Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
Home / Life
Remember the story of Anne Frank, the WWII teenage girl who kept a diary of her two years in hiding in Amsterdam with her family? Recently, while driving past Danville, Iowa on U.S. Highway 34, Jefferson County RSVP volunteer coordinator John Miller noticed a sign: “Anne Frank Pen Pal Museum.” He pulled off the highway, investigated, and found that the Danville library has dedicated a large portion of their space to honoring Anne Frank, her sister Margot, and others.
Background on the museum: In 1939, a Danville teacher, Birdie Mathews, traveled to Germany. There, she met another teacher and the two of them decided to set up a pen pal program. As a result, two Danville students, Juanita Wagner and her sister Betty, began corresponding, respectively, with Anne and Margot. Sadly, after exchanging a single letter and receiving a reply, the Frank sisters were forced to flee to Amsterdam and soon after go into hiding from the German Army, from July 1942 until August 1944.
Miller manages a pen pal program with RSVP senior volunteers and two local Fairfield grade schools. Recently, he made the 38-mile trip with several volunteers to see the museum. The quite extensive tour took the group over two hours to complete. It included a 15-minute interview of Betty Wagner from about 2010; she passed in 2012.
The museum also displayed copies of the girls’ letters and of course many other memorabilia: photos of the four girls involved, a replica of the book case that hid the access to "The Annex" where the eight Jewish family and friends lived hidden away, many excerpts from Anne's diary, and lots more.
There is a modest admission charge. The library is a nonprofit but receives no state or city funding, operating strictly on donations. It's open 2-5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to noon Saturday.
Anyone interested in serving with RSVP as a pen pal or in other ways may contact Miller at 641-919-4242 or email@example.com.