Anne Frank’s house was my first destination upon arriving in Amsterdam. Entering would have to wait as my tickets were for another day, but something in me just needed to see it. Standing outside this important place in history, which I’d read about my entire life, and that seemed to be just any other ordinary building, was surreal. I suddenly felt as if I were in a fog, I could see and hear the other people around me, but felt strangely outside myself. Sorrow, incredulity, anger rolled over me like a wave. In that moment, right there on that regular sidewalk the joy was sucked right out of me. Simultaneously I was grateful to be standing there. Outside. Grateful that I could be, and that no one was telling me otherwise.
Maybe you’re reading the above and thinking, why would anyone willingly put themselves through emotions like that if they didn’t have to? I don’t blame you, but I strongly believe that in order to protect future generations we must step outside our comfort zone. Keeping these memories alive, no matter how unpleasant, is paramount.
‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’ – George Santayana
The next morning I got up early and knowing my family needed their rest, I wrote them a note and then went out for a walk around the neighborhood. I wandered back over to the Anne Frank House as I wanted time for a little introspection. I found a cup of coffee and a bench and watched the people go by.
Surprising to me, many of them posed happily by the front door, smiling and laughing while acting goofy. Some seemed to be making a show of being dramatic, a caricature of sorts. Somehow this felt wrong to me. Strange I thought… is this a happy place?
A short while later standing across the canal I listened in on a bike tour. Although the guide did mention the Nazi occupation, the secret annex and that their had been people hiding inside for over two years it was very perfunctory and felt quite shallow.
What you need to know before visiting
As soon as we decided upon a visit to Amsterdam I knew I’d be visiting Anne Frank’s house and with that knowledge immediately researched making it happen. As it turned out it can be somewhat complicated. Tickets are required, timed and are only available from the official website exactly two months in advance. Due to the museum’s popularity they will sell out, so I highly recommend setting a reminder on your calendar. Hopefully, you’ll have some flexibility, as even armed with this knowledge I was only able to secure two tickets during the entire duration of our five night stay. This worked out for our family as my little one wasn’t quite old enough for this experience.
Here are some other things to keep in mind when planning a visit:
- The Anne Frank House is located in the center of Amsterdam at Prinsengracht 263-267
- Visitors between the hours of 9:00 am and 3:30 pm must purchase their tickets in advance online.
- You can show your ticket directly from your smart phone.
- From 3:30 PM until closing time you can buy a ticket at the museum entrance. I don’t recommend this as the lines are extremely long and you won’t be guaranteed entrance.
- Last entry to the museum is 30 minutes before closing time, but the queue for the Anne Frank House closes earlier. Depending on how busy it is, this can be as much as 2 hours before closing time.
- No photographs are allowed inside the museum.
- Strollers and large bags aren’t allowed inside the museum.
Thoughts on our visit:
Our timed entry was 2:15 pm, so after a morning exploring the city, Simon and I went to the Museum. Here are some of my thoughts as I wrote them directly after the visit:
It was simply heartbreaking, but so worth while. I silently cried my way through the entire thing.
Though Simon recently studied Anne Frank in school, and even after we stood in the very places Anne and her family stood, I’m not sure it really got through to him that her and her family only died because they were jews. That prior to going to hiding they weren’t allowed to swim at the beach, go to school, visit friends or really do anything at all just because they were jews.
Seeing the rooms, staircases and the bookcase, which hid the entrance to their secret annex was incredibly surreal. After reading and hearing about Anne my entire life and then to actually stand in the place where they hid for over two years is very difficult to put into words.
Peeking out the window onto the street below. Knowing that on the rare occasion that Anne herself could look out that she looked out these same windows. She saw the same things we saw, people freely walking by, laughing, playing, boats on the canal, heard the nearby church bells, only unlike us, she couldn’t leave.
The visit to the Anne Frank house is self guided, though Anne’s words are written on the walls throughout. You’ll walk through the office below the secret annex, the annex and have an opportunity to see Anne’s diaries. There are many.
The video interviews of Otto Frank, her father, and other people who knew her are fascinating and really help bring her to life.
With the exception of a few items on display most of the rooms are empty. This is deliberate as Otto Frank specifically requested they be kept this way as a symbol of all the people who never came back.
Surprisingly, even after this moving and educational experience I could tell that it was hard for Simon to grasp when he saw during our visit. How could he? Thankfully, he’s only known acceptance and tolerance. However, all the more reason why this visit was so important.