Anne Frank museum chat-bot puts diarist on Facebook
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Anne Frank museum chat-bot puts diarist on Facebook

Museum director hopes technology will make Jewish Holocaust victim's story more accessible to younger public

Prince Constantijn of the Netherlands unveils a Facebook chatbot during the presentation of a initiative between the Anne Frank Foundation and Facebook Netherlands on March 21, 2017 in Amsterdam. (AFP Photo/ANP/Freek van den Bergh)
Prince Constantijn of the Netherlands unveils a Facebook chatbot during the presentation of a initiative between the Anne Frank Foundation and Facebook Netherlands on March 21, 2017 in Amsterdam. (AFP Photo/ANP/Freek van den Bergh)

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (AFP) — Seven decades ago, the young Jewish diarist Anne Frank is unlikely to have imagined that her story would be kept alive for new generations via a computer-generated bot.

But now visitors to the Amsterdam museum, lodged in the house where the teenager wrote her famous diary as she hid from Nazi occupiers, can learn about her history thanks to a unique collaboration with Facebook.

A chat-bot program unveiled Tuesday is designed to provide information on the life story of Anne Frank in the form of a personalized chat conversation. It also provides visitor information about the Anne Frank House.

“In these troubling times we live in, the story of Anne Frank is more relevant than ever,” said museum director Ronald Leopold, unveiling the initiative.

“We are concerned about the fact that more than 70 years after the war, half of the visitors are under 30 and they know less than my generation. So it’s important to give more historical context and more historical information to connect with that history,” he added.

Prince Constantijn of the Netherlands talks during the presentation of a initiative between the Anne Frank Foundation and Facebook Netherlands on March 21, 2017 in Amsterdam. (AFP Photo/ANP/Freek van den Bergh)
Prince Constantijn of the Netherlands talks during the presentation of a initiative between the Anne Frank Foundation and Facebook Netherlands on March 21, 2017 in Amsterdam. (AFP Photo/ANP/Freek van den Bergh)

The chat-bot program is an information technology software that allows users to talk directly with the museum via Facebook messenger. Based on artificial intelligence, the program is designed to improve over time as it learns from the questions users pose.

So far it is limited, and only offers a few options. Do you want to know the opening times of the museum, or know more about Anne Frank?

Do you want to learn about her diary, or the annex in the Amsterdam canal house where Anne hid with her family? Or are you looking for more information about the family’s capture and fate?

The bot was released at the museum Tuesday by Prince Constantijn of the Netherlands in honor of International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the Anne Frank House said in a statement.

The prince said the bot is more than a “fun gadget.”

“It is a way to reach people all over the world and inform them about Anne Frank’s life and warn them for the risks and effects of racism and discrimination,” he said. “That is ultimately what new technologies should be used for: to better our lives and conquer the challenges society faces.”

Born in Germany on June 12, 1929, Anne Frank and her family fled for The Netherlands in 1933 to escape the rise of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi party.

They arrived in Amsterdam and later went into hiding in a small apartment concealed behind a false bookcase on the top floor of the house, number 263 Prinsengracht.

They were also joined by the Van Pels family and Fritz Pfeffer, and hid out for some two years until being discovered in August 1944 and deported.

“The generations that lived through the horrors are slowly disappearing, so it is important to find new ways to tell a story that should never be forgotten,” said Prince Constantijn, the brother of the current Dutch king, who also attended the launch.

A proxy baptism was performed on Anne Frank on February 18, 2012, according to Mormon church records. (photo credit: AP file photo)
Anne Frank, age 12, at her school desk in Amsterdam in 1941. (AP Photo)

Anne’s diary is one of the most widely read books in the world. It has been translated into 67 languages and has sold more than 30 million copies.

Anne died from typhoid in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945, just a few days after her sister. Her father Otto was the lone survivor of the annex.

JTA contributed to this report.

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