Anne Frank’s Diary

After scraping ourselves out of bed this morning we wandered down to the hotel bar, which had been transformed into a cosmopolitan cafe filled with coffee, cereals, fruit juice, and all manner of meats. I filled a plate with utter, utter junk while my other half sought out a “proper” cup of tea.

We only had one firm idea on our itinerary for the day – a visit to Anne Frank’s house – booked several days in advance for an afternoon visit. With no real plans for the morning we set of on foot exploring the canals and avenues throughout the city.

Along the way, we happened upon the Rijkmuseum – I suppose the equivalent of our “National Gallery”. We spent several hours wandering around it’s labyrinthine interior, finding ourselves face to face with some pretty spectacularly famous paintings. The Night Watch was certainly huge, and imposing, and all those other words – but I think perhaps my favourite was a small self portrait of Vincent Van Gogh. A haunted, gaunt little man, with much on his mind.

We will perhaps remember the Rijkmuseum most as the place we didn’t find a map. In all of the museums and galleries in London, the entrance atriums tend to be filled with guides and maps. Not so the Rijkmuseum it seemed, where we stopped for a cup of tea, hot chocolate, and enough dutch applecake to sink a battleship before setting out to gaze at the various works of art within.

We downloaded the “official” Rijkmuseum app onto our phones, and referred to it now and again while wandering the many rooms and floors filled with art. Only on our exit hours later did we suddenly spy the maps in the entrance atrium. We both had a huge fit of giggles upon discovering them, and labelled each other “super geniuses”.

After leaving we grabbed some street food in the park behind the Rijkmuseum. A saxophonist (if you could call him that) was entertaining a crowd with a backing track, and the skills of somebody that had perhaps had two saxophone lessons. We weren’t sure if it was a comedy skit, or a real street entertainer.

Later in the afternoon – walking on feet that were rapidly transforming themselves into blocks of wood – we finally arrived at the Anne Frank house.

I thought I might struggle to contain my emotions, but somehow I think the tone of the place helped to keep a little composure. While tremendously affecting in it’s own way, it is more a place of hope, and celebration of a wonderful spirit.

I was struck by Otto Frank’s (her father) wish that the house not be re-created as it once was – that it should be a place of learning, and education. We spent our first half hour with a wonderful teacher who walked us through a gentle history lesson – providing context, meaning, and perspective for those that perhaps didn’t know the story in advance.

My biggest wobble came late in the tour – when confronted with Anne’s real diary – written in immaculate handwriting, in an almost silent, dark room. While sealed in glass to protect it from the elements, you could almost feel her in the room. I left with a tear or two on my cheeks, and a wobble in my voice. Even recalling it to write this is pulling at those same threads.

An unanticipatedly powerful moment stood in the next room. Otto Frank’s personal copy of the first US edition sits in a protective display case – translated by Mrs Doubleday (yes, that Doubleday), with a fore-word by Eleanour Roosevelt.

Quite the day.

Of course now I want to go back and read the diary. I’ve read passages from it over the years, but never the whole thing. I wonder if my perception may be different, having now stood in the anex Anne hid in for two years, and seen the real diary with my own eyes?

We’re now back at the hotel, sitting quietly in the bar with a drink. On the walk home we passed a nice looking Italian place in a side-street nearby. I think we might re-trace our steps later for dinner.

We’ll see.

3 replies on “Anne Frank’s Diary”

I’ve had the chance to go to Amsterdam and met a woman whose parents also kept Jewish survivors in their home. It was something many in that city did, out of grace and pity, and anger over being condemned for being born as they were. No choice on their part. I’m glad it impacted you so powerfully.

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