Item number 11 on my 50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 list actually included two items - tour the Anne Frank House and the ten Boom Home. We checked this item off on our Europe Trip last month, and I'm sharing about it in two posts. Today's post is about the Anne Frank House.
Before we left for our trip, we re-watched The Diary of Anne Frank mini-series and the Anne Frank Remembered documentary. We also pre-purchased tickets to tour the Anne Frank House after talking to several friends who missed the tour due to extremely long lines. Our tickets were for a timed entry at 7pm on the day we arrived in Amsterdam, so we enjoyed a nice dinner then strolled over to the Jordaan district.
It was well after dark at this time and photos were not allowed inside the building, so I only have a few snapshots to share. The most noticeable landmark is, of course, the Westerkerk clock tower that Anne mentions several times in her diary.
We sat on a bench across the canal while we waited for our time slot. In this photo below, you can see the line off to the right of the photo.
Robbie tried to take my photo in front of the building with the Anne Frank House sign, but it was dark outside and the sign inside was lit . . . so we ended up with this!
Although I'm very happy we took the tour, in all honesty, the tour itself was disappointing. It's a self-guided audio tour, so there's just a bunch of people in each room with an audio unit held up to an ear. It was almost impossible to get up to the few displays and read the information on the signs.
While I had read about and expected the Secret Annex rooms to be empty (because all the items were confiscated after those in hiding were arrested & Otto Frank wanted the rooms to remain that way), I was surprised that the other rooms were also mostly bare. There was very low lighting and it was difficult to get a feel for the building overall because of the one-way route that everyone is herded through. We did not experience the somber feeling that many have written about when entering the rooms of the Annex, primarily, I think, because it was so very crowded (and possibly because one lady was constantly complaining about not knowing there were so many narrow stairs to get up).
Finally, we were really surprised to discover that the diary and notebooks and pages that are normally on display in the final room were all facsimiles as the originals had been removed due to construction being done within the museum.
We really didn't feel like we learned anything new at the museum nor did we get a true feeling for the conditions the Franks lived in during their two years in hiding. However, we did enjoy seeing the city and area around the house, giving us a better understanding of what Anne could see (when she peeked out the curtains) and hear (when the church clock chimed) and how obscure that part of the building was from the main streets. We returned to the area the next day and snapped a photo in front of the building.
There's a statue around the corner from the house, and (as you can see) flowers are often placed there by visitors.
After returning home, I re-read The Diary of a Young Girl (The Definitive Edition). This edition is based mostly on the second version of the diary, the one Anne rewrote after hearing a radio broadcast that diaries would be important documents for future generations to know about the war. I thoroughly enjoyed the book (again) and am so glad that her story has been preserved and is used to educate others about the atrocities that occurred. I also think it is such a beautiful example of how people can live under terribly harsh conditions and continue to plan for an uncertain future. The Franks and the others in the Annex spent hours each day reading and taking courses and learning new things.
As for Anne, the book covers a period of two years, with lots of emotional ups and downs, yet there is an overall positive outlook in her writing, a choice that she consciously made. Her writing improves over time and she grows in her understanding of herself and others. It is through this book that I once again found that somber feeling that encapsulated so much of the world during World War II, yet I also found hope that through Anne's story and the efforts that continue to be made to share it, we will learn about prejudice and survival and how we must never allow another Holocaust.
Have you visited the Anne Frank House or read The Diary of a Young Girl? Please share your thoughts in the comments.