Stage set in image-tattered Idaho to dedicate Anne Frank memorial

LOS ANGELES — After seven years of planning and fund-raising, the Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial and Park will be dedicated in Boise, Idaho.

Thousands were expected to attend today and Saturday's dedication, which will affirm Idaho's commitment to tolerance and civil rights and reject the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations, who have marred the northwestern state's reputation.

The 30,000-square-foot park, on the banks of the Boise River, includes a life-size bronze statue of the Dutch Jewish child whose diary of life in hiding during World War II has become world famous. Along with a statue of Anne peering through an "attic" window, the park has two reflecting ponds, three waterfalls, a children's plaza and an amphitheater.

Engraved on tablets of Idaho sandstone and travertine are the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and 60 quotes from such figures as Eleanor Roosevelt, Martin Luther King Jr., Chief Joseph and Confucius, ending with the quote from Anne's famous diary, "If God lets me live…I shall not remain insignificant. I shall work in the world and for mankind."

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.

More than 3,000 individuals and businesses contributed toward the $1.5 million cost of the project. Donors included students from 40 Idaho schools who staged plays, washed cars, sold candy and friendship-grams and collected pennies for the $40,000 statue of Anne Frank by Massachusetts sculptor Greg Stone.

More than 250,000 visitors, including 25,000 school children, are expected to visit the memorial annually, according to Les Bock, executive director of the Idaho Human Rights Education Center, who spearheaded the project. These are huge figures for a state with a total population of less than 1.3 million.

The Anne Frank memorial is just one of many projects Idaho has launched in recent years as it attempts to overcome its reputation as a haven for extremists.

Greg Carr, an Idaho native who is also supporting the Anne Frank memorial, is working to transform the former Idaho headquarters of the Aryan Nations, a white supremacist group, into a museum and human rights center.

Idaho's minuscule Jewish community of about 1,000 makes up far less than 1 percent of the state's total population. The community supports one synagogue, Ahavath Beth Israel 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, at that time about 5 percent of the state's population.

Today, Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne and Boise Mayor Brent Coles were slated to formally dedicate the memorial, while New York actress Aysan Celik was scheduled to read excerpts from Anne's diary.

Saturday will be given over to an international celebration, featuring multiethnic dance and music groups, tours and children's activities.

Tom Tugend

JTA Los Angeles correspondent