Day 20: Anne Frank House in Amsterdam
06.01.2015 - 05.02.2015
On our side trip to Amsterdam we visited the Anne Frank House. Almost everyone has read her classic diary at some point. Even though you know her story, which is the story of so many others, to be in the house where Anne and her family hid from the Nazis for two years gave me an entirely different understanding and appreciation of the Holocaust. The house, like all of the houses in Amsterdam, is tall, beautiful, and overlooks the canal. The downstairs floors were her father's office. Because very few people knew they were hiding upstairs, they couldn't speak above a whisper until the offices were closed for the night.
Anne's father Otto planned for months before they went into hiding. All of the windows upstairs are blackened so no one could see inside and discover them. The tiny rooms in which eight people lived and hid, were excruciatingly claustrophobic; dark, and small, with low ceilings. I tried to imagine not seeing daylight or going outside in this beautiful city for two years, but it was impossible.
After two years, the two families were found and sent to the camps. To this day, no one is sure who betrayed them. Otto Frank was the only one to survive. He found the diary and had it published because she had wished to be a famous writer and wanted her story told. Otto turned his office into a museum in honor of those who died and in honor of his daughter.
I saw many people in tears as we made the short, powerful tour. One of the most poignant moments for me was a video of a former friend of Anne's; a woman who survived the camps. She had known Anne before the war and they found each other in the camp in Bergen-Belsen. By then, Anne knew her sister and mother were dead and believed her father was too. She was ill and, as her friend says in the film, she had lost her will to live.
She died and very shortly after, the war ended, the camps were closed, and her father returned home. "If she had only known he lived," her friend says. "I think she would have survived."
Here are a few photos of the view Anne couldn't walk outside her door and see.