anne frank house

While we were in Amsterdam this month, we had the chance to visit the Anne Frank House, or Anne Frank Huis as it’s known in Amsterdam. I’ve always been fascinated with Anne Frank, the Holocaust, and World War II in general, and since I was unable to visit a concentration camp on this trip, I was extremely excited to be able to see the house instead.

I’ve probably fail at putting it into words, but it was definitely one of the most overwhelming experiences of my life. Not “getting married” overwhelming, or “having a kid” overwhelming, but overwhelming in the sense that I was standing in the same place where people hid for 2 years in order to save their lives. Standing and walking around in the same place where this girl wrote in her diary, not knowing what would happen to her family. It was an amazing feeling and I felt as if I had stepped back in history.

I can’t share any pictures of the inside of the home unfortunately, because it is a museum now and taking pictures isn’t allowed. I did snap some photos of the outside of the Anne Frank House and they’re on Flickr. The outside is very nondescript, and had it not been marked with a sign and the entrance to a museum, we might have walked on by. We actually had trouble finding it because there was no one outside, waiting in line.

Let me back up though – we left our hotel and walked across town, through Dam Square, and down Raadhuisstraat, which turns into Rozengracht. Once we got to the church at Westermarkt, we turned right and walked down Prinsengracht to the museum, which is located just south of Prinsengracht 263, the address of Anne’s House. The museum foundation has purchased the homes next to Anne’s in order to build a museum and offices in which to run the museum from, but the Frank house remains as it was back in the 1940′s. You enter into a museum display area, and then into the house, walking through the lower levels first, where Otto Frank’s business was run during their time in hiding, and then up the leg breaker of a staircase to a room at the back of the building. There’s a doorway built into the walk, with a bookcase covering it up. This is the doorway to the secret annex.

Now, some of you may have heard this story with a secret attic. The family didn’t really hide in an attic, it was more like an addition at the back of the office building that was only accessible by this staircase. The annex looks just as it did on August 4, 1944, the day the family was taken away by the Gestapo. Anne’s movie star pictures are on the wall, there is one small toilet for 8 people to share, and the windows are covered with heavy blackout curtains. It was literally like stepping back in time. Each of the rooms in the annex and the office is marked, giving information about the people who worked in the offices downstairs, and the people who hid upstairs. Videos play showing the co-conspirators telling their own story of how they helped the 8 in hiding. One in particular, Miep Gies, is still living! She’s going to be 100 years old and she not only provided the family with food during their time in hiding, but she found Anne’s diary when they were taken away and saved it for Otto Frank.

At the end of the tour, you exit the house and enter the museum, where videos are shown of the concentration camps that victims ended up in, and actual records of the Frank family from the camps. As you probably know, Otto Frank is the only one who survived, and he decided to honor Anne’s wishes to become a famous writer by publishing her diary, with minor edits.

When I returned home, I pulled up the official Anne Frank Museum website to show my children the pictures and stories. thema rozengrachtIt was there that I found this picture, taken when Nazi troops entered the city of Amsterdam. It was an eerie feeling to recognize the street in this picture as being one I had just walked down, and as a street just one block away from Prinsengracht 263. The church in the center of the frame, with the tall steeple and trees, is in a photo I took here, behind the flower market. The street looks very much the same today, and never before have I felt such a sense of history as I looked at a photo. Looking at it now almost gives me the shivers, to know that I’ve stood in the places where history happened.

Anne Frank’s House was easily the best thing I saw in Amsterdam, and probably the highlight of all of my travels across the world. If you’re ever in Amsterdam, you can’t miss seeing the house.

6 Responses to “anne frank house”

  1. Lori says:

    OMG, thank you for the details! It’s gut wrenching to think about the horrible things that happened and it’s amazing that Anne kept her good spirits intact despite it all. It’s such a sad story:(

  2. Jules says:

    WOW! That is really neat. I love how you described it in so much detail.

  3. Karen says:

    We visiited there. I really makes your heart hurt to realize the life they led.

  4. Tracy E. says:

    You did a great job describing Anne Frank’s house! I too was amazed at the space that 8 people shared for such a long time and the fear that accompanied that. It truly was an eye-opening experience that can’t be gained from just reading about it.

  5. Faith says:

    I found your blog by chance but am so glad I did. As I read your article about your visit to the Anne Frank Museum I got chills – just thinking of what those people suffered and for you to actually be on the same spot where one of my favorite books was written. I doubt I will ever make it there but appreciate your sharing your experience – thank you.

  6. Tara says:

    I envy you!! I would love to visit Anne Frank’s house. I too am fascinated by that period of world history. EP has actually been pushing for a trip to Amsterdam during the honeymoon. Hmm…we’ll have to think about that one. I think you’d really enjoy both the Holocaust Museum in DC (if you haven’t already been…to be honest, I skimmed your post for now because I’m SO behind) and Yad Vashem (spelling??) in Israel. Both are just amazing and truly goosebump-inspiring.