The Anne Frank house, a visit with Sara

anne frank house

Anne Frank is a name that is familiar to most if not all. Her world-famous diary is translated to more than 60 languages worldwide, and the story of her family hiding in Amsterdam during WWII is universally known. We can all envision the photos of Anne’s sweet face, showing a girl on the verge of adolescence.

I remember reading the diary when I was a teenager. It captivated me; I felt Anne was a friend — it even (briefly) inspired me to start my own diary. I also remember visiting the famous ‘Achterhuis’ (the secret annexe) around that time, giving more spatial context to the rooms Anne so vividly described in her book. Anne’s writings deeply affected me on all sorts of levels.

A few months ago, at the end of Sara’s last year at primary school, I took her to visit the Anne Frank House. Even though we live in Amsterdam and a visit is quite easily arranged, I purposely waited until she was twelve years old. I feel a visit is in place when you’ve reached the age you can actually read (and understand!) Anne Frank’s famous diary, and grasp the actual meaning of a visit to the Achterhuis where she once lived in hiding with her family and some friends. Anne received her diary for her thirteen birthday, and wrote in it daily until the day ‘the Achterhuis’ was betrayed in 1944 and its inhabitants were captured and deported to Auschwitz. Anne was 15.

Anne frank house

Addressing her ‘best friend’ Kitty, Anne describes life in the hiding place. She sets out the sometimes troubling interactions between the inhabitants, who live in extremely close proximity with virtually no freedom, privacy or fresh air for almost two years. (“The sun is shining, the sky is deep blue, there’s a magnificent breeze, and I’m longing – really longing– for everything: conversation, freedom, friends, being alone.”) She also deeply thinks about the political situation and about human nature (“Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart.”). But she also writes about her changing body and emotions, her budding sexuality, her first love.

Anne’s father Otto is the only one of the family who survives the concentration camps and is able return to Amsterdam after the war. He is handed Anne’s diary, which was left behind in the Achterhuis and has been kept safely by one of the family’s helpers and close friends. Otto makes sure to fulfil one of Anne’s deepest wishes and her diary is eventually published. The Anne Frank House becomes a museum, a spiritual place to remember, to gather and to learn.

Wandering through the empty spaces of the Achterhuis, seeing the same view Anne and her family and friends saw for such a long period is a humbling experience.  The lack of furniture makes it a place for reflection and remembrance, it breathes respect, quiet understanding and sadness, but also hope. Anne’s hope becomes our hope, and that is the important message of the Anne Frank House, for us and for our children.

anne frank house rivierenbuurt anne frank sculpture

It’s not easy to understand what has happened to Anne and to our world, and what is still happening. Not for us, but especially for children. I think Sara was the right age for a visit to the Anne Frank House. She can slowly start to put everything in context now. Of course I bought her Anne’s diary in the gift shop after our visit (which she read immediately after). On our way home, we made a quick detour to the neighbourhood where Anne and her family once lived. Their apartment is still there, windows wide open, the apartment block unchanged. On the little field opposite stands a beautiful little sculpture of Anne, a perfectly sweet and silent commemoration.

xxx Esther


Comments (3)

Rebekka Cuhls
December 20, 2017

Thank you Esther! I have a list with things I want to do one day with my little girl (3 years). It helps me to put the sometimes challenging situations of these little years into perspective. What a beautiful activity to do as mother and daughter! I’all add that to my list. 💛

December 21, 2017

Certainly the best contribution to this blog since quite a while. Much more important than advertisements of very similar products. Thanks, Esther!

December 21, 2017

Ah. Beautiful. What a great post ; when the world goes mad at Christmas , with everything transient and materialistic . What a gift to give your daughter. Knowledge empathy and love for mankind. A great great visit to make with her 👌✨ makes my heart 💓 and break.😔

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