Last Updated on November 13, 2023
The National World War II Museum in New Orleans premiered its Liberation Pavilion on November 3, 2023. The Liberation Pavilion is The National WWII Museum’s final permanent exhibit hall and details the end of the war, the Holocaust, the immediate postwar years, and the war’s continuing impact today.
The three-story Pavilion houses two floors of exhibit space featuring personal experiences, iconic imagery, impactful artifacts, and immersive settings, as well as a third-floor theater offering audiences a brand-new cinematic experience.
One of the exhibitions, “And Then They Came for Me,” replicates Anne Frank’s Secret Annex and its hidden entryway. Inside the Annex, visitors are immersed in audio and visual simulation of the harrowing two-year concealment of the Frank and van Pels families.
While exploring the space, the experience starts with audio first person accounts taken directly from Anne Frank’s diary (using young female narrator), describing life in the Annex. Footsteps or other sound effects appear sporadically to establish several “close calls” where family was nearly discovered. This is juxtaposed with audio of some of Anne’s inner dialogue: her struggles as well as her hopes and aspirations.
Lastly, Anne’s voice is suddenly cut off as sounds of Nazi troops invade the Annex. Frank, and her family’s, fate was sealed. She would be murdered at the Bergen-Belsen death camp, aged 15, leaving behind a diary that would change the world.
The presentation is a powerful reminder of man’s capacity for cruelty in the name of nationalism and prejudice, with chilling echoes still clearly audible around the world today.
Liberation Pavilion’s first-floor galleries, titled “Finding Hope in a World Destroyed,” honor the sacrifices of the WWII generation and explore the immense cost of war. It features exhibits on the Holocaust, including a moving experience faithfully recreating Anne Frank’s Secret Annex and its discovery by Nazi troops; a meditation on faith in wartime; and a scenic exhibit and extensive interactive database about the famed Monuments Men and Women who were tasked with saving stolen art.
It also includes a panoramic theater with personal video testimonies from Holocaust survivors and the US forces who liberated them, as well as an interfaith chapel to provide a quiet space for contemplation.
The second floor, named “Forces of Freedom at Home and Abroad (1945–Present),” explores the war’s impact in the postwar period and its lasting legacies today. Exhibits examine the rebuilding efforts of a world destroyed, the war crimes trials, the emergence of the United States as a world “superpower,” movements for social change and civil rights, new technological innovations, and the war’s impact on foreign policy.
An interactive gallery provides a reflective space for visitors to voice their thoughts on the war’s legacy and what it means today.
The pavilion’s exhibits notably do not shy away from complicated narratives that arose from the postwar period, yet still resonate today. The “Prosperity and Change” gallery, for example, features personal accounts of African American WWII soldiers and workers facing discrimination in postwar America, other racial and ethnic minorities denied equal rights in American society, and women’s changing role in the postwar era.