Anne Frank (photo courtesy of Anne Frank House website)
If you have read The Diary of Anne Frank (or Diary of a Young Girl) you will have learnt a little about World War II and how it affected the Jewish people living in the Netherlands at the time. If you have been lucky enough to pick up an edition which included a map, you may even be able to imagine what it must have been like to live in 'the annexe'. But to really experience the living conditions of the families forced to stay indoors for three years, you need to visit the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam.
The original house, as it stood during the time of World War II, is still there and untouched inside, even down to the pictures Anne Frank pasted on the wall while she was living in the 'Secret Annexe'.
As a teenage girl, cooped up in a small attic with seven other people, Anne Frank spent a good part of her time writing in her diary. She describes her fellow occupants in great detail; their hopes, their fears and peculiarities, as well as the tension created by the unnatural circumstances of these three families living so close together.
Photographs, films and original objects are displayed throughout the house. The film footage illustrates the full impact of the cruelties of the Nazi regime but the sadness of it all only fully hits you when you realise Anne Frank did not survive the war. The only person to return from the horrors of the concentration camps was her father, Otto. Otto Frank died in 1980, surviving his family by 35 years.
The Anne Frank House, which has been a museum since 1960, contains no furniture except for the famous bookcase concealing the entrance to the secret hiding place. All the rooms are left empty at the request of Otto Frank. The emptiness signifies the void left behind by the millions of Jews deported and killed during WWII. A model of the house shows how it was originally furnished during the time Anne and her family lived there.
The story of Anne Frank was made into a movie in 1959: The Diary of Anne Frank. American actress Shelley Winters won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress and donated it to the Anne Frank House for their display.
A limited number of tickets is available online. You can print them out at home and go straight to the special entrance to the left of the main entrance. It's convenient, and it will save you from having to queue for a long time.
The Anne Frank House is not only a reminder of the senselessness of war but also stands as a monument to those people who risked their lives to keep these Jewish families safe, as well as the resilience of the Jews themselves. A must-see museum when you visit Amsterdam.
"We cannot change what happened anymore. The only thing we can do is to learn from the past and to realise what discrimination and persecution of innocent people means. I believe that it's everyone's responsibility to fight prejudice."