7 October 2014

Anne Frank's Diary and the Anne Frank Museum: Amsterdam

I knew I'd cry. She was an ordinary little girl, living through an extraordinarily difficult situation where one wrong step at the wrong time could cost the lives of her whole family.

Growing up protected in a small country that had felt the effects of World War I and II (in a much different way), as school children we read the Diary of Anne Frank in an attempt to understand and empathise with what happened half the world away. In many ways we could never truly put our feet in her shoes, but it helped us to understand why our servicemen were so proud to help in any way they could.

Anne Frank's Diary and the Anne Frank Museum: Amsterdam

There are a few 'must do's' when visiting Amsterdam, none so seemingly so busy as a small canal house a few blocks from the shopping streets (and red light district) directly in the centre of the city. Hundreds of visitors queue for hours outside the house & museum to physically inhabit the tiny space that has captured the hearts and imaginations of millions. If only Anne Frank somehow knew.



Anne Frank's Diary and the Anne Frank Museum: Amsterdam  
Her ambition as a thirteen year old was to be a famous writer and journalist, but sadly it was her posthumous diaries of the two years and a month hiding from Nazi persecution that made her one of the most discussed Jewish victims of the Holocaust. German-born, her family moved to Amsterdam in 1933 to set up a new life free of the restrictions places on Jewish families. With the dawn of 1940 and the German occupation of the Netherlands, by 1942 the Frank family were forced to go into hiding in a cleverly crafted 'secret annexe' where they relied upon staff working in the front warehouse to supply them with essentials and keep their enormous secret.

Anne Frank's Diary and the Anne Frank Museum: Amsterdam

We were struck by how small a space the family inhabited - Mother and Father, Edith and Otto Frank, and her older sister Margot - to then be joined by their 3 friends the van Pels family and additionally Fritz Pfeffer. Living within 500 square feet of walls that they could never leave created a maelstrom of pressure, personality conflict and self-awareness that leaps from the penned prose of her diaries.

"I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I've never met. I want to go on living even after my death! And that's why I'm so grateful to God for having given me this gift, which I can use to develop myself and to express all that's inside me!"


We shuffled through the few small rooms with respectful hushed tones through to the permanent exhibition with carefully spaced videos of painful holocaust facts and memories, original pages of her diaries and finally a theater room with the gathered reactions of famous and thoughtful visitors. Set up through her Father, sadly the only surviving member of the German camps, the museum is a beautiful testimony to the individual suffering affecting thousands of families so cruelly troubled by horrific atrocities committed. Of an estimated 107,000 Dutch Jews said to be deported from the Netherlands between 1942 and 1944, it is thought that 5,000 survived.

 
If you are visiting Amsterdam, it really is an experience that must be undergone (but to avoid the hours of queuing behind other tourists, book ahead online as early as possible before you go. Seriously, it was wonderful to be able to queue jump the hoards of people waiting around the block). Oh, and that Oscar? It's the Academy Award given to Shelley Winters for her portrayal of August van Pels in the movie The Diary of Anne Frank.

Having visited the Jewish Museum in Berlin, the evocative memorial site of the Twin Towers and the sobering remains of Hiroshima, the museum was a sobering reminder of how lucky we really are.

Lest we forget.

20 comments :

  1. This is definitely on my bucket list for historical places I'd like to visit - especially after visiting the Holocaust museum in Washington, DC. I remember reading this book in grade schoool and being unable to wrap my head around her story actually being real life. It's so moving, so humbling. Beautiful photos! Hope Amsterdam was fun!


    <3 dani
    http://blog.shopdisowned.com

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  2. If I do make it to Amsterdam I definitely want to go here!!

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  3. Oh Emma, I'd love to go so much. It was one of my favourite books as a child. I don't always like reading stuff about the holocaust as I find it upsetting but I'd love to visit Anne Frank's house - I don't know if I could visit Auschweitz though I think I'd find it too harrowing. On a rather separate note, I really recommend a book called The StoryTeller by Jodi Picoult about a girl living in a concentration camp. I'll lend it to you when we finally meet properly :)

    Lots of love,

    Angie

    SilverSpoon London

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  4. This is exactly how I felt about my experience there too. The only struggle for me was I felt very emotional but I also get very uncomfortable with being emotional in public, so I held myself together but it left a lasting impression on me for the rest of my day.

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  5. This is an experience that will stick in my mind forever. Even after visiting, it's still hard for me to fathom what life must have been like for Anne and her family. Sad that she is just one of millions who suffered so greatly. x

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  6. I visited the house three times, and each time was poignant in different ways. It was so emotional having read the book as a child - I felt a bit disconnected from the reality of what happened until visiting. So tragic that the family was taken to Auschwitz on one of the last trains, and Anne died just a few weeks before liberation...

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  7. Today I wrote about my brief layover in Amsterdam, and it reminded me of how badly I wanted (and still want) to see Anne Frank's house. I tear up just thinking about these sort of things. Thank you for writing and reminding people that this REALLY DID HAPPEN. So many people doubt and deny it.

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  8. It is true how lucky we are that we get to live each day. And I think coming from NZ, I really do take it for granted when there are still people who suffer every day. I've felt the same way in Bosnia knowing that it was less then 20 years ago that it happened to them

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  9. It was seeing the board game that did it for me. So poignant a reminder of the inhabitants and the lives they led. Oh I loved Anne Frank's house. She was a beautiful, normal, marvellous spirit.

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  10. We are very lucky! Travel teaches you so much (many unexpected things as well!)

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  11. You definitely should go, it's something else.

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  12. It makes my heart ache - they were so close!

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  13. We had a long intense coffee in the cafe afterwards to gather ourselves.

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  14. I find it so hard too and a feel a need to somehow acknowledge it in my own little way. I couldn't watch the end of the movie 'the boy in striped pyjamas' it was too harrowing.
    Thank you, that would be lovely.

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  15. We went by train which was easy peasy!

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  16. We loved Amsterdam for so many reasons!

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  17. I cried too. It was impossible not to after reading the published novel of her diary so much as a child that my copy was thumbed and the spine broken to bits! I thought the museum of the annex was done very well - so moving, and incredible that over ten people could inhabit that tiny space. I've never seen the movie of the diary but would love to now - as well as visit those other sites you've been to! x

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