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8th Street footbridge closes temporarily to allow for addition to Anne Frank Memorial

Get a sneak peek at improvements planned for the Anne Frank Memorial

The Wassmuth Human Rights Education Center is raising $500,000 to complete funding for a new outdoor classroom at the Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial. Get a glimpse at what's planned for the site.
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The Wassmuth Human Rights Education Center is raising $500,000 to complete funding for a new outdoor classroom at the Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial. Get a glimpse at what's planned for the site.

The 8th Street footbridge over the Boise River is closing for about two weeks to allow for construction of an outdoor classroom at the Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial. The Greenbelt beneath the bridge and through the Memorial remains open.

Suez is moving a water line in preparation for construction of the Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial Classroom, which had been scheduled to start last August.

There may be intermittent closures as the project progresses. Completion is estimated to be mid-September.

What is the new classroom?

The open-air classroom, designed by Boise firm Erstad Architects, will be visually similar to the existing stone elements at the memorial and will provide permanent seating for 30 to 35 people, said Dan Prinzing, executive director for the Wassmuth Center for Human Rights, which maintains the memorial. The classroom will be located beside the existing Anne Frank amphitheater. It will include a metal re-creation of the desk where Anne Frank sat to write her famous diary.

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The Greenbelt through the Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial is open although the 8th Street footbridge over the Boise River is closed for about two weeks. Katherine Jones kjones@idahostatesman.com

A kiosk inside the classroom will explore the history of human rights in Idaho by telling the stories of groups of people who have faced discrimination in the state, including women, the Japanese, the Chinese, Basques, Jews, Mormons, Latinos, African-Americans, refugees, members of the LGBTQ community and people with disabilities. The story of the center's namesake will also be included. Former Catholic priest Bill Wassmuth fought the Aryan Nations movement in Idaho.

The center is producing a series of 13 short videos, and each will show "a moment, event, piece of legislation, person or place significant in telling a story for that group," Prinzing said. For example, the video about the Japanese in Idaho will focus on the Minidoka Relocation Center that held Japanese Americans during World War II. A video about Idaho Gov. Moses Alexander and the building of Synagogue Ahavath Beth Israel will detail the history of Jews in Idaho. Alexander was governor of Idaho in the early 1900s.

The kiosk video about women in Idaho will be a further tribute to human rights champion Marilyn Shuler, telling the story of her commitment "both personally and professionally to promote and protect human rights," Prinzing said. Shuler died Feb. 3, 2017.

The videos will play on a 55-inch screen in the kiosk, "showcasing both moments of human rights tragedy and moments of triumph," Prinzing said.

The entire campaign goal is $1.7 million, which includes the actual construction and programming. The center still needs to raise $425,000. The center had hoped to break ground on Aug. 16, 2017, the 15th anniversary of its original construction, but there were delays.

Andy Erstad, principal architect for the project, said he based his design on existing structures at the memorial to create a "light and airy classroom" that will be available and welcoming to neighbors such as The Cabin literary center and the library.

Erstad noted the bronze statue of Anne Frank that stands at the memorial.

"What I loved the most is that Anne is looking out into the world. We felt that with this design we could take that same notion but look into her world," Erstad said.

No existing structures or memorial elements will have to be removed because of the construction of the new outdoor classroom, but it will cause the Greenbelt entrance to be relocated closer to The Cabin nearby. The new entrance will be aesthetically pleasing, said Erstad, but also safer for bicyclists and walkers.

Visit the Wassmuth Center for Human Rights at wassmuthcenter.org to learn more or make a donation.

More about the memorial site

The popularity of an Anne Frank exhibition that toured Idaho in 1995 inspired Leslie Drake, Marilyn Shuler, the Rev. Nancy Taylor and Lisa Uhlmann to found the Anne Frank Memorial, which opened in 2002.

Today, the memorial "education park" includes an amphitheater that re-creates the footprint of the Amsterdam room where Anne Frank and her family hid from the Nazis until their discovery in 1944. The site includes a garden dedicated in memory of Boisean Rose Beal, a Holocaust survivor. A chestnut sapling taken from the chestnut tree that grew near the Franks' hiding place grows in the Rose Beal Legacy Garden. The Wassmuth Center, located near the memorial site, offers educational programs, docent tours and more.

The memorial is the only one in the United States dedicated to Anne Frank. Learn more at wassmuthcenter.org/the-memorial.

Former Statesman reporter Anna Webb contributed to this story.
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