“I must uphold my ideals, for perhaps the time will come when I shall be able to carry them out.” – Anne Frank
Amsterdam is set up like one giant circle. Read: the most ideal set-up for a not-so-savvy map reader like me.
I loved this city. The streets are neatly divided by beautiful canals. One night we rented a boat with friends and explored the canals on our own, talking about what it would be like to live on one of the many houseboats there. Life seems like it would be more simple. A one story residence, on the water, moveable if you get tired of the spot you are in.
There was one address that I wanted to see the most though, and it was not a houseboat: 263 Prinsengracht, Amsterdam, where Anne Frank and her family hid during World War II.
263 Prinsengracht was where Otto Frank ran his businesses, with just four employers, who helped the family go into hiding. The Franks stayed in the rear extension of the building, hidden from street view. This came to be known as the “Secret Annex.”
Anne, her sister Margot, her parents Otto Frank and Edith Frank were confined to this annex, with four other individuals who arrived later: Hermann Van Pels, Auguste Van Pels, Peter van Pels, and Fritz Pfeffer.
The self-guided tour took us behind the original bookshelf that hid the stairs leading up to the annex. We climbed the stairs and explored the living room, bedrooms, tiny bathroom and kitchen areas. All rooms were practically empty, with blackout curtains covering each window completely. Photos and small reconstructions of what the room looked like when the eight were there were in the corners. Excerpts from Anne’s diary were painted on the walls.
The only time Anne got a glimpse of the outside world was from the window in the attic. She and Peter would climb up in the morning and look out the window at the sky.
“The sun is shining, the sky is deep blue, there’s a magnificent breeze, and I’m longing – really longing – for everything,” Anne wrote.
On March 28th 1944, the eight in hiding listened quietly to the radio and heard a broadcast from London announcing that once the war ends, journals and other types of detailed documentation kept during this period would be collected and saved for future generations to read.
After hearing this announcement, Anne thinks of her diary and imagines what it would be like to be an author. In May of 1944, just three months before the eight are found and captured by the Germans, she notes that she’s began her novel.
“At long last after a great deal of reflection I have started my Achterhuis (Secret Annex), in my head it as good as finished, although it won’t go as quickly as that, if it ever comes off at all.”
Of the eight, Otto Frank was the only one to survive the war. He was given Anne’s journal when he was liberated from Auschwitz Birkenau and returned to Amsterdam to try and find his family. He found out his daughters and wife did not survive. It took him a long time to read the journal.
He was instrumental in the diary becoming published, The Diary of a Young Girl, in 1947, and helped organize and open the Anne Frank House in 1960.
You can feel Anne’s angst and frustration through the entries describing her time in the annex. But there are so many, if not more, entries of hope, bravery, and determination. Although she unfortunately did not live to see this happen, Anne did ultimately accomplish her dream of being a writer, and has influenced millions all over the world.
Despite the chaos in her life, Anne Frank found a dream to hold on to. I will always remember that.
Thanks for following along,
26 year-old Anna Idler lives in Montgomery County, PA and is a freelance writer for Montco Happening. To learn more about her travels, check out her website Outlaw Summer.
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