VISITORS to the Anne Frank exhibition that toured through Glenelg Shire were left in no doubt about its relevance when they had Corneilus Melis as their guide.
At the start of the Second World War, Mr Melis was living in the Dutch capital Amsterdam, where Jewish teenager Anne Frank hid for years in concealed rooms in her unsuccessful bid to escape capture by the Nazis.
Mr Melis, now 94, of Portland, was sent to work in forced labour camps in Germany and Austria for nearly four years during the war and spoke of his ordeal when taking groups of seniors through the exhibition.
Glenelg Shire cultural services officer Lynda Cooper said people were dumbfounded when Mr Melis told his story.
Mrs Cooper said the exhibition showed Anne Frank’s story had lost none of its power to affect people.
The exhibition was the most successful ever held at the Portland Arts Centre, with about 1800 people visiting during its four weeks at the venue.
Another 700 people saw the exhibition during its three weeks in Casterton that ended yesterday.
Mrs Cooper said the popular book, The Diary of Anne Frank, was the means to which many Australians aged over 30 came to understand the Holocaust.
Younger people now had other books and other ways of learning about the Holocaust but many of the school students who visited said it had humanised their studies of the Second World War.
Anne Frank’s story remained an outstanding lesson about the inhumanity caused when people did not respect other religions, Mrs Cooper said.
The free exhibition attracted visitors from throughout the south-west and South Australia and many groups were guided through by volunteer guides.
It included a 28- minute DVD and 11 storyboards that detailed “big historical events” of the time and the lives of Anne Frank and her family, connecting the big history to small history.