Wee Scoops

Measure for Measure

Reflections on a visit to Anne Frank House

Anne Frank was always someone I knew about. Her father, Otto Frank, was on Blue Peter when I was wee, on more than one occasion as I remember – YouYube has a Blue Peter such interview with him.

Then, of course, in my teens I read the diary, and, at one point I went to see a play version of the events. In my twenties I bought “Tales of the Secret Annexe” which contained other writing Anne did while in hiding.

When we went to Amsterdam last month, a visit to Anne Frank House was high on the priority list. We booked our tickets online in advance as we had been advised to do – and this was good advice. A queue that looked hours long snaked away from the house, where the people with internet tickets could press a buzzer and go straight in.

The building has an odd atmosphere. Everyone was very quiet. There were rooms with quotations on the walls from the diary and a few objects to look at as the path led through the building. It took quite some time to get through the business premises and office space up to the famous book case that concealed the entrance to the secret annexe. A big step up into the hiding place.

The emptiness of the airless rooms was again very odd. While it was interesting to be there, you couldn’t help but feel cooped up and longing for daylight – and that was us just passing through for a few minutes – and the people who hid there were there for more than two years.

There are too many half thoughts that were sparked off by the visit, and I haven’t thought them all out properly – so here are a few:

The last quote of the exhibition was from Otto Frank and it was him reflecting on how much he did not know his daughter until he read her diary after her death. I found it interesting to think about how much we can spend time with people and be unaware of the core nature of their character or their thoughts.

It all seemed so recent and so near – that Hitler could convince so many to take part in the oppression of the Jews. Even before the days of the removal of the Jewish people from Amsterdam, there were restrictions in place as if to weaken the resolve of the people and to make them feel less equal than others. Anne stated:

“Our freedom was severely restricted by a series of anti-Jewish decrees: Jews were required to wear a yellow star; Jews were required to turn in their bicycles; Jews were forbidden to use trams; Jews were forbidden to ride in cars, even their own; Jews were required to do their shopping between 3:00 and 5:00 P.M.; Jews were required to frequent only Jewish-owned barbershops and beauty parlors; Jews were forbidden to be out on the streets between 8:00 P.M. and 6:00 A.M.; Jews were forbidden to attend theaters, movies or any other forms of entertainment; Jews were forbidden to use swimming pools, tennis courts, hockey fields or any other athletic fields; Jews were forbidden to go rowing; Jews were forbidden to take part in any athletic activity in public; Jews were forbidden to sit in their gardens or those of their friends after 8:00 P.M.; Jews were forbidden to visit Christians in their homes; Jews were required to attend Jewish schools, etc.”

This quote struck me as being sickeningly relevant to the world today where various minorities have their choices limited by the will of others. These restrictions placed on the Jewish community really were the beginning of the slippery slope that ended in mass murder. We should really watch out when people are forced to wear certain things; discouraged or banned from going about their daily business. The ban on cultural mixing and mixed education presumably was enforced in order to make people feel different, and with the differences highlighted, fear and suspicion was allowed to breed.

More encouraging was the exhibition about the helpers who managed to keep the people hidden for all that time, fully aware of the risks they were taking in defying the Nazi regime.

And then we drifted through the shop and into the street and went for a cup of tea – into free and democratic Amsterdam, wondering whether there were many others whose time in hiding went undocumented, thankful that the Nazis were defeated, aware that intolerance and hatred are a part of human nature and that we need to always be ready to identify and oppose oppression wherever it may surface next.

 

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8 thoughts on “Reflections on a visit to Anne Frank House

  1. I felt the same way when I visited Anne Frank’s house back in 1989 or it could have been 1988. I believe that everyone should read the Dairy and visit the house; it seems to me that humanity needs constant reminding that it is not okay to persecute the “other”; we are none of us more deserving then the other to live in peace. I really don’t understand why it seems that fear and suspicion are so handy for some in their tool box of social behaviors and beliefs. Great post. 😀

  2. I’ve visited the house twice, once ten years ago and the other time was probably about 35 years ago. On my second visit I found it had changed quite a bit and had become a lot more ‘touristy’, but on both occasions I found it very moving – particularly climbing the stairs and going in behind the book case. I suppose we focus a lot on Anne herself, and don’t think so much about the rest of the family, and their friends who risked so much to keep them hidden for so long.

    • They had a good exhibition called “the helpers” which had a focus on the efforts of Meip Gies and the others. They probably rotate that exhibition space to cover the others in hiding also.
      It made me wonder about the others that did the same. I have heard of Corrie Ten Boom who wrote “the hiding place” and there was another one similar.

  3. Did you know there is a film showing Anne? It is actually a film a family took of a wedding across the street from her hideout, and at one point in the film, the camera surveys the entire block. She is watching from the window in the attic and turns back to say something to her family, and returns to look out the window again. It is brief, but shows so much of her youth, vitality, and cheeriness in a very short clip. It’s worth seeking out.

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