Instagram

Follow Me!

DESTINATIONS FELL IN LOVE WITH

A young woman’s courageous spirit lives on at the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam

June 16, 2015
Anne Frank (Credit: Wikipedia)
Photos of Anne Frank on display just beyond the entrance (Credit: Anne Frank House)

Photos of Anne Frank on display just beyond the entrance (Credit: Anne Frank House)

When you approach the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, a line with visitors of all ages and nationalities snakes around the block. The adjacent gift shop sells copies of Anne’s diary.

The Diary of a Young Girl, first published by Otto Frank in 1947 (several years after his daughter’s death), has sold more than 30 million copies and has been translated into 67 languages.

Lines form near the entry to the Anne Frank House

A line forms near the entry to the Anne Frank House

Who would have ever dreamed—that before the age of the Internet—the writings of a young woman, who died before reaching her 15th birthday, would “go viral” and have such a profound impact on so many people across the globe? Anne’s message of hope for social justice, and an end to bigotry and anti-Semitism still resounds.

This is the museum’s 55th year in operation. It first opened in 1960, was closed for a major renovation between 1970 and 1986, and was renewed and restored between 1999 and 2010. National Geographic named The Anne Frank House as one the ten best historic homes in the world.

The museum is comprised of the Secret Annex (the hiding place atop a warehouse), a large contemporary exhibition space, a café and a gift shop.

Entering the Secret Annex

Single file, we followed a prescribed one-way route up a steep, narrow set of stairs to the upper floors above the warehouse where Anne, her family (mother, father and older sister) and four other Jews lived for more than two years during World War II when Holland was occupied by the Nazis. Their shelter was behind a movable bookcase that concealed its door.

In her red-checkered diary, a gift from her parents for her 13th birthday, Anne faithfully recorded the adversities her family faced as they waited for the Allies to end and redress the unthinkable travesties going on across Europe under the Nazis. With the unbridled optimism of youth, Anne had every hope that would happen.

The house feels like a mausoleum, evoking the feeling that you are walking in a hallowed space. The windows are covered with opaque glassine paper and the absence of any light from outside is striking. You think about the inhabitants who remained closeted here 24 hours a day, without being able to go outdoors, compelled to remain silent while workers were in the warehouse.

Museum curators have done a wonderful job of displaying objects, photographs, films and quotations from the diary that document the lives of the inhabitants and the events that forced them into hiding. Scale-models of furniture (made in 1961) show the furnishings that were once here but the rooms remain empty in memory of the millions of lives lost.

Anne Frank (Credit: Wikipedia)

Anne Frank (Credit: Wikipedia)

Soon after our visit, I reread The Diary of a Young Girl, which ends as abruptly as did her life.

The diary recounts the angst of a young woman’s coming of age (beautifully written and as relevant as ever today) and faithfully records history as it was heard by the inhabitants of the Annex over the radio and from their Dutch protectors. It also details the difficulties, both practical and emotional, of unrelated people living in close quarters in extraordinarily difficult circumstances. They constantly feared being discovered and were dependent on benevolent helpers, as they learned of friends and associates on the outside being sent to gas chambers.

All of the inhabitants of the Annex were ultimately deported to concentration camps, with only Otto Frank surviving. As you emerge from the Secret Annex to the larger exhibition area, you feel as if you, too, are gasping for air—for some respite from the terror of those times.

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment

before starting to improve the world”

– Anne Frank

A mother poses with her daughter beside a statue of Anne Frank

A mother poses with her daughter beside a statue of Anne Frank by Mari Andriessen outside the Westerkerk


IF YOU GO

The Anne Frank House is centrally located at Prinsengracht 263-267, around 20 minutes by foot from Amsterdam Central Station.

Admission for adults, 9 Euros; children 10-17, 4,50; ages 0-9 free.


TIPS FOR TRAVELERS

  • Go early in the morning to avoid crowds.
  • Obtain timed tickets online to reduce waiting times.
  • There are several narrow steep staircases to ascend.
  • No photographs are permitted.
  • It is recommended that children visiting the museum be at least 10 years of age and be prepared for their visit, in advance.
  • Try to re-read Anne’s Diary in advance of your visit.

Trailer from the Anne Frank YouTube Channel

  • Reply
    Arline Zatz
    June 16, 2015 at 9:04 am

    I visited the Anne Frank House about 15 years ago and was fortunate that, at that time, there wasn’t a line waiting to get in. I remember the narrow stairs and the sadness that seemed to radiate from the moment I entered. Your write-up was excellent. Thank you for bringing this museum – and the memories within – to our attention.

    Best, Arline Zatz
    web site: http://www.funtravels.com

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      June 16, 2015 at 2:13 pm

      It is an experience that should be high on the list for anyone visiting Amsterdam. I would say right up there with the Rijksmuseum.

  • Reply
    Sheryl
    June 16, 2015 at 11:58 am

    You described this hauntingly. The entire story is tough to fathom, and I’d think being in the house would only serve to bring it more to life. Despite the utter sadness of this, I’m so anxious to go visit the house.

  • Reply
    Sand In My Suitcase
    June 16, 2015 at 12:19 pm

    Anne Frank’s diary is such a wonderful read – and so hopeful, even though the world around her had become a terrible place. It must be quite emotional, as you describe, to visit the place she spent her last teenage years.

  • Reply
    Laura
    June 16, 2015 at 12:46 pm

    Great post, Irene! I felt like I was there and could feel the heavy sadness in the air.

    Did Jerry take a pic of you taking a pic:)?

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      June 16, 2015 at 2:13 pm

      Good detective work!:-)

      • Reply
        Laura
        June 21, 2015 at 12:04 am

        Love your unexpected cameos!

  • Reply
    Muza-chan
    June 18, 2015 at 3:39 am

    Interesting…

  • Reply
    Suzanne Fluhr
    June 20, 2015 at 8:58 pm

    I read Anne Frank’s diary when I was about the same age as she was when she wrote it. Once I had my own children, I could not face reading it again and I think I might be too overwhelmed with grief to visit the Secret Annex. (Amsterdam is one of the few major cities in Western Europe I haven’t visited). Just reading your article has made me very sad—especially because I don’t think the human race has progressed beyond the capacity for such evil.

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      June 20, 2015 at 9:55 pm

      As difficult as it was to visit, like the Holocaust Museum in D.C., it is important to have places such as this that offer testimony to past atrocities so no one forgets. Your point is well taken in terms of the human race not progressing far enough, as exemplified in the recent massacre in Charleston.

      • Reply
        Laura
        June 20, 2015 at 11:56 pm

        We have a holocaust museum here in Skokie, IL, where I grew up, and where many holocaust survivors lived. Bill Clinton spoke at it’s opening. I haven’t been there yet because the prospect makes me so sad, but I’ll probably go eventually.

        I hope you’re doing okay regarding the Charleston incident, Irene. I know you’re pretty invested in the area. I will always believe that 99% of people are good.

  • Reply
    Lois Alter Mark
    June 25, 2015 at 8:21 pm

    We visited the Anne Frank House a few years ago and found it so moving. It made her story so real to me and just looking at your photos makes me want to cry. It’s a very emotional experience.

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      June 25, 2015 at 8:23 pm

      It was great to see all the people of different nationalities (and different religions) there honoring her memory.

Leave a Reply

Share
Tweet
Share
Pin
Flip