One of the places you should always take the time to see during your time in Amsterdam is the Anne Frank house. Who hasn’t heard the story about her Jewish family’s attempt to conceal themselves during the Second World War? The Anne Frank diaries have become synonymous with the story of the Jews during this horrific period all over the world.
The story of Anne Frank always chills me to the bone. I think it is good that, thanks to the Anne Frank foundation and Otto Frank (Anne’s father who survived the war), the distressing story of the girl hidden in the Secret Annex can be shared. A visit to the Anne Frank house is educational and interesting, but above all it is powerful. Many people queue for hours to get the chance to visit this poignant monument to a little girl, which is why I advise you to order your admission tickets in advance. You can do this here on the Anne Frank House website.
The Anne Frank house, located at Prinsengracht 263, doesn’t look any different to the many houses that line the canal. It is impossible to see the building known as the Secret Annex from the Prinsengracht facades. The street-side house, which had previously been used for Otto Frank’s business, stands in front of this hidden refuge. Due to the complicated structure of the company building, the house behind it is blocked from view, which made it a good place to protect the family from German eyes. The entrance to the secret annex was camouflaged by a revolving cabinet which had been specially made for this purpose. The secret annex had several floors.
On 6 July 1942, the Frank family was forced to go into hiding, later followed by the van Pels family (described as the Van Daan family in the diary) and Fritz Pfeffer. The office staff who were aware of the situation provided food and news. Not everyone who worked in the office, however, knew about the existence of the secret annex. This kept the risk of betrayal as low as possible, but also meant that those who lived in the hiding place had to spend their days in complete silence; during office hours neither the toilet nor the bathroom could be used. This situation went smoothly for a total of 25 months, until an anonymous telephone call betrayed their existence. On 4 August 1944, the German security police opened the bookcase and the families were taken to be deported to Auschwitz.
The diary of Anne Frank
On her thirteenth birthday, just before the family are forced to go into hiding, Anne Frank is given a diary. In this book she describes the history of the time and produces sketches of daily life in the Secret Annex. She writes her last words on 1 August 1944, 4 days before discovery. Her diary is left behind. Anne Frank dies in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in March 1945. Her diary continues to make an important contribution to this period today.
Many descriptions from the diary of Anne Frank are still recognizable in and around the Anne Frank house. She wrote, among other things, how the Westertoren played an important role in her period of concealment. When you come to visit, you will notice that the house remains true to that particular era and radiates an atmosphere of poignancy. Although very few of the original furnishings have survived, you will still get a clear picture of what was happening at this period in history, as well as a piercing picture of Jewish life during World War II. The experience gave me goose bumps.
How it was for Anne Frank
I totally recommend a visit to the Anne Frank house. There are various areas open to the public, such as the sleeping and living quarters, offices and business premises. Of course, you will see the original bookcase, while in Anne Frank’s bedroom you will see several places on the wall that she describes in her diary. The red checked diary itself is on display. If you have read the diary, Anne Frank’s words will complete every scene.
The museum also contains a vast collection of original letters and photographs. The image and sound archives will also help you to envision life at this address and in Amsterdam in the 1940s. The Anne Frank House has since been extended to the building next door , where more exhibition space and a documentation centre are located. This is also worth a long visit, so make sure you give yourself enough time. The Anne Frank House organizes various activities to promote social tolerance. You will find more information on the website as well as a virtual tour.
Visiting the Anne Frank house
If you are planning on paying a visit to the Anne Frank house you should definitely order your online tickets in advance. There is only room for a limited number of people at any one time, and sometimes queues run the length of the street, all the way up to the Westertoren (Western Tower)! Regularly (during peak daytime hours), only those people who have booked in advance are permitted to enter. During the holiday season it can get extremely busy.
People sometimes have to wait for hours before they can enter the site. Of course, the experience is definitely worth the wait, but few tourists have that sort of time to spare. If you order your pre-sale ticket here you will save yourself a lot of time. I would certainly do this myself. You will probably need to indicate your preferred time slot and can then plan your day around this.
Not for the physically challenged
You should note that both the front and annex properties are not suitable for people who are physically challenged due to the ” leg-breaking Dutch stairs” (Anne’s own term) and the layout of the rooms.
You can get to the Anne Frank house by tram (lines 13 or 17) or bus (lines 170, 171 or 172). Get off at Westertoren. I don’t advise your arriving by car; the parking spaces in the immediate vicinity are very scarce and very expensive.