Anne Frank’s House, Amsterdam

056As I showed you the other day, the streets of Amsterdam are quite a site to behold as they wind along the canals. Every street has its sense of peace and quite, there is no real hustle and bustle on theses roads, maybe a little on the ones that interconnect them perhaps. As you walk down Prinsengracht, which I often did as my hotel was on it, I would take in the houses as I headed towards the centre of the town, beautiful town houses with their own sense of history yet ultimately unassuming. Houses including this one here ——-> only this one does stand out a little the nearer you get as along side it’s next door neighbour, then through the square, then around the church nearby is a huge throng of people (apparently starting at before opening ours until the last possible moment every single day) all waiting for the unassuming house you see is the home of Anne Frank’s, or was when she and her family were taken into hiding from the Nazi’s.

I read Anne Frank’s Diary for the first time not too long ago. My impressions were a little mixed. It was a book that initially I was a little worried I wouldn’t get on with as I wasn’t sure about Anne herself. Now some people might be up in arms about this but actually there’s a fascinating exhibition on Anne once you’ve been through the house that showed all the sides of Anne, a brave but brilliant thing to do. I found when I got a rounder picture of her the more horrific what befell a normal young girl who happened to be born in the era she did. Yet actually I think this just added to the experience of visiting the house which was, for me, a deeply moving and disturbing one.

The experience of being in her home is a shocking one from the start, so shocking a fellow visitor was actually physically ill as we entered the first room which showed videos from the concentration camps. A silence befell all of us that then walked on throughout the warehouse cum house and the more we learned of the history of the family and their escape there. Yet it isn’t until you come to the famous ‘secret bookshelf door’ that it really hits you that these were scared people hiding for their lives. Anne’s diaries inform us of this and yet looking back I realised how brave and upbeat she was considering and a wave of emotion hit me I wasn’t prepared for.

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As you climb the steep staircase onwards it hits you even further, a family, and additional couple and a male friend all in these confined spaces. How must Anne’s parents, and indeed Anne, really felt about her sharing such a small space with a strange man. How could they have coped in such a confined space?

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Obviously having read her diaries I had known they had all had their moments. Yet nothing prepares you for how small it all really is. How cramped, and claustrophobic. The room above May look all jolly but it’s a replica of what the room was like with light, when you’re there the lights are off as they would have been, curtains drawn during the day, in order to remain so hidden. The more we went on the harder it was to believe Anne and her family coped with it all, but what choice did they have?

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I had always felt a bit funny about the idea of visiting Anne Frank’s house, a bit like hearing people visiting concentration camps, I was concerned it might be inappropriate/car crash tourism. Having now been myself, seen where Anne Frank lived in those conditions and the exhibition about what happened to her, the family and many of her friends I have changed my mind. It isn’t for the faint hearted, some of the videos and accounts you see and hear are incredibly disturbing (on more than one occasion I was reduced to tears) yet we must never forget these people and what happened and try and stop it happening in our world now. The fact so many people are going to see Anne Frank’s house and reading her diaries for me is a sign of hope for future generations. May they always read and remember.

The Anne Frank House is situated in the centre of Amsterdam at Prinsengracht 263-267. A huge thanks to Holland.com who sent me to Amsterdam for work and then managed to get me an advance track ticket into the Anne Frank House, a place that, along with all it holds, will stay with me forever. Also note only the top picture is mine, pictures cannot be taken throughout so I have borrowed these from many sources.

6 Comments

Filed under Anne Frank

6 responses to “Anne Frank’s House, Amsterdam

  1. A very moving account of your visit to the Anne Frank’s house, it really made an impact on you!
    When you are Dutch, the story of Anne Frank is not really news anymore. Every child knows who she is, many read her diaries, she is mentioned in every lesson about WWII. I am a secondary school history teacher and for me, there is not much news in the story of Anne Frank. Even for my students there is not much news, because they have been told about her since Kindergarden (well, almost).
    But of course, for others there is something new to be found and it makes an impact. I sometimes forget how moving her story is, but your account of your visit made me realize it again. So thank you for that!

    Kind regards,

  2. Erika W.

    There is a fragment of film existing in which Anne Frank is waving from the Frank’s apartment to friends on the street below. I saw this just before I read her full unexpurgated diary and I could barely hold myself together.

  3. I’ve been to Amsterdam a few times, but always resisted visiting the Anne Frank House despite having read the diaries. Her story is very moving and as you say, seeing the context of it is bound to make it resonate more.

  4. This is one of the few places in the world that I would love to be able to go. Like Erica above I have also seen the tiny snippet of film that shows Anne. I first read her diary when I was young then was given the newly unexpurgated version when it came out, her story is one that just stays with you.

  5. I visited Anne’s house several years ago and, like you Simon, was moved to tears. While I was there a bunch of loud noisy teenagers came in and I thought Oh No. I was totally wrong in my assumption of how they would behave. Within thirty seconds they fell silent and by the time they left most of them were shaken and crying. It is an amazing place to visit but be prepared for how you will feel

  6. Simon, I just discovered your blog today while researching about Justine Picardie’s books – and chanced upon your Daphne du Maurier/Rebecca posts. She is a dear favorite of mine since my childhood (I read Rebecca in abridged versions before finally reading the original in eighth/ninth grade and simply falling in love with it!) and it was a pleasure to read your thoughts and analysis…look forward to following your blog!

    Regarding Anne Frank, I read her diary when I was the same age as when Anne began writing it; I have responded to it differently each time I have read it over the years and her words and predicament become more and more moving each time (the ending has now begun to make cry). I have not visited Amsterdam yet and each time I think about it, visiting her house comes to my mind. Reading your descriptions means that it will undoubtedly be a raw, searing experience – but a visit to Amsterdam cannot be complete without visiting the house in which Anne wrote the greatness of her spirit despite the greatest and most dispiriting of odds.

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