Amsterdam – Anne Frank House

One day this terrible war will be over. The time will come when we’ll be people again and not just Jews! We can never be just Dutch, or just English, or whatever, we will always be Jews as well. But then, we’ll want to be.” ~ Anne Frank, April 9, 1944

Throughout high school one of my favorite extracurricular activities was speech. I always chose pieces from World War II – poetry from children living in the Terezin concentration camp, prose from Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, and acting from Anne Frank’s diary. So when Matt and I arrived in Amsterdam to meet up with his parents, I made it a priority to visit the Anne Frank House.

First, I had to reacquaint myself with Anne Frank’s story. Her family originally lived in Germany but moved to Amsterdam around 1933 when Hitler took over and the anti-Jewish regime took power. In 1940 the Germans occupied the Netherlands and two years later the Frank family went into hiding in the back part of Otto Frank’s company building (the Secret Annex). While the office personal provided food and supplies to those in hiding (Anne’s family – her sister and her parents, the van Pels family – Hermann, Auguste, and Peter, and Fritz Pfeffer), the warehouse workers never knew anyone was living in the building. In 1944, after spending two years in hiding, an anonymous phone call betrayed the Frank family to the German police. No one would ever know who gave them away. The people in hiding were first transported to Camp Westerbork in the Netherlands before being sent to the Auschwitz extermination camp. Anne’s father, Otto, was the only one in the group who survived.

Otto wished for the Secret Annex to remain unfurnished because the Nazis had stripped it of its furniture. Even though the rooms are empty, you gain an idea of what they would have looked like from small models that show where furniture would have been. It was humbling to walk through the Secret Annex, to stand in the very room Anne often wrote in, and to look upon the red plaid diary that contains her original work. I was reminded of what an incredibly positive individual she was. The most moving part was listening to an interview with Otto Frank. He explained that upon reading his daughter’s diary, he discovered a depth of character that he didn’t know Anne possessed. Amazed by her thoughts, resolution, and dreams, he concluded that most parents never really know what’s going on in their children’s minds and hearts.

Finally, I was struck by this quote:

One single Anne Frank moves us more than the countless others who suffered just as she did but whose faces have remained in the shadows. Perhaps it is better that way; if we were capable of taking in all the suffering of all those people, we would not be able to live.”

~ Primo Levi, writer and Auschwitz survivor, 1986

I agree it’s good that humankind is incapable of taking in such suffering, that we cannot wrap our minds around the atrocities that occurred during the Holocaust. But I fear for those “whose faces have remained in the shadows.” What of their stories? What if we don’t hear them and their persecution and suffering continues? Even worse, what if we refuse to give them a voice, or refuse to listen or even acknowledge their pain? There are far too many current Anne Frank stories unraveling in our own neighborhoods. Are we listening?

 

2 Comments

Kristen Rod

August 31st, 2011

Kate, thank you for this post. I need to be reminded of all of those questions in the last paragraph. I think we all do. Blessings on your journey!

recklesswonder

November 13th, 2011

Thanks, Kristen!

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