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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Anne Frank and the Anne Frank House

Back when I was doing my posts on our trip to Paris, the Netherlands and London, there were several people who asked why I didn't post about the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam -- especially since I mentioned it was on my "must do" list.
There are three reasons for that. First, those Europe posts, while fun for me, were getting awfully long. And, I wasn't quite sure how to make it fit with the others, since no photos were allowed in the Anne Frank House. It would take some prepping.
But most of all, I found it moving in a way that was difficult to process and I just wasn't sure how to go about it.
But time, of course, puts things into perspective, so back to Holland we go.
 
Rick and I were more fortunate than we knew to make reservations for the Anne Frank House so close to the time we would visit (Two days before--and there were precious few times from which to choose). This may be one of the biggest attractions in Amsterdam and because of the size and cramped quarters, only a certain number of people are admitted at a time. The lines can be quite long. (If your travel plans are quite certain, you can make reservations well in advance online.)
 
The house is located on one of Amsterdam's many canals. In the photo above, you can see it next to the house with the "step" roof. Below is a closer view.
It is an easy walk from the Centraal Station, about 20 minutes, and also near a tram stop.
After you enter, one is reminded that the "House" was actually the business establishment of Otto Frank and the first spots you see are the offices from the company. There are a couple of diaramas showing how things were laid out and some memorabilia.
The really emotional stuff begins when you go behind the bookcase that bloked the narrow stairway up to the rooms where the Frank and Van Pels families stayed, along with their dentist friend, Fritz Pfeffer (Mr. Dussel).
There is no furniture. If you see postcards otherwise (and there are some) they have been staged for the guide book. So, in a way, one doesn't get the sense of how cramped it would be -- except for the fact that in your group there are more than eight people walking around -- and there isn't a lot of room to walk.
The only room that is somewhat decorated is Anne's -- the movie star photos she collected are posted on the wall, much in the way one would thing she had done as a young girl.
To me, one of the most moving spots was the attic where Anne and Peter would sit and talk, fall in love, and look at a piece of sky. The house is very near the Westertoren church where they would listen to the bells.
It surprised me -- and it shouldn't have -- that the house is across the street from one of the many canals that snake through Amsterdam. I don't remember mention of this in the diary, but it has been a long time.

And, just down the block is the Westertoren. 
You can see how close it is to the gift shop (the glassed building attached to the house in the photo below)
After one leaves the living quarters, you visit a museum of sorts. There are video monitors with interviews of those who had known Anne, including Miep Gies, one of those who helped keep them safe for so long.. Some of these stories are very sad indeed.
The original diary is not present but other diaries are mocked up to look the same and one can see pages of writing by Anne and many photographs.
You can also see the SS Records after the group was arrested. There are also many photos from the Frank's personal collection and information on how each of those who died perished.
When one leaves the archival part of the house, there is yet another area -- one that brings the issues presented in the book and on the tour to real and contemporary life. Videos present questions and ask how you would handle. People can vote individually and sometimes the results are a bit disarming.
 
I think the museum does a disservice to itself in not recreating the space more authentically. A bunch of empty rooms don't do it for the uninitiated. But the displays are excellent and I'd put it at the top of the list for anyone, particularly one who knows and cares about Anne Frank's story, to visit.
 
I was extremely moved by the Anne Frank House. Maybe it was reading the book so often, or so many books about her family and their protectors over time. Maybe it was having worked on or in three productions of the play and seeing the movie any number of times. Rick was less so.

"Why Anne Frank?" he asked, when so many died. How did her hiding place become the big tourist attraction that it is?
 
It's a tough question -- and a good one. Clearly there were many who died or who were brave in their resistance to the Nazis.

But the way I see it is that here was one girl -- one of the innocents, like so many innocent children. She lived in the hardest of worlds, in conditions no one should experience, for reasons which are unspeakably deplorable. 
 
She wasn't the only one by any means. But she was the one with a voice, the one who despite everything still believed that people were really good at heart.

23 comments:

Keicha Christiansen said...

I love what you said about Anne being the one with a voice. So true, and so poignant that it was the voice of a young girl that affected so many.

I've never been to the Anne Frank house, but it's been on my bucket list since the first time I read her diaries. Thanks for sharing your impressions.

Introverted Art said...

To think something so grotesque could happen... My husband's mom fled Poland with fake documents so they would not be taken to the gas chambers... most disgusting thing.

Marilyn said...

The impact of the first time I read the book about Anne Frank still sits with me. So I too was impacted by walking through the rooms where the hid. Funny, but I didn't realize we needed reservations. We just walked there on a Sunday morning from our hotel and got right in. It was a lovely walk along the canals to arrive at this special place. Thanks for the memories and sharing it with us.

Annie said...

Very somber. I've read the Diary a few times in years past. Very sobering. The location on a canal surprised me too. Somehow, I had pictures a narrow street filled with businesses and the busyness of daily life.

Joanne Huffman said...

Such a strong voice from a young girl. I think the answer to Rick's question is that it could have been any young girl's story that captured what happened; it just happened to be Ann's diary that was found and published.

Luna und Luzie said...

This is a great post, Jeanie ! I´ve read the book many times. I´m glad they found Annes Diary and published it to remember
Thanks for remembering and sharing your impressions of the Anne Frank House and Amsterdam.

♥ Stefanie

rippleeffects said...

You're absolutely right... it's her faith in humanity and that people were good by nature that makes her tragedy so much poignant. I'm afraid what she met with after she'd written this in her diary was the harshest, most repulsive joke that could have played on her. I still remember reading how she'd followed a daily schedule of studying diff. subjects, like she's still in school hoping soon she could use the knowledge maybe for further education. Your pictures are moving. So much so, I'm not sure if I can actually bear to visit the place. Thanks for sharing.

joyce said...

Wow, how powerful. Gives me chills as I read it. I have also been there once, way back when I was 18. Mostly because my mom wanted to go. It was moving then and now, knowing life like I do, it would be even more so. I want to drop everything right now and do research. Thank you. The fact that this stands out from the rest of your posts also makes it so meaningful. I don't think we have the ability to truly imagine what life was like for them all.

Tracy said...

Oh, this was profound....Why Anne Frank? I think because she embodies the spirit of what happened--the loss of innocence for so many. She thankfully left her voice for us. And we can't help but me moved. I read her diary as a teenager. It is impossible not to be deeply moved. Just seeing this post able, affected me so much. Thank you so much, Jeanie. Glad you did share this after all. :o) Happy Weekend ((HUGS))

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

I have always been touched by Anne Frank's story because it makes it all a bit more real. When you step back and think of the massive number of people who were killed, you can almost get desensitized to some extent. But then when you read the voice of one young person and kind of get a second hand experience by reading about it, it makes it all more impactful in a different way. I have never been to Amsterdam, but if I go, I would definitely tour her home. Thanks for sharing your experience!!

~*~Patty S said...

thank you for this most beautiful and very touching post dear Jeanie...
leaves me quite speechless
oxo

shoreacres said...

I've read the book, but it's been such a long time ago. I need to read it again.

I also think the power of her story lies in the fact that it's just that - a story. So much of what we read of that time is so immense, so horrible, so large, it's hard to grasp. The story of one individual invites us to feel, to ponder, to consider how we might have responded in similar circusmtances. How wonderful that you were able to visit the place, and share it with us.

Jennifer Richardson said...

i'm so so grateful
that someone thought,
someone cared enough
to preserve this bit of history
and didn't shove it all
into a bin somewhere
to be forgotten.
what a treasure
and i appreciate the time
you took to share.
feeling richer and more grateful
for each day of freedom,
Jennifer

paris parfait said...

Depending upon when one visits, sometimes original diaries and documents are under glass. Every time I visit, I notice different things. And I don't think the lack of furniture detracts from the history. As the space is quite small, having furniture in most of it would make it seem even more claustrophobic. And I think you're right that Anne Frank's diary gave authentic documentation to the occupation and to the way many people lived. Many, many people never had the chance to write a diary or record their experiences. So in that sense, we are lucky to have Anne's account of what she endured, along with thousands of people like her during the Nazi occupation. In Europe, the wounds still run deep.

Janet said...

It must have been emotional to visit the very house where she was hidden away. I remember the first time I read the diary...I was a young girl...and it had such an impact on me. We have this first-hand account of what life was like during those dark and horrible years, and yet Anne managed to have hope and love in her heart.

Introverted Art said...

Hi Jeanie,

I played with my layout a little. To put the link son top, I used the "pages" feature that's available on blogger. Let me know if you need help :)

Tamara said...

Thanks Jeanie for taking to time to reflect on your visit, and for posting about it when you were ready. Annes story, like many others who voiced thier experiences, engages us so emotionally because we know those things could happen again if we dont support/preserve our strong voices of today. Thanks for reminding me we have to continue to advocate for libery.

OldLady Of The Hills said...

Most importantly, she wrote about these incredibly horrific times in a diary. This is documented proof of one little girls experience for all of us to read---GREAT thanks to her father. And, she speaks for thousands of others.

I have always found that quotation so incredibly touching...."In spite of everything, I still believe that people are good at heart..." AMAZING and INSPIRING.

Cheryl said...

I think we are lucky to have this open to the public, I do think that they should add furniture to the area so it does recreate the setting in which these people had to endure such a small space during such a horrendous time in the world. Thanks for sharing the pictures and your visit there.

Virginia said...

What a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing the photographs and your thoughts as well. A horrible time . I visited the Deportation Memorial behind Notre Dame last week. Very moving as well.
V

Friko said...

Anne’s voice was eloquent and remains so over the decades. She speaks for the countless ones who left no trace.

Thank you for caring.

Vagabonde said...

I read “Le Journal de Anne Frank” when I was a teenager in France (in 1956 or 57.) I am not sure if I still have the book here or if I left it at home. I certainly was very moved by it and understood better then what my mother’s friend had gone through, for a little while, when we hid her in our room on the 6th floor in Paris. I visited Anne Frank’s house in 1966 I think. It had opened in 1960. We were staying in a bed and breakfast down the road and just walked up to it – there was no wait and we were the only tourist. We stayed in the rooms alone for a while and it was very emotional.

Happy Homemaker UK said...

We hope to go to Amsterdam one year in Spring to see the tulips. I'd forgotten about Anne Franks's house - so thank you for the reminder! And for managing my expectations :)

Sorry to hear you have been ill. I hope you are better very soon!!

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