12th Jun 1929 – Feb/Mar 1945
(died before her 16th birthday)
Anne Frank would have been 89 today. One can say that she’d have had a fair chance of still being alive (her dad Otto Frank lived beyond 91, even after spending time in a concentration camp), if not for the Gestapo who dug the family out of 25 months of hiding (Jul 1942 – Aug 1944)… from this building no. 263 on Prinsengracht in Amsterdam.
Now known as Anne Frank Huis (House), this building was from where Otto Frank operated his business. Along with the two ones adjoining it (265 and 267), they form the museum dedicated to the memory of Anne Frank and to show the world what millions of Jews went through during the holocaust.
“The goal of the Anne Frank House is to keep alive the memory of Anne Frank and the period when National Socialism was in power. This is not only a matter of human and historical interest; it also has significance for us today. For the Anne Frank House, the memory of Anne Frank is directly related to a concern for preserving freedom and maintaining human rights and a pluralistic and democratic society.” – Hans Westra, retired director of the Anne Frank Huis
They were well to do. They were educated. They were family… father, mother and two daughters. The one thing that wasn’t quite right for those in “power” was their God. Forced to leave Germany to save themselves from persecution in the early 1930s, Anne lived most of her life in Amsterdam. And here too, the Nazi’s finally took over, forcing the family into hiding.
There would have been thousands of boys and girls like Anne, living in fear and hope. Anne is known to the world because she wrote an interesting diary while in hiding, and because her father Otto Frank survived the concentration camp and returned to Amsterdam after World War II, to find the diary and get it published. Anne mentions that her sister Margot also wrote a diary, but this was never found.
Our family visited the Anne Frank Huis in May 2018. We were fortunate to have discovered in good time, that visiting the Anne Frank Huis museum (i.e. inside the house) is by online booking of tickets on the website. While booking, one has to choose the time slot and report at the entrance at the appointed time. One may need to book several days in advance to get the preferred date and time. While we awaited our turn we saw that many people went away disappointed and had to be satisfied with looking at the outside of the buildings… or the Prinsengracht canal opposite the house.
The entry to the museum is through a modern building at 267, accessed from the side road. The place inside was undergoing renovation and expansion, but the house itself was undisturbed.
There are signs that say that photography inside the house is not allowed (so we have no pictures). Despite this there were people who had either not read the signs or ignored them. Everyone who enters is provided with a recorded audio instrument in the language of choice. This gives a running commentary about each room and quotes from Anne’s diary give them a perspective. There are TV screens in some places that play video recordings about the holocaust and interviews with Anne’s friends and family who lived to complement her diary tales… also people who interacted with her at the concentration camp, where they were literally starved to disease and death.
The hiding place of the Frank family (and four other people) is actually an annex behind the building 263. Comprising of several rooms, it looks to have been a reasonably large and comfortable living space for them. It is reachable through a passage covered by a bookshelf, to make it a “secret annex”. This bookshelf is the only piece of furniture retained in the house-museum. All the rooms are empty, but in some places there are photos picturising how the room looked. The area below the hiding place was occupied by workers in the day, so they needed to be very quiet, lest they get found out.
The wall paper in most rooms is original. In one place there are small horizontal markings on the yellow papered wall, where the heights of the girls, Anne and Margot, were recorded as they grew. There are pictures from magazines that were stuck on a wall by the girls, to make it look less empty. Small things we too do in our normal homes. When Anne got to know that her father was planning to escape the Nazi order of Jews to surrender, she distributed some of her belongings to her friends. A box of marbles that she had given to her neighbour is on display.
The eight people in hiding didn’t step out of the annex for 25 months! One gets a good sense of the gross injustice of one powerful regime, while the world watched seemingly helplessly. Most disturbing.
The Westerkerk Church is at the end of the street. A Protestant church, it has a clock tower that chimes every quarter of an hour, something Anne Frank mentions in her diary.
This gentleman was selling his paintings on the footpath outside the church… original water colour art at 10-15 Euros.
One of the walls has this plaque remembering Willy Alberti, a Dutch actor and singer who was born around the same time as Margot.
One can see pictures of the inside of the Anne Frank Huis and read more about her life and why the family went into hiding on the website http://www.annefrank.org.