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Amsterdam's Most Compelling Museum - The Anne Frank House

© by Mike Keenan
 
From The Anne Frank House

Amsterdam packs a no nonsense solid cultural punch, loaded with 50+ museums ranging from world-famous collections to lesser-known hidden treasures. The first-time that I visited, I wanted to take in some of the most famous such as Rijksmuseum, Hermitage, Stedelijk and Van Gogh, but it was the simple, almost austere Anne Frank House that provided the most moving experience for me, given the heartbreaking circumstances of this young girl who died at fifteen after writing her famous diary.
     The Anne Frank House opened May 3, 1960, three years after a foundation was established to protect the property from developers who wanted to demolish the entire housing block.
     I enter it from the canal-side façade of the former Opekta building, sitting on the Prinsengracht canal, an attractive setting for this narrow, four-storey edifice that contains the Frank's hiding place or Achterhuis (back house) located at the rear in an enclosed courtyard.
     From her diary, dated Wednesday, April 5, 1944, I read the young prophetic words: "When I write I can shake off all my cares. My sorrow disappears, my spirits are revived! But, and that's a big question, will I ever be able to write something great, will I ever become a journalist or a writer?" Tears well in my eyes as I think of my own children.
     I knew the story. The ground floor consists of three business sections for Otto Frank, Ann's father. The front is his shipping entrance; behind it in the middle section are the spice mills, and at the rear, on the ground floor of the annex, is the warehouse where materials are packed for distribution.
     On the first floor above are the offices of Otto Frank's employees: Miep Gies, Bep Voskuijl and Johannes Kleiman in the front, Victor Kugler in the middle, with Otto Frank in the rear, above the warehouse and below the floors which later hide him and his family for two years until ultimate betrayal to the Nazis.
     A secluded area made for an ideal hiding place for Otto, wife Edith, two daughters (Anne, the younger) and four other Jewish people seeking sanctuary. The doorway to the annex is concealed behind a moveable bookcase.
     Of the entire group in hiding, only Otto Frank survives the war. Anne and her sister Margot are taken from Auschwitz-Birkenau to Bergen-Belsen in October, 1944 and they both die of typhus in March, 1945, a few scant weeks before the concentration camp is liberated by the British.

Front Door - Anne Frank House   Anne Frank Diary   Anne Frank Diary   Tourists In Front Of Anne Frank House    Bookcase - Anne Frank House   Hallway - Anne Frank House

     The house remains sparsely furnished which lends gravitas to my tour, conducted in silence. After the arrest, all of the contents such as the clothes, furniture and personal belongings of the Frank family and their friends are taken and distributed to families in Germany. However, before the building is completely cleared, brave Miep Gies and Bep Voskuijl, who helped hide the families, return to the hiding place against orders of the Dutch police and rescue personal effects, most importantly, The Diary of Anne Frank which subsequently becomes one of the world's most widely read books and the basis for several plays and films.
     Upon Otto Frank's return to Amsterdam, he is given Anne's diaries and papers, and he compiles selections into a book published in Dutch in 1947 entitled Het Achterhuis, which Anne had chosen as the name of a future memoir or novel based on her experiences in hiding. When the diary is published, it becomes an instant international best-seller.
     Empty rooms capture the chilling atmosphere of the Frank's hiding area. Historical documents, photographs, film images and original objects that belong to those in hiding and their helpers are carefully displayed to illustrate the events that took place. Anne's original diary and other notebooks act like sacred texts. Also on display is the Academy Award that Shelley Winters won for her performance as Petronella van Daan in the movie, The Diary of Anne Frank, and which she later donated to the museum.
     The museum attracts a million visitors yearly, which sometimes means long queues. Located in the centre of Amsterdam at Prinsengracht 263-267, it takes 20 minutes to walk from the Central Station to the museum. Trams 13 and 17 and buses 142, 170 and 172 stop nearby at the Westermarkt stop.
     Admittance fees are: adults: 8.5 Euros; ages 10-17: 4 Euros; ages 0-9: free. The museum is open 364 days a year including Sundays and from 9:00 am - 9:00 pm on most days. In the high season, waiting times can be 45 minutes. The house is too small for guided tours, but there are free guidebooks available in twelve languages. A visit typically takes an hour. There is a museum café which serves drinks and snacks. You are not allowed to take photos inside.
     When one exits and walks outside again along the canal during a sunny day, it's a sudden lesson in appearance and reality. The painful Dutch Jewish experience looms large in the presence of a seemingly ordinary building that stands mute before you.



Photo Credits
Visit Holland
Anne Frank House

Mike Keenan writes for QMI Agency (Sun Media) Canada's largest newspaper publisher, printing 44 daily newspapers as well as a web portal, Canoe.ca. Besides regular columns for the St. Catharines Standard, Welland Tribune and Niagara Falls Review. Mike has been published in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Buffalo Spree, Stitches, West of the City and Hamilton-Burlington's View Magazine. His work is found in QMI published dailies such as the Toronto Sun, Ottawa Sun, Vancouver Sun, London Free Press, Calgary Sun, Winnipeg Sun and Edmonton Sun. Click for Amsterdam, Netherlands Forecast


If you go
Anne Frank Museum: http://www.annefrank.org/
The Secret Annex Online: http://www.annefrank.org/en/Subsites/Home/
Visit Holland: http://www.holland.com/global/Tourism.htm
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amsterdam
Wikitravel: http://wikitravel.org/en/Amsterdam
About.com: http://goamsterdam.about.com/od/whattodoinamsterdam...
Places of worship: http://www.amsterdamny.gov/residents/places-of-worship.php
Fiction: http://www.amazon.co.uk/amsterdam-Fiction...

Travel Aid
Airlines (Wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_airlines
Currency conversion: http://www.xe.com/ucc/
Distance calculator: http://www.indo.com/distance/
Embassies/Consulates (Embassy World): http://www.embassyworld.com/
Health precautions (WHO): http://www.who.int/ith/en/
Maps (Google interactive map): http://maps.google.com/
Maps (Mapquest) U.S. & Canada: http://www.mapquest.com/maps/main.adp
Maps (Mapquest) World: http://www.mapquest.com/maps/main.adp?country=GB
Media Guide (local newspapers with current listings): http://www.abyznewslinks.com/
Temperature (Temperature World): http://www.temperatureworld.com/
Time zone converter: http://www.timezoneconverter.com/
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