New park will honor Anne Frank in Idaho, home of supremacists

LOS ANGELES — Not long ago, Idaho conjured up images of white supremacists goose stepping at their forest stronghold in this U.S. state.

In the near future, Idaho may draw more welcome attention as the home of the Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial and Park in Boise, the state's capital.

The Aryan Nations has left its Hayden Lake compound, evicted after it lost a $6.3 million lawsuit and filed for bankruptcy earlier this year.

Initial excavation on the Anne Frank project began in June, with the inauguration scheduled for spring of next year.

Set within a 30,000 square-foot park donated by the city, the memorial is expected to include:

*A granite wall with waterfall, evocative of Washington's Vietnam War memorial, on whose 19 panels will be etched 60 quotes from past and present champions of human rights and victims of intolerance.

*The first two quotes will be from the Declaration of Independence and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The last will be from Anne's wartime diary: "If God lets me live I shall not remain insignificant. I shall work in the world and for mankind."

*A life-sized bronze sculpture of Anne, standing on a chair and peering through an "attic" window.

*Children's Plaza, with appropriate quotes, visuals and activities.

*Granite writer's table and bronze replica of Anne's diary.

*Footbridge, benches, a flower garden and a reading knoll for active learning and quiet reflection.

*The U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights engraved on a garden wall.

The project will cost between $1.6 million to $2 million, almost all of which has been raised through private donations, ranging from a $500,000 matching gift to nickels and dimes collected by Idaho schoolchildren.

The memorial project is under the auspices of the Idaho Human Rights Education Center, whose executive director, Les Bock, estimates that 250,000 visitors, including 25,000 schoolchildren, will come to the park annually.

These are huge figures for a state whose population is less than 1.3 million. The Jewish community of about 1,000 makes up less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the state's total, and supports a synagogue in Boise.

The origin of the memorial park dates back to 1995, when an Anne Frank exhibit went on display in Boise. It attracted 45,000 visitors, about 5 percent of the state's population.

Some of the thinking that went into the creation of the memorial project is discussed in a two-page flier.

"Why, in Idaho, do we work so passionately on this endeavor?" it asks rhetorically, and responds, "Some may say to offset the vocal hate groups who tarnish the reputation of our state; others may say to build a lasting legacy for generations to come; and still others may say it's simply the right thing to do."

But why name the memorial for Anne Frank? The response is that "Anne Frank's story teaches us about human rights in a way that everyone can understand. From her tragic experiences, we can learn how human rights issues affect us all and how to safeguard against similar human rights tragedies.

In 1944, Anne and her family were arrested by the Germans after they were betrayed to the police. She died in Bergen-Belsen in 1945.

The diary recording her experiences in hiding has been translated into more than 55 languages and has sold more than 25 million copies.

Tom Tugend

JTA Los Angeles correspondent