Anne Frank’s Hideaway Home

It was a cool and windy day when my husband and I went to tour Anne Frank’s House and Museum. Thankfully, the sun shined down from a light blue sky to warm us. There were many people standing in line with their previously ordered tickets in hand. A group of about 20 people enter the museum in 15-minute intervals. Right now, tickets need to be ordered on-line 60 days prior to the tour because there is a renovation in progress.

263 Prinsengracht

When we first entered the bright museum, we each were handed a monitor for our guided tour. Every room has a sensor on the wall. A recording on the monitor gives details of each room plus other historical events about World War II. After seeing a few rooms in the museum, we entered the first floor of 263 Prinsengracht. The first floor is the warehouse of the spice company that Anne’s father, Otto Frank, and his partner, Hermann van Pels, set up. We climbed the narrow and steep wooden stairs to get to the second floor, which was the office space.  There we saw a beautiful view of the canal below. At the end of the hallway is the bookcase that hides the Secret Annex. The rooms were mostly empty because the Nazis removed the items after they captured the eight people in hiding. There were a few personal items on display that included: Mr. Frank’s Charles Dicken’s book – he was teaching himself how to read English; Margot’s, Anne’s sister, writings from her Latin correspondence course; and copies of Anne’s diary. The original diaries were not on display due to the renovation.

Each room has a photograph on the wall of what it looked like when it was furnished. The first room we entered, after going through the door that was camouflaged as a bookcase, was where the Franks stayed during the day. Before we entered Anne’s room, we noticed the wall where Mr. Frank marked the growing heights of his daughters. Pictures of movie stars were pasted to Anne’s bedroom wall, just as she left them. There is a small bathroom on this floor where they also did laundry. Up the next level is a small kitchen area that everyone shared, and Mr. and Mrs. van Pels also used that area as their living quarters. Peter’s room is adjacent to the kitchen and the walls are decorated with photos of movie stars that Anne also pasted there. From Peter’s room, we could see the steps to the attic. The attic is closed off with Plexiglas at the ceiling. A tilted mirror gave us a view of the place where Anne liked to go to get fresh air and look at the sky and trees.

The exit took us to the museum store, and as we walked down the stairs to exit the museum, there is a giant portrait of Anne on the wall. One can’t help but think about the sweet girl and others like her and her family. Even though we know the outcome, a person’s heart sinks when they read the last sentence in Anne Frank’s diary: “ANNE’S DIARY ENDS HERE.” When my 13-year-old self read The Diary of a Young Girl, I never thought my older self would visit her hideaway home. I was fascinated with the diary back then and felt I could relate to some things she was going through. Familiar things such as how she got along with her family and friends and how she appreciated the outdoors. Anne’s story stayed with me.

I recently read the book and was amazed by how great a writer Anne was. Anne described her surroundings and circumstances so well. Not only her emotions came through, but how she loved and how she thought she didn’t love some people. Anne was wise beyond her years in the ways she understood humankind.  Of course, Anne had bad days – who could blame her with being stuck where she was – but she mostly managed to stay optimistic and hopeful while she was in hiding for those two years. Most likely her positive attitude was due to having her diary. Anne wrote, “When I write, I shake off all my cares.”

At first, Anne wrote her diary for herself, but later she decided she would like to write a book about the war based on her diary. She edited her diary many times as she was going to use it as a reference. Immediately after the Franks, van Pelses, and Fritz Pfeffer were arrested, the secretaries, Miep Gies and Bep Voskuijl, who worked in the office, found Anne’s diary and held onto it until after the war. Mr. Frank was the only one of the eight to survive the camps. In the late 1950s, the house was going to be torn down for a new development, but many people in Amsterdam campaigned against the demolition. The house was preserved and turned into a museum which opened in 1960. The Anne Frank House is the third most visited museum in the Netherlands with 1.2 million visitors every year.

After the war, Mr. Frank worked at getting Anne’s diary published and it has been read by people from all over the world. Mr. Frank answered thousands of letters that he received from readers of the diary, and he concluded each letter with: “I hope Anne’s book will have an effect on the rest of your life so that insofar as it is possible in your own circumstances, you will work for unity and peace.”

Being in the Secret Annex was a surreal experience for me because I could not believe I was actually where I was at the time. Even though it made me feel heavyhearted, I am glad I was able to visit Anne’s hideaway home. That visit will help Anne’s story stay with me all the more.

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment
before starting to improve the world. ~ Anne Frank

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