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Anne Frank House: Amsterdam

Unbelievable and surreal. That is what I would say about the Anne Frank house.

It’s hard to wrap your head around something you read as a child and it was a mere story in your mind, because your brain can’t wrap itself around the life she lead and her wisdom at such a young age.  To see where she hid for two years by the generosity of others who stuck their necks out to save these people, is just incomprehensible.

We live such a charmed life.  Our biggest complaints are that our food orders didn’t come in properly, or traffic is so much that it slows our hurried ride to our destination.  We complain that we hate our bosses, or we are unhappy with our relationships because we aren’t getting respect….  In todays age, those are the hassles of our lives.  But to visit the small dwelling where a family and a few others lived for two years, with no windows and no outside communication and realize that what stood between life and death was a bookcase, really puts things into perspective.

The outside dwelling of the house has changed and is now consumed by a large building that has become the museum.  It’s well laid out.  It starts with the story of Anne and her family and then moves into the war, and then onto the hiding.  There are no pictures allowed, which I (a photographer) think is brilliant, because it leaves you to the surprise of taking it all in for the first time when you see it.

The story gets heavier as you walk through the museum.  You get to see the bookcase/hiding entry, (which still holds some original artifacts) and then the room where she stayed.  Things become a bit more real when you see the markings on the wall for the height of the children as they grew there (2 years).  This made me take pause because we have the same markings on the girls’ wall at home.  *gulp….

In the next room, there are the magazine cutouts glued to the wall and you realized that this was all they got to see of the outside world… magazine clippings that were smuggled in for them.  You see postcards written by the family, and hear stories in each room as you go.There is actually more room than I thought, as my mind made me think it was one room, there were actually a few.  There was a sink and cooking area, but all small scale.

As I walked through, I wondered what I would do with myself for two years, as I was held in hiding for my life.  The whole scenario was so brave…those who hid, and those who put them up…all risking their lives for the greater good.  There was no television and only the very top floor let in light and air.  Anne would escape upstairs on limited given times to “clear the dust from her lungs”.  I can’t imagine getting brief moments of daylight for fear of being caught.

Toward the end of the tour, you see her writings..the actual diaries….  Tears started welling up as I saw the handwriting of this brave girl who lived a sheltered life, yet wrote so eloquently about her daily living and thoughts and fears. She even wrote stories and wondered if she would be a writer… little did she know, she already was.  And her writings impacted the whole world.

Her father knew she was writing, but was sworn not to read the pages as she stashed the book with him each night.  After they were found and separated, the pages were found and returned to Anne’s father after her death.  He couldn’t find the courage to read the words for quite a while.  And when he finally did, he found an Anne that he didn’t know. All that was going on inside her lay on the pages before his eyes and he read the words realizing that he didn’t REALLY know Anne until that moment…. I cried again…. isn’t it true that we only show what we want others to see….

As I left the museum, I was holding back tears, but it was definitely obvious to anyone who saw me that I was changed by this visit.  I was so thrilled to have his opportunity to see where Anne Frank lived and realize her life.   It gives such perspective to what we live and what we think we know to be true… and it can’t help but make you reflect on your own life.  For me, it made me wonder how I could be better in my life.  How to not sell myself short.

I know that Anne had no idea what she was writing.  She was literally just passing time in her life and as she wrote, she said that it helped her shed what was inside her and helped free her a bit.  She had no idea that she was literally making history and changing the course of life for millions of people around the world.  Her words, her story, have shaped the lives of so many.

My heart goes out to Otto Frank; the soul survivor of his family.  But had he not lived, Anne’s words may never have been published, and I wouldn’t have had the honor to see what they, along with many other jews went through to try to stay alive.

Truly a life changing day for me.