I remember the first time that I read The Diary of Anne Frank. I was about the same age as Anne when she was in hiding and it had an amazing impact on me. I had no idea of the oppression of Jewish people until I read her diary. I reread it in high school and I found even more of a connection to Anne. I was amazed at her ability to tell a story so honestly. She didn’t seem to harbor hate or animosity, she was just telling her own tale. I sometimes felt like a thief in the night reading her inner most thoughts. She speaks of enlightening others and bringing awareness and understanding so I can’t help but think she knew exactly what she was doing.
In 2005 I visited Amsterdam and the home of The Secret Annex where Anne and her family hid for 2 years and 2 months. I knew as soon as the trip was planned that I would see Anne’s hiding spot. On the long plane ride to Amsterdam, I reread Anne’s diary for the first time as an adult. More things stood out to me this time than my first 2 reads. Perhaps it was because I knew I was on my way to see all of the things that she explained but I felt such a connection to her descriptions and words.
On the day that I visited the house I had a very calming sense of peace all morning. I walked the few miles from our hotel to the Annex. As I approached the line outside of Anne’s hideout, which is now a museum, I felt the universe open up. My senses were on high-alert and I was in awe. As I began our tour of the house I flashed back to the book and Anne’s amazing descriptions. This stairwell must have been where Anne laid out in the open the night the house was robbed and they thought they had been found. This is the parlor where the carried warm water to take a bath. At every step and every turn, everything was as Anne described it. As we rounded the corner, I saw the bookcase which camouflaged the secret passageway to the attic, and I could hear Anne’s words as I walked on. Entering the narrow stairwell one could not help but think that this is where history was made.
Anne’s room, which she describes as adorn with celebrity photos, is still as she left it. There is glass covering the walls to preserve the photos but everything remains the same, right down to the heavy blinds to block people from seeing in. The kitchen, where the 2 families gathered to eat and discuss their situation, was a powerful place. Heavy decisions were made there but there was also such a sense of peace. It was small place for the amount of people in hiding there. Peter’s room in the attic was closed off due to unsafe conditions but as I stood at the base of the stairwell to his room I had the most amazing feeling in the world. I looked out the window to the right and there was the clock tower that Anne frequently speaks of in her diary. I am not sure what it was about that specific spot but I felt like Anne Frank was right there beside me saying “see, it is just like I described it, isn’t it?” I couldn’t get it out of my mind that I was standing where Anne Frank stood. At that moment the clock tower tolled and my warm, peaceful feeling went deeper within.
The next room held Anne’s diary; the original diary her father gave her for her 13th birthday just before they went into hiding. Shelly Winters Oscar from the 1959 movie is displayed in the house as well. Perhaps the hardest part of the journey for me was the final room of the Anne Frank House. It follows and details the final days of the concentration camp for Anne and her family. There are graphic images, audio tapes and written accounts from people who were imprisoned with the Frank family. It is heartbreaking to know that Anne died of typhus just days before the war was over and everyone was free. I can’t image the pain of her father reading his daughters heart-felt words after her death or the strength that it took for him to share not only her words but her life with the world. I am so grateful to him for doing so. Anne’s words have been translated into 67 languages and sold more than 31 million copies. The Diary of Anne Frank and visiting The Secret Annex are both experiences that I will never forget.
I just turned this paper in on Saturday so I should have a grade back at my next class. I will keep you posted.