Anne Frank in Amsterdam


How to get the most from an Amsterdam Museum Pass:  see everything!  The pass covers all the major sights, and Amsterdam is a great city for walking.  So we spent the entire day on our feet.  Today will be more of the same.  It’s especially nice to be able to pop in and out of the more exhausting sights, like the newly-restored Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum.

We are staying just down the canal from the Anne Frank House, so we pass the ever-present long lines several times a day.  Last night, returning home at about 8:30 pm, we did a double take:  no line, and the house is open until 9:00 pm!  We flashed our Museum Passes and we were in.

Since we last visited, some years ago, a modern annex to the Annex has been added to accommodate the crowds.  The claustrophobic hidden rooms, reached by ladder-like stairs, are untouched since the end of World War II.  But now there is space for thought-provoking multimedia displays.

The center of the exhibit, as always, is the little red-checked diary under glass.  Now there is also space to display some of the many loose pages Anne wrote once she had filled up the little book.  She wrote short stories, ideas for novels, and copied out favorite passages from other writers.  Toward the end of the war, Dutch authorities advised residents to keep diaries in order to preserve memories of that terrible time.  Anne took the advice very seriously.  She began copying and revising what she had written, planning to publish a novel called “The Secret Annex.”  What was actually published after her death was the pure unvarnished truth:  the experience of an ordinary but talented young girl forced to grow toward adulthood in extraordinary circumstances.

I had forgotten that the Annex was in the shadow of the Westerkerk, the magnificent church whose carillon bells played every day all through the war.  Anne heard them daily for over two years.  They reminded her that a whole world still existed outside her cramped hidden home. During the war, that world was unimaginably treacherous. The four helpers who made it possible for the eight people in hiding had to venture into that world every day for supplies, each transaction putting their own lives at risk.

I always think the exit door of a memorial exhibit like the Anne Frank House should have a mirror.  We each need to ask ourselves, what would we have done?


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