents of the oversize "purse" leaving me with two small carry-ons and a free baggage check. Remember this is never guaranteed so be prepared to struggle with the big carry-on plus personal item if they don't do the courtesy check in.

  10. Always use a luggage tag of your own. Don't depend on the airline one. Use a distinctive one large and brightly colored that can be easily spotted when your bag starts coming down the turnstile.  Again get it off and head outside as quickly as possible. A colored luggage handle also helps with the spotting and also makes it easier to carry thanks to the padding. 


Update on Fort  Lauderdale

As more information comes out on the Fort Lauderdale Airport shooting, my I-can't-believe-it meter goes through the roof. After this guy told authorities he "was hearing voices telling him to join ISIS," they sent him in for evaluation for four days! Four days? He's telling them he is hearing voices from ISIS and they don't seem to think he was seriously mentally ill and needed long term treatment confined in a secure hospital? To top it off, they felt this was not enough to revoke his gun permit.

Yeah. I know. Second amendment guarantees everyone the right to bear arms. Apparently even seriously ill mental deranged persons who claim they were microchiped and hearing ISIS telling them to go kill with that gun are entitled. Now five people are dead. Eight people are wounded. Hundreds are terrified and stranded for hours at the airport. Flights cancelled. Plans and vacations disrupted.

Some photos from Barry Gordon at the Fort Lauderdale Airport

I hear those who say "Guns don't kill. People do." Right but their killing power would be seriously slowed down if all they had was a knife, hammer, ax, or whatever. A bit of sensible control might not stop all killings like this but it would help a lot.

The other thing that would definitely help is to undo Reagan's insane policy that shut down federally funded mental hospitals. I understand he didn't believe in mental illness or psychiatry but remember he was already experiences the beginning of Alzheimer's when he was in office.

Looking just at our country’s homeless population, a quarter of a million people approximately one-third are afflicted with some sort of mental illness. It is unknown how many other people like Esteban Santiago are roaming around hearing voices and buying guns.

Too Close to Home?


Police at Fort Lauderdale Airport
Photo credit Barry Gordon
This is all getting too close to home for me. My home state of Florida seems to be turning into a shooting gallery. Tonight I am watching the Fort Lauderdale Airport shooting story.

It is so much closer to home for me since two of my friends, Renee Gordon, who writes regular columns for American Roads and Global Highways, and Barry Gordon, are trapped outside the airport. They were returning from a trip to the Bahamas and have been at the airport since the shooting occurred. I received this last email from her at 6pm. Remember the shooting took place around 1PM. So imagine being in this situation this long for yourself. “We are stuck outside the doors. No one can enter or leave because they have not found #2 (a possible other shooter). Someone entered my terminal shooting and mayhem followed.  People were screaming and weeping. It was awful. I will try to stay in contact.”

Renee and I have traveled together often, so it could just as easily happen to me. Or you. No matter if, like me, you travel a lot or you are a stay-at-home person.

I visited Jordan a few months ago. Friends and family said “Aren’t you scared?” My answer was and still is “No.”

Andrew Jackson's stature in front of The Landing
near Laura St where the shooting occured
Let me qualify that “No.” I’m not scared of being in Jordan or at an airport. These shooting are happening at random places. Two days ago I considered going to Jacksonville’s Art Walk. I didn’t go because it would involve night driving on the interstate. Yesterday, on the morning news, there was a shooting at that Art Walk and two young men had been shot. Apparently this one was a situation where the victims knew the shooter and are not cooperating with police. Sound like a drug or gang situation. Still, one step in the wrong direction and an innocent person, me or anyone else there just the see the art, could be dead. And it doesn’t have to do with travel or events. It could be a supermarket or, as already had happened far too often, a school or church. We don’t have to be a travel writer to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and end up dead.

Governor Scott weighed in and said the shooter “will be held accountable.” He added, "The citizens of Florida will not tolerate senseless acts of evil.  I just can't imagine how this ever happened in a state like ours." Scott stated he spoke to Donald Trump and Mike Pence rather than President Obama, because of his personal relationship with Trump and Pence, and they pledged to do everything they could to provide whatever resources Florida needs.” Scott added, "Right now the biggest thing to do is pray for them … pray for the individuals that ended up in the hospital."

Broward County Sheriff's cars at airport
 Photo Credit Renee S. Gordon
What I am scared of is that these incidents will continue to happen. One reason is that two of the factors that seem to figure in many of these shooting are not being addressed by our governor or a lot of other public officials. The shooter, Esteban Santiago, a 26-year old U. S. Army veteran who served in Iraq, was being treated by a physiatrist in Alaska. He was recently discharged from the Alaska Army National Guard for “unsatisfactory performance.” To me that adds up to ongoing mental problems. So my logical question is “Why did he have a gun.”

Too often, after these incidents family or friends report a suspected mental condition that was not treated. Often parents of mental ill young people try to get mental help but cannot. I have seen people walking around the streets exhibiting behaviors clearly indicating mental problems, yet they are not brought to any facilities and treated.

If a person is seen exhibiting signs of Ebola or another dangerous disease that could endanger others, they are not given a choice. They are confined and treated. Yet mental illness is ignored and not reported or if it is the person is not treated. Why?

My even bigger “why” is why does anyone object to not allowing these people to buy guns?  Yes, I understand and agree with the 2nd amendment. Let’s leave politics out of things. Registering doesn’t take anyone’s rights away. We register our vehicles and register our marriages and our property transactions. No one objects to that. Farther, why not have extensive mental examinations before anyone can buy a gun. Anywhere. Forget letting any insane person walk into a flea market or gun show and buy one. Education is a basic right and no one objects to having children have a physical before entering school. Why not mental evaluations at varying stages of maturity?

As a travel writer, I want to walk into an airport with some certainly I will walk out again.  As an individual, you are entitled to that same security. Let’s hope we get it someday soon.