One of the main stories that draws people to book a stay in one of Amsterdam’s budget hotels is that of Anne Frank – the young Jewish girl who sought refuge with her family in the attic of one of the city’s canal-side houses. It was here that she kept a diary of her experiences.
On my trip to Amsterdam, I found my visit to Anne Frank House to be an emotional experience that provided an unparalleled insight into what life was like not only for Anne, but for all Jewish people during World War II.
If you have never read Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, it is well worth doing before you go, to gain a greater understanding of her short life.
Arrival in Amsterdam
Born in Germany in 1929 to parents Otto and Edith, Anne and her older sister Margot lived in Frankfurt in peace, despite the economic turmoil. However, the financial crisis saw the Nazi party gain power, with Adolf Hitler being appointed chancellor in 1933, and quickly establish the Third Reich.
Anti-Semitic demonstrations began to be held across the country, prompting Anne’s father to relocate his family to Amsterdam, where he had been offered the opportunity to set up a business.
For a few years they felt safe again, but the outbreak of the second world war and Germany’s invasion of the Netherlands changed all this.
Life in hiding
When Anne’s sister Margot received her call-up to report to a work camp, Otto made the decision to move his family into hiding.
Anne spent two years living in the annex high up in her father’s office building, where she ate, slept and played alongside her family, Fritz Pfeffer, Hermann and Auguste van Pels and their son Peter, who also sought shelter there.
She had begun to keep a diary shortly before and it was one of the few possessions she was able to bring with her. The door to the secret annex was disguised by a bookcase and only a handful of people knew of its existence, including four of Otto’s employees.
For over two years the Franks and their companions lived in the annex, where Anne shared her first kiss with Peter and detailed in her diary how much joy writing brought to her.
Betrayal and arrest
Despite living in secrecy for so long, in 1944 someone betrayed the group, their whereabouts was discovered and they were arrested.
Leaving the annex for the first time, they were all interrogated by the Gestapo and transferred to the Weteringschans prison. After a month of hard labour, they were deported to the Auschwitz concentration camp.
None of the group was to survive the concentration camp apart from Otto Frank and Anne died at the age of 15. No-one knows who informed the authorities of their whereabouts.
Upon his return to Amsterdam, Otto was given his daughter’s diaries, which were later published.
You can visit the house today, which has been turned into a museum with several exhibitions – both permanent and temporary – detailing what life was like for Jewish people in Amsterdam during the German occupation. You can also visit the secret annex and imagine what it would have been like to live here with seven others.
I’m certain you’ll find your visit just as moving as I did.