Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Anne Frank House in Amsterdam is an emotional experience

The secret hideaway where Anne Frank lived a lifetime in a few years  (wikipedia)
Amsterdam, Netherlands Anyone who ever visits the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam has the same response. It’s a natural phenomenon. Quiet footsteps. Whispered voices. Reverent solemnity. They are in the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, Holland.

Silence just naturally seems to be the appropriate thing to do.

For more than two years, Anne Frank, her family and four other people sequestered themselves in a hidden 500-square foot room hoping to survive the Nazi invasion of Europe. In the end, in August, 1944, they were captured as a result of an anonymous tip and sent to concentration camps.

During the two long years of confinement, a young girl named Anne Frank kept her sanity by occupying her time writing a novel. Writing was Anne’s dream. In another world, at another time, in another life she might have become a prolific journalist. And yet, little did she know the profound impact her efforts from her secret hiding place would have on the world.

Anne Frank portrait  (wikipedia)

Anne Frank was born in Frankfurt, Germany. Like so many other Jews in the 1940s, as World War II raged across Europe, Otto Frank and his family fled their homes seeking a safe haven free of persecution.
Otto settled in Amsterdam and started a small business. Moving into a house on the Prinsengracht there was hope that the war would not reach the Netherlands. That hope vanished on May 10th, 1940 as German troops stormed the city. Five days later, the Netherlands surrendered and the Nazi occupation began.
A city of bicycles  (wikipedia)
Otto Frank had attempted unsuccessfully to emigrate to England and the United States on several occasions, but eventually his family was forced to “hide out” in a secret room in their canal house in Amsterdam.
In Amsterdam people live on the canals  (wikipedia)
Due to the tax system, houses in Amsterdam are long and narrow.
Many people live on the canals in barges and houseboats, but the Frank home was on a typical bicycle infested street overlooking a canal.
Amsterdam skyline  (wikipedia)

Located at the rear extension of the building and concealed from view by houses on all four sides of a quadrangle, the “secret annex” seemed to be the perfect place to hide. Even today, questions arise about how it was discovered.

Dutch Resistance during the height of the war  (wikipedia)
Though living with seven other people in a 500-square foot room for two years, the always optimistic Anne wrote that her family’s plight was “luxurious” when compared others she had heard about.
Thanks to several of Otto Frank’s office workers, the family had food, clothing and books as well as information about the outside world.
Barges are a way of life in Amsterdam  (wikipedia)
For Anne, her favorite pastime was writing, and she soon began working on a novel she titled “The Secret Annex.”

Shortly before going into hiding, Anne had received a diary for her birthday, and following up on a radio request by the Minister of Education she began making regular entries into her book.

When the pages were filled with her notations, Anne decided to take her writings and begin re-writing them into “The Secret Annex.”

Immediately after the arrest of the Frank family, Miep Gies and Bep Voskuijl were able to rescue Anne’s diary and other papers that had been left behind during their hasty departure.

Of the eight people who lived in the Frank household, only Otto, the father survived the war. Anne, her sister Margot and her mother Edith were sent to Auschwitz where they all died from illnesses.
Following the war, Otto’s friends convinced him to publish his daughter’s diary and on June 25, 1947 the world became aware of Anne Frank’s writings. Though her life ended prematurely, Anne Frank succeeded in becoming one of the world’s foremost chroniclers of the struggles and desperation of Jews during the horrors of World War II.

Today, Amsterdam is a beautiful city nestled on canals and filled with bicycles and small bridges. It is famous for the works of Dutch painters Rembrandt and Van Gogh. And it is also the place where a teenage girl named Anne Frank lived much of her all-too-short live in secrecy.

Anne Frank's last home before going to a concentration camp  (wikipedia)

There are no signs at the Anne Frank House Museum telling visitors to respect the venue and the legacy of its story. It just happens naturally. Somehow people just know that this is a quiet place. A place of solitude and remembrance.

Anne Frank’s diary turns 70 next year. Somehow this poignant history seems older because it has been such a powerful reminder of the futility of war.