On our last night in Amsterdam, Prof and I went out for a rare evening visit to the Anne Frank Museum. The museum stayed open until 10 pm that night, probably due to Ascension Day, which was to our benefit because we couldn’t take our very young ones to this museum for obvious reasons.
We waited in line for a bit, but it went by quickly. As there was no photography allowed in the museum, I will try to highlight points and visual details about the museum.
The exterior of the museum, which is the actual house where Anne Frank and seven other people lived in hiding beginning in 1942, looked like a modern version of an old brick flat-front façade that you would find in many old Dutch-style homes. Whoever designed the museum space inside the building understood how to maintain the true essence of the existing “Secret Annex” space while marrying it with modern elements in its interior design.
World War II Historical Background
Once you enter the building at the ground level, you are given a historical background of how Nazi Germany had changed Europe in the 1940s beginning the process of detaining and moving European Jews into concentration camps. The videos bring you right back to life during World War II.
At the ground level, you also see 3D replica model of the Secret Annex, where the families lived. Because all of the furniture has been removed, these models are supposed to give you a visual sense of their actual living spaces, such as the small bedrooms pictures that Anne glued up on the wall, and tight shared living quarters where they sat and ate meals together.
Entrance into the Secret Annex
As you walk past the bookcase Mr. Kleinman built to protect the entrance of the Secret Annex, you immediately feel the change in cooler more chilly temperature. During their hiding, all of the windows been blocked out. Anne Frank even wrote that “not even an inch” of the curtains could be opened up to shine daylight into the rooms. The rooms had basic amenities, such a shared bathroom and sink in the kitchen. The designer placed photos of what each room would have looked like with furniture during the time the Frank family and two other families lived during the war.
Walking through each room felt like you could really understand the journal entries and stories Anne Frank shared. The photos of famous cinematic stars of her time to cultural and ancient sculptural art reflected the change in Anne’s personal interests in the Secret Annex. Because most of the other rooms were barren without photos or framed art, this was Anne’s way to express herself, like any young tween would today.
Once past the Secret Annex, there was a deliberate change in interior design. You moved from walking on wood creaking steps to a solid steel staircase into the room where you read further details of what happened after their capture and the war. The only living Holocaust survivor of the eight who lived in the Secret Annex, Mr. Otto Frank shared in a video his difficult decision to honor his daughter’s wishes and have Anne Frank’s diary published.
I remember reading The Diary of Anne Frank as a young girl in the States. It was one of the required readings for school. However, as a child who did not enjoy reading, I distinctly remember reading this book from cover to cover. It felt so real to read journal entries of this remarkable young person because she was so honest with her thoughts, experiences, and struggles she and her family faced.
Prof and I visited the museum after our kids went to bed, and I reflected on the events of our afternoon with our older son playing with our friends’ children in the attic of the third floor of their apartment in Amsterdam. The boys ran around with their LEGO airplanes and spaceships, role-playing like any elementary-aged school children should. They were loud, running from the window to the bed and back, stomping their feet on the ground without a care in the world. The freedom they felt beneath their feet, the laughter and joys they voiced all while soaking up the sun’s rays through the windows were a complete 180 from the experience of Anne and her older sister Margot experienced during their adolescence.
The sisters had to ever so gently step around the house so as to not draw attention to outsiders, such as a few of the workers at Otto Frank’s jam shop. The basic things any child should experience were taken from these girls, along with their innocence and naiveté. They scarcely could feel the warmth of the sun’s rays or watch the change in seasons, except for that tiny window in the attic. Anne Frank wrote how she wished she could be free and scream out loud just once.
The museum was a somber place where millions of international visitors could come and personally witness the place where this young girl demonstrated such strength, wisdom, and courage along with her family and a few others during a most difficult and sad period in our world history.
Once I get back to the States, I plan to reread The Diary of Anne Frank. That I promise. I want to read her journal from a new, more mature perspective.
Thank you for reading along these past couple of weeks from our travels over Cypriot Easter break. Next week, there’s going to be shift in focus from the fun travel adventures to a more serious topic. I plan on sharing a week long series on people’s perspectives (as well as my own) on racism and prejudice in Cyprus. It’s a topic that I hope will bring a positive light to discuss openly about prejudice here on the island and around the globe.