Nothing more than this nondescript sign flanks the entrance to the Anne Frank House and Museum in Amsterdam. When I learned I was going to be in Amsterdam over New Year’s, at the top of my list of must see places was the Anne Frank House. Now that her name has been in the news this past week, I found it fitting to revisit the pictures and my thought about her house and the museum. Did you hear about the controversy this week? Apparently, Madame Tussaud’s wax museum in Berlin unveiled an Anne Frank figure sitting at a desk with a pen in hand this week.
From the Jewish Telegraphic Agency:
The unveiling took place last week amid some criticism about including a Holocaust victim at such an unserious location, according to the Bild Zeitung, Germany’s most popular daily. Others say that as long as there is information about the life and death of Anne Frank it is appropriate.
Anne died at age 15 at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp about a month before the camp’s liberation in April 1945. The best-known photographs snapped of the young diarist by her camera-happy father, Otto — the only immediate family member to survive the Holocaust — show young Anne smiling. A museum spokeswoman, Nina Zerbe, told Bild Zeitung that the display includes information about Anne in German and English, and she is presented in the context of the room in which she hid. “This is a three-dimensional history lesson for visitors,” Zerbe said. The director of the Anne Frank Center in Berlin, Thomas Heppner, who attended the unveiling, praised the idea of bringing visitors closer to history through such displays.
Maybe, just maybe this will only shed more light on Anne Frank, a young girl who brought to life the horrors of the Holocaust through the heartfelt entries of her diary.
We were off to a slow start on December 30, 2011 when we decided to make our way over to the Anne Frank House. We walked from where we were staying on Nieuwe Prinsengracht to the museum, which is at Prinsengracht 267. The weather was chilly, but we had our coats and gloves on and we pressed on toward our final destination. Even walking at a casual pace, the walk didn’t take more than 30 minutes and it gave us a chance to see more of Amsterdam, which is never a bad thing. I loved walking along the canals, past the locals on their bikes, while looking in all of the shops. It was like a scavenger hunt on every street, finding new things to look at and discover at every turn. Take, for example, this picture. Do you see the cow near the roof?
We arrived at 11:45 am and I saw a line near the front door. What I didn’t realize was the line wound its way way down the street, as you can see in this picture. My advice is to buy your tickets online or at Centraal Station to skip the queue entirely. Time is precious and the amount of time wasted online I felt could have been used better elsewhere. Of course, we weren’t thinking that there would be so many people wanting to go to the same place we wanted to enter and once we were there, we weren’t about to leave. It was a virtual United Nations online with people from all over the world speaking a variety of languages. I wonder how Anne would feel knowing that she had this effect on people even today.
After spending what felt like forever online, at 1:15 pm we finally entered the building. We paid an entrance fee, which for adults is adults €9.50, anyone 10-17 years it’s €5.00, and children up to 10 years it’s €0.50. If you buy your tickets online or at the visitor’s center at Centraal Station, you can skip the queue entirely and head to the special entrance to the left of the main entrance. Believe me, you want to do this! Walk past the sign in the first picture above and you can enter the building without waiting with everyone else outside.
Once inside the museum, you then begin a self guided tour. You simply walk from room to room reading the information about Anne, her family, and those who lived with her and worked in the building beneath the residence. There are also video clips playing throughout the rooms, which only add to the multi-sensory experience. As this is a multilevel home, please note that there are stairs, which are steep and narrow. If you have mobility issues or have young children, this may prove difficult for you. If you use a wheelchair, you won’t be able to access the house, including the Secret Annex, but you will be able to go into the newer building with the museum and store.
I took these pictures of the front of the building after we exited. As a child, I distinctly recall reading about Anne while learning about the Holocaust and then reading Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. It’s one thing to want to visit the Anne Frank House and another to actually be there. While I was there, I felt quite overcome with emotions, something I absolutely didn’t expect to feel. As I traversed the narrow stairways, as I walked behind the bookcase to the Secret Annex, as I walked through Anne’s room and looked at the pictures she had placed on the walls that still hang there today, history was alive in front of me and no longer confined to the pages of a book. I tried to imagine living in a such tight quarters with other families and having to be quiet all of the time during the day, not being able to go outside, but also not being able to look outside and living in the dark all day seemed more than I could take and I didn’t have to endure it like Anne did. I tried to imagine how she felt living day to day and probably moment to moment, never knowing if it would all come to an end. Unfortunately, for Anne it did all come to an end. On 4 August 1944, everyone in the Secret Annex were arrested after omeone betrayed them. They were deported first to the Westerbork transit camp, and then on to Auschwitz. Otto Frank was the only person from the Secret Annex to survive the camps. The others all died.
We stopped by the museum cafe afterwards to warm up as we were still quiet cold from having waited outside for 90 minutes. Of course, I felt guilty complaining about being cold in Anne Frank’s house and there’s nothing like a dose of reality and perspective with your cappuccino.
I highly recommend the Anne Frank House and Museum for anyone visiting Amsterdam. Whether you’re a history buff or not, everyone can benefit from a visit here. Plan ahead and get your tickets in advance to avoid the long queue. You cannot take pictures inside the museum as it can damage the vulnerable originals throughout the museum. I suggest visiting the museum store afterwards to chose one of the many books with an extensive array of photographs to capture your time spent inside the Anne Frank House. Additionally, I do recommend visiting the Anne Frank House museum website for more information on hours, suggestions, pictures, and more on the history of the museum.
Have you visited the Anne Frank House and Museum? If so, I would love to hear your thoughts and comments.
Museum visitors address
Anne Frank House
Recorded information line