AMSTERDAM, Netherlands, June 18, 2016 – It happens to everyone the moment they enter. It’s a natural phenomenon. Quiet footsteps. Whispered voices. Reverent solemnity. They are now in the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam.
Here, silence just naturally seems to be the appropriate thing to do.
For more than two years, Anne Frank, her family and four other people sequestered themselves in a hidden, 500-square-foot room, hoping to survive the Nazi invasion of Europe. In the end, in August 1944, they were captured as a result of an anonymous tip and dispatched to concentration camps.
During the two long years of confinement, a young girl named Anne Frank kept her sanity by occupying her time writing a novel. Writing was Anne’s dream. In another world, at another time, in another life she might have become a prolific journalist. And yet, little did she know the profound impact her efforts in her secret hiding place would have on the world.
Anne Frank was born in Frankfurt, Germany. Like so many other Jews in the 1940s, as World War II raged across Europe, Otto Frank and his family fled their homes seeking a safe haven free of persecution.
Otto settled in Amsterdam and started a small business. Moving into a house on the Prinsengracht they hoped that the war would not reach the Netherlands. That hope vanished on May 10, 1940, as German troops stormed the city. Five days later, the Netherlands surrendered and the Nazi occupation began.
Otto Frank had attempted unsuccessfully to emigrate to England and the United States on several occasions. But eventually, his family was forced to hide in a secret room in their canal house in Amsterdam.
Due to the tax system, houses in Amsterdam are long and narrow. Many people live on the canals in barges and houseboats, but the Frank home was on a typical bicycle-infested street overlooking a canal.
Located at the rear extension of the building and concealed from view by houses on all four sides of a quadrangle, the “secret annex” seemed to be the perfect place to hide. Even today, questions arise about how it was discovered.
Though living with seven other people in a 500-square-foot room for two years, the always optimistic Anne wrote that her family’s plight was “luxurious” when compared to others she had heard about. Thanks to several of Otto Frank’s office workers, the family had food, clothing, books and information about the outside world.
For Anne, her favorite pastime was writing, and she soon began working on a novel she titled “The Secret Annex.”
Shortly before going into hiding, Anne had received a diary for her birthday, and, following up on a radio request by the minister of education, she began making regular entries into her book.
When the pages were filled with her notations, Anne decided to take her writings and begin rewriting them into “The Secret Annex.”
Immediately after the arrest of the Frank family, Miep Gies and Bep Voskuijl were able to rescue Anne’s diary and other papers that had been left behind during their hasty departure.
Of the eight people who lived in the Frank household, only Otto, the father, survived the war. Anne, her sister Margot and her mother Edith were sent to Auschwitz, where they all died from illnesses.
Following the war, Otto’s friends persuaded him to publish his daughter’s diary, and on June 25, 1947, the world became aware of Anne Frank’s writings. Though her life ended prematurely, Anne posthumously succeeded in becoming one of the world’s foremost chroniclers of the struggles and desperation of Jews during the horrors of World War II.
Today, Amsterdam is a beautiful city nestled around canals, its streets filled with bicycles and small bridges. It is famous for the works of Dutch painters Rembrandt and Van Gogh. And it is also the place where a teenage girl named Anne Frank lived much of her all-too-short life in secrecy.
There are no signs at the Anne Frank House Museum telling visitors to respect the venue and the legacy of its story. It just happens naturally. Somehow people just know that this is a quiet place. A place of solitude and remembrance.
“The Diary of Anne Frank” will be 70 years old in 2017. It is perhaps the most poignant diary in history.
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About the author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award-winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
He is founder of the Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
His goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.
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