Amsterdam

Anne Frank House, Amsterdam

The story of Anne Frank is known worldwide. She offered an insight into the life of just one of the millions persecuted by the Nazis during the Holocaust.

Brief history

For those who haven’t read her diary, or aren’t familiar with her story, Anne was born in Germany in 1929. As the Nazis rose to power and took control of Germany in 1933, the family worried what would happen to them if they remained in Germany. And so, along with 300,000 other Jewish people, they fled the country, taking advantage of an offer for Otto Frank (Anne’s father) to start a company in Amsterdam. They moved the same year, and settled into life in Amsterdam. However, the persecution of Jewish people spread, with those living in Amsterdam facing the same fate as those who had remained in Germany.

The family took the decision to go into hiding in 1942. A space was converted into living quarters in the warehouse Otto worked, and Anne, her parents Otto and Edith, and her sister Margot moved in. A week later, another family joined them, and then another man made the numbers up to 8. A few trusted staff members were made aware of their presence, and they kept them fed and watered when they were able to. During the days, the families had to remain silent for fear of alerting people of their hiding place. Come evening, they were able to make their way down to the warehouse, but windows had to be blacked out and they still had to be careful to leave no sign of them being there.

Anne kept a diary chronicling her thoughts and feelings, and what went on in the attic for over 2 years, until they were captured and sent to concentration camps.

The Anne Frank House

When we first walked past the museum, we saw a huge queue. We’d only just arrived in Amsterdam and didn’t fancy spending our first day in a queue, so agreed that we’d come back later. After a brief nap, we saw in the Lonely Planet guide that the best time to return was in the evening. So come 6 o’clock that evening, we wandered back to find that there was absolutely no queue! We walked straight in, paid the modest 9 Euros and made our way into the warehouse.

The queue, early afternoon!!
The queue, early afternoon!! It goes round behind the building on the right too.

The first part you enter has a couple of TV screens, with a short film giving you a bit of background history. From there, you walk through the reconstructed warehouse, and up some stairs to the offices. The offices are furnished with desks as they would have been during the time the Franks were hiding there. There are also a couple of TVs playing interviews with the ladies who worked in the office.

From there is the main draw – the annexe. The hallway from the offices looks like an ordinary hallway with a bookcase as the end. The only thing special is that the bookcase was the doorway to the annexe where the families were hiding. It’s propped open, and you have to duck and step up at the same time (trickier than it sounds!) to get through the narrow gap behind it.

From there you enter the first level of the annexe. There’s no furniture in any of the rooms. When they were discovered, the entire place was ransacked and stripped. When Otto returned, he agreed for furniture to temporarily be placed in the rooms for photos to be taken, but he wanted them to remain empty. So there are pictures on the walls to give you an idea of how the rooms were furnished when they were occupied.

After you’ve made your way around the first floor (it won’t take long…they didn’t have much space) you make your way up some of the steepest stairs I’ve ever had the trouble of walking up. On the second floor are a couple more rooms, including one which leads to the attic. You can’t go up there, but they’ve cleverly placed a mirror above the stairs so that you can see what’s up there.

The building on the left is the one in which the offices and annex were housed.
The building on the left is the one in which the offices and annex were housed.

Because we were there when it was so empty, with only about 10 people in the whole annexe while we were there, we were able to get a real feel for the space. I found it really eerie to walk around the rooms, because I’ve read the diary and know what went on there. It’s incredibly surreal, and humbling. However, my boyfriend hasn’t read Anne’s diary, and he still took a lot from being there.

From the second level of the annex there’s a corridor to the actual museum part, which is only small. There’s another TV with a short film, and then another room where you can see actual pages of the original diary.

When I was younger, I felt that Otto Frank had been wrong to publish Anne’s personal and private thoughts and feelings. However, since visiting the Anne Frank House, I learned that there had been a request that people document their experiences during the war so that people could learn about it when it had all finished. Upon hearing that, Anne, who was an aspiring writer, began to rewrite her diary with the view to having it published after the war. When the families were discovered, the annex was ransacked. The ladies who worked in the offices and had looked after the families went into the annex some time after and found pages of Anne’s diary. They kept them, with the hope of returning them to her when she came back.

I won’t lie, a trip around the annex isn’t a barrel of laughs. It’s incredibly touching, and makes you so appreciative of what you have, while giving you a deeper understanding of what people went through to avoid the concentration camps. Anne’s story may be known worldwide, but it is only one of millions.

Tips

  • Go in the evening – we went at 6pm on a Saturday and didn’t have to queue.
  • If you can, read Anne’s diary before you go…it’ll enhance your visit.
  • You can easily walk from Dam Square, the house is on the 4th canal as you walk towards Jordaan, and the Homomonument is close by.

Sorry for the lack of pictures, I just didn’t feel appropriate taking photos in there.

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