Back in December, my mom and I made a super quick stop in Amsterdam (less than 24 hours) on our way home from our fantastic Scandinavia trip. We knew we wouldn’t have time to do much, but knew that a stop at the Anne Frank house was a must.
I read Anne Frank’s Diary back in my language arts class in middle school. At that point I was 13, the same age Anne was when her family had to go into hiding during WWII. I still remember all the emotions from it, but it wasn’t until another 13 years later that I actually got the opportunity to visit the site where the diary was written, and where Anne herself lived.
Let me back up a minute for anyone who might not be familiar with Anne Frank and her story.
Anne Frank is arguably the most “famous” victim of the Holocaust. She was born in Germany and lived there for a good portion of her childhood years, but once Hitler’s power began to rise, she fled with her family to Amsterdam, where they could enjoy the freedoms Jewish people were no longer allotted.
On her 13th birthday, she received a diary from her parents and began to write to an imaginary friend, Kitty, who she promised to confide in and use as a source of comfort and support. A few weeks later, Anne and her family went into hiding in the “Secret Annexe,” a hidden space in the back of her father’s office building, where they lived for 2 years before being captured and sent to concentration camps.
The only surviving member of the Frank family from the Holocaust was Anne’s dad, Otto. When he returned to Amsterdam, his friend, Miep (who helped hide the family), gave him Anne’s diary, which she had held on to. He discovered an entirely “different” version of Anne in this diary, which showed her incredible storytelling skills, depth of emotions, and unbreakable spirit. And several years later in 1947 (almost 70 years ago), he had her diary published for the world to read, honoring her dream to one day become a writer. Since then, her diary has been translated into 70 different languages and sold 30+ million copies.
About/Visiting the Anne Frank House (Museum)
The Anne Frank House officially opened as a museum in 1960 and has had over 32 million visitors, each year bringing more people in than the last. The museum features SO much history in the form of videos, photos, model diagrams, and text, putting visitors in the shoes (so to speak) of the two families that went into hiding in the “Secret Annexe” and their friends who helped keep them hidden during the dark days of WWII.
But it’s not until you see the bookshelf which hid the sole entrance/exit to the hidden spot the families hid that it actually becomes a reality to you, as you duck under and climb through the narrow stairway to enter the area where 8 people lived 24/7 for 2 years.
The space itself was much bigger than I had imagined (those Amsterdam houses really play a trick on your eyes with how small they look on the outside and how spacious they are inside), but still, tiny when you imagine the number of people living in the space and that these rooms and walls were the only things they saw for such a long time.
The Annexe had a shared kitchen/living room, bathroom, a couple small bedrooms and an attic. But since they were in hiding, the curtains were drawn, windows blackened, and minimal movement was allowed, so nobody would suspect that there were people hiding above. The families were entirely dependent on their friends who hid them for food and really, their lives, in keeping them hidden. But this life was much better than what lay outside the walls.
Thoughts on the Museum
I’ll admit, this was NOT an easy museum to walk through, especially in the Annexe, and when you walk out and see videos and photos of what happened to the families and individuals that helped keep them hidden after they were discovered.
It’s absolutely chilling and really brings Anne Frank’s Diary to life, as you walk where the vibrant young girl did so many years ago. It’s an incredibly solemn atmosphere, and no one said a word when walking through the Annexe. It seemed to be an unspoken rule with everyone just taking it in. But also, what really is there to say? It’s absolutely heartbreaking. You can still see some of the photos Anne had clipped out of magazines on the walls.
Anne Frank gave a voice to those without one during those harrowing years, and just like she wanted, she lives on, even after death.
I cannot stress this enough. BUY TICKETS IN ADVANCE. I started watching the site months in advance to make sure we’d be able to get tickets. If you know the date(s) you’re looking to visit, be sure to log on 2 months prior to, when they go on sale. There is a standby line, but you could be standing outside for HOURS to get in, so better to plan ahead, if possible.
The museum is open from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. to visitors who pre-purchase their tickets online for a specific timeslot. If you don’t have a ticket in advance, you can purchase at the museum entrance, but are unable to visit until after 3:30. Tickets cost 9€ for adults and 4.50€ for kids (ages 10-17).
It’s also worth noting that photos are NOT allowed inside the museum, hence the lack of photos in this post.