Monday, June 4, 2012

The Bravery of Anne Frank

On our recent visit to Amsterdam we visited the very crowded Vincent Van Gogh Museum and the still-in-renovations Rijksmuseum. The museum that was most impressive, however, was the Anne Frank House, home of the Jewish girl who kept a diary of her family while they hid in a warehouse attic for two years during the Nazi occupation.

Outside the narrow building is one of Amsterdam’s picturesque canals, but that sight would not have been visible from behind the thick black curtains of the secret annex where Anne lived from 1942 to 1944, when her family was betrayed and taken to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Tragically, Anne died of typhus just months before the war’s end.

“One day this terrible war will be over. The time will come when we’ll be people again and not just Jews!”
Anne Frank, April 11, 1944

We booked our visit to the Anne Frank House in advance, knowing that entrances are limited to small groups. A modern structure has been built over and around the building, which served as the company owned by Anne’s father, Otto Frank. Lines form on the street and around the corner, waiting to enter the museum. Once inside, visitors are silent and in awe as they make their way through the well-documented exhibition of Anne’s life.

“We have to whisper and tread lightly during the day, otherwise the people in the warehouse might hear us.”
Anne Frank, July 11, 1942

A landing is blocked by a bookcase, and one assumes that this is the top of the building. The bookcase is slightly moved to one side, revealing the door to the secret annex above. Climbing the steep staircase one reaches the rooms where the Franks went into hiding on July 6, 1942. There they sat quietly through the daylight hours, unable to open the curtains or make sounds. Two years passed.

For her 13th birthday on June 12, 1942, Anne received an autograph book, bound with red and white checkered cloth. She decided immediately to begin writing a diary, listing the mundane aspects of her life, the situation in German-occupied Holland, and later of the struggle with living in hiding in the attic.

Anne Frank was an ordinary teenager living in very unordinary times and circumstances. Keeping a personal diary seems like such a simple task, but undoubtedly it wasn’t easy during a period when life was nearly unbearable. Anne Frank bravely continued to be a human being while the world around her descended into madness.

The photograph of Anne Frank is from the Anne Frank House website. Photography is not permitted inside the Anne Frank House. For Internet visitors, a 3D virtual tour of the Secret Annex is possible on the museum’s website.

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