Reflections on a Visit to the Anne Frank House

Programs for this blog post

Inside World Governance

Authored By:

Ashlyn Thomas

This reflection was written by World Government student, Sasha: 

It’s been a dream of mine for countless years to go to the Anne Frank House. Ever since I read her diary at the age of 11, I was awestruck at the elegance of words in a girl not much older than I. I couldn’t comprehend how it was possible for her to go through such atrocities and still maintain the perseverance to pour her thoughts out onto paper. As someone who also had (and still does have) a passion for writing, I resolved to see the house where she hid for myself.

On August 2nd, 2022, that wish was finally fulfilled. We tagged along with our ever-reliable tour guide Jan, and although seeing him normally makes my entire day light up, the mood was pointedly somber in spite of his presence. Thanks to Jan, we were able to explore more of Anne’s life beyond the Annex —- we were taken to Anne’s house on Merwedeplein, where she lived until July of 1942. Subsequently, we saw the prison where Anne and her family were kept following their capture. What left me most in awe, was the fact that the prison had been converted into a stylish mall, and Anne’s former home turned into a sought-out apartment in a classy neighborhood. It’s difficult to imagine that the earth can keep spinning after the horrific events that plagued Anne and so many others, yet our tour was a reminder that life keeps moving on, yet the history and pain remains. This idea was only strengthened by the numerous stones that were scattered in front of buildings, bearing the names of Jewish people who used to live there, and their fates after they were seized. It was painful to see clusters of stones, representing families, or see a child’s name and realize that you’ll never know their face or story. Once Jan pointed out the stones to us, they seemed to appear everywhere.

As I waited outside the Anne Frank House, a peculiar feeling overtook me. It was one of anxiety and sadness, but a sadness so overwhelming and broad that you cannot pinpoint it. When we entered, it was difficult for me to imagine that in the very same area where I and dozens of other people were standing, all of diverse backgrounds, families had to hide because they were denied their humanity over something they couldn’t control. We all took a pair of earbuds for our guided tour, and walked through the house. Walking through the bookshelf into the secret Annex was a feeling that cannot be encompassed through words —- the stairs were small and cramped, and I felt sick to my stomach imagining eight people going up and down them, while trying not to get caught. 

I was completely silent throughout the whole tour, and my mind blocked out all the muttering and whispers of the vast crowd around me. I could only focus on what the museum presented: Edith Frank’s personal prayer book, the Van Pel’s shopping list, a book of the names of all Dutch Jews killed in the Holocaust. But, what touched me the most were the height markings of Anne and Margot on the wall. They were sealed off with glass, but I was still able to measure that I was about Anne’s height. Then, it struck me. These were real people, with real lives and souls who laughed, loved, and got angry as we do today. A feeling of intruding on personal space overwhelmed me, and only increased as I walked into Anne’s room and saw her posters plastered onto the wall, similar to what I do with mine. When I finally got to see the diary, I spent what seemed like a million years staring at the words, the pressure of the pen, and the red colored pencil marks that Anne used to correct her diary. Looking at evidence of one story was difficult and painful enough, and I could not imagine looking at 11 million.

I bought a diary at the gift shop, as well as a copy of "Tales from the Secret Annex." Perhaps my story may not be as eventful as Anne’s, but I hope to bring peace of mind to myself through writing in it. As I left the museum, I could not help but hear the laughter of children, and notice that it was a warm, gorgeous day with a light breeze. We were all silent as we took the tram home.