Anne Frank House – Prinsengracht 263, Amsterdam, 31-20-556-7100.
The Anne Frank House is located in the center of Amsterdam, 20 minutes from Central Station. Annelies Marie Frank was born on June 12, 1929, in Germany to a Jewish and German family. In 1933, after Adolf Hitler came into power, the Franks left Germany. Otto left his family’s bank in Germany and opened a business in Amsterdam selling Opekta products. Less than 7 years later, Hitler invaded the Netherlands, and the persecution of Jews began. On Anne’s 13th birthday, she received a diary--a diary that would later sell 14+ million copies. In ’42, the Franks went into hiding, and in ’44, the "Secret Annex" was compromised. The families were then thrown into concentration camps. It is definitely more than I can put into words, but it was quite an experience.
When we first arrived in Amsterdam, we would pass the house and see the long lines and wonder if time would allow a visit. Although our concierge at the Pulitzer offered special tickets (admission after 4:30pm), which would allow us to skip the line, we just got lucky one day around 9am – no line. What can I say; it was interesting, upsetting, overwhelming, inspiring, and depressing- all at the same time. The house where eight people from three different families hid out in for more than two years during WWII has been kept in its original condition. When walking up to the house, what most people think is the actual house is the new museum. In fact, some people get annoyed when they see it, thinking it was renovated. Actually, the Anne Frank House is two doors down from the modern-looking museum on the corner. After paying and passing through the initial screening room, you can enter the house/annex. The building was divided into two sections: the front, which housed Otto Frank’s business and contained a warehouse on the ground floor, offices, and storerooms upstairs; and the back of the house, upstairs, where these people lived in hiding, called the Secret Annex. They could not speak or make a sound the entire day while people were working downstairs. Imagine a 13-year-old girl not allowed to make a sound all day long?!
Getting to the annex, you climb a very steep set of stairs. This tour is unfortunately not for the handicapped. You literally walk through the opening behind the famous bookcase and the experience begins. That bookcase still holds what seems to be original inventory of books from the store below. Walking through the entire annex where these people hid, seeing copies of Anne’s diaries, postcards, and items from the Frank family, was just surreal. Most of the original wallpaper is still up, with pictures that Anne herself had glued to the wall in her small bedroom that she shared with a stranger. Other than protective Plexiglas that has been put up over the walls nothing has been changed which just heightens the experience. Seeing Anne’s diaries, you come to realize that she used them as a way to deal with boredom, a way to express herself and a way to deal with the war and the world that was going on without her. Throughout the house, quotes from Anne’s journals are posted on the walls and near items on display. You really are given a chance to glimpse what life was like for her--a small glimpse. There are video screens and interviews playing throughout the house, which I found to be very informative. There is the window that gives you a clear view of the bell tower that she used to speak of in her diaries.
Towards the end of the tour, there is a video of a former classmate of Anne’s. She was the last person (on record) to see Anne alive. She spoke about throwing food and clothing over the fence of the concentration camp and how she really believed Anne would have made it out alive, had she known her father was still alive (the only person of the eight to survive). She said she thought depression was what ultimately killed Anne after hearing of her sister’s and mother’s passing (murder). There is a "media room" at the end, which is handicapped-friendly. The computers can take you anywhere in the house, describe the people who lived there, their history and plight, and the timeline of events (very user-friendly). Everything in this part of the museum is new and kept in mint condition and is also available in several languages. There is a bookstore on the premises for those who are looking to spend some extra time or walk away with a memory or a copy of Anne’s diary that has now been translated into every language imaginable.
Admission is 6.50 euros for adults, 3 euros for young adults, and children are free. Very Highly Recommended--you would be remiss if you passed on an opportunity to visit here while in Amsterdam. After all, you do have 6 million reasons.