At the Anne Frank House, I came upon an unexpected sight: an actual Oscar statuette in a glass case near the exit. I never expected to get within inches of one. The story is that the American actress Shelley Winters fulfilled a promise when she brought it to Amsterdam. She met Otto Frank on the set of the movie The Diary of Anne Frank. Miss Winters was playing the part of one of the hidden people, Mrs. Van Pels, in the movie. She told Mr. Frank that if she won an Oscar, she would bring it to the Anne Frank House and leave it there. He gently answered that would be a difficult thing for her to do. She replied that she would keep it for a little while, then bring it to Amsterdam. That is exactly what she did.
Artists, including actors, movie-makers and writers, do not just entertain us. They show us images and tell us stories that help us to make sense of the chaotic world around us. That is what young Anne Frank did as she developed, all alone, as a writer. The tour of her house ends with a short video that brings many visitors to tears. Anne’s father, Otto, explains that although he had a very good relationship with his daughter, he did not know the depth of her feelings or the extent of her understanding of human nature until he read her diary after her death. He ends by saying that he thinks parents never truly know their children. Sadly, his opportunity to know his beloved daughter better was cut short. But her honest account of her deepest feelings continues to enrich us all.
At another museum I visited, I came across a dress that the young Anne could have worn: a dress with the hated yellow star required of all Jews under Nazi occupation. I found the experience of staying so close to Anne’s hiding place profoundly moving. I hope I never forget.