Anne Frank's House

I cannot remember exactly when I discovered Anne Frank’s life and fate in her Diary, sometime in my teens, I am sure.  It must have had some connection to a reading assignment that I was doing for my English class, taught by my favorite high school teacher, Eva Mae Ross.

This would have been in the middle 1950’s, just over a decade since the end of World War II and Anne Frank’s life.  Until then, the war had had no great meaning to me even though my uncle, a bombardier who helped destroy Hitler’s war machine in Europe, had safely returned to his family at the end of the war.   I was only six years old when he cane home safely, and the war, begun in the year of my birth, had no real connection me.  It was more or less like everything else in ‘history’ to my teenage mine, in the distant, not recent, past.

When I began reading Anne Frank’s Diary, very early in my reading, I found Anne talking about living in Amsterdam after the family’s move from Germany as the Nazi menace was being made clear to the Jews of Deutschland.  What caught my personal attention was Anne’s mentioning that she had gone to see a Rin Tin Tin movie.  I attended a great many movies in my early life, including several about Rin Tin Tin, a German Shepherd.

Anne’s life came alive to me in that moment.  She might have seen a movie that I had seen, maybe more than one.  Then I found out that she had been born only ten years before me.  She was ten when I was born.  I was seven when she died.  Her life and story were not in the historical past.  It was in my lifetime.

The Diary itself and dramatic productions of it which I have experienced have had a deep and lasting effect on me.  So have my visits to the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam.  There are many sites in that city which I have enjoyed: just walking the canals, the Riksmuseum with its Rembrandts and the Westerkirk where Rembrandt was buried for a time, and the Van Gogh  Museum with its wonderful of sunflower and so many other paintings, as well as other sights.

However, it is the Frank House that is the most meaningful to me.  When I was first there in 1983, it seemed to me that little of the clutter and litter left by the Franks and their fellow Jews who were there for a little over two years had been removed, even to scraps of paper on the floor.  Anne’s pictures were still on her bedroom walls under Plexiglas.  The whole apartment looked much like the people who had lived there might have just gone out for the day, leaving the place in quite a mess because there was some haste in their departure, maybe some emergency

A couple of decades later when I visited it again, the whole building had been changed greatly by more security measures to protect it from possible vandalism, and the clutter has been moved, but the apartment is still there, with Anne’s pictures still on her wall and the feeling, at least for me, that one of the truly important people of my lifetime was there, and that, for me, her spirit remains there.  That is enough for me.


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