My Emotions

I said earlier that touring the Anne Frank house was very emotional for me.  About 3-4 years into our marriage I re-read the diary, having read it in my teenage years.  I honestly didn’t remember how the story for all the others ended until I got to the last page (of course I recalled that Anne didn’t survive).  It seemed especially sad that she died just weeks short of liberation.  At that time, I decided to read every book I could find written by survivors of the concentration camps.  Our small library had 2 dozen or so, and I read every single one.  They all had different takes on the same story–some victims being Jewish, others Christian helpers, or gypsies, mentally disabled, etc.  Some had been used for musical entertainment until they were no longer wanted.  Some were being used for medical experimentation.  Others were political or resistance prisoners.  It was encouraging to see that many did survive the camps.

Now fast-forward to 2015 when we were in Amsterdam and were able to tour the house itself; I’d been re-reading her diary on the flight to Europe.  It was truly remarkable to step into the real “Secret Annex,” and to see the original diaries and other papers and photos.  I could climb up into the attic and see the little bit of sky that they were able to see.  On the other hand, I could step out the front door of the museum and see the beautiful canal in front of the house, which they were not able to enjoy.  It was very moving to see the marks on the wall where the Franks kept track of the girls’ growth, and to see actual photos that Anne had placed on the wall. I was handling the tour pretty well, though, until we got to the last room.  On the TV screen was an old lady telling a personal story about Anne.  I was amazed to realize that it was Anne’s childhood friend, Hannah Goslar, who had also gone to a concentration camp but had survived.  The story was something I’d never heard before, and it was remarkable.

While Hannah was at Bergen-Belsen, someone told her that some Dutch-speaking people were on the other side of a fence, in a separate camp.  It turned out that Anne was one of those people, and they had a chance to talk.  Anne’s condition was much worse; Red Cross packages weren’t allowed there, nor did they have warm clothes or much to eat.  There was a terrible outbreak of Typhoid in the camp.  Hannah (“Hanneli” in Anne’s diaries) told this story in the video, which was also published in a book that I purchased.  Since she had received a Red Cross package, she prepared one to give to Anne, and others in her barracks also donated food:

The package consisted of a glove, some Swedish bread and dried fruit, and what she had saved from the evening meal.  Hannah waited until it was dark and walked across the camp to the barbed-wire fence.  Cautiously she whispered, “Anne?  Are you there?”  Immediately the reply came, “Yes, Hanneli I’m here.”  … Hannah felt very weak but summoned her strength and threw the package over the fence.  Immediately there was a scuffling noise.  Then the sound of someone running and Anne cried out in anguish.  “What happened?”  Anne was crying.  “A women ran over and grabbed it away from me.  She won’t give it back.” … Hannah called, “Anne, I’ll try again but I don’t know if I’ll be able to get away with it.”  Anne was crushed.  Hannah begged her to not lose hart, “I’ll try.  In a few nights.  Wait for me.”

She tried again a few days later and was able to get the package to Anne.  But that was the last time she spoke to her, sadly, as Anne’s camp was soon cleared out completely and Hannah was sent to another one by train (Anne and her sister Margot apparently died at the camp very soon after this incident, sometime shortly after February 25, 1945).  After traveling far into Germany, the train Hannah was on stopped and the guards disappeared; the war had ended and the prisoners were free to return home (though parents and grandparents had all died; she had only her young sister left).  Hannah spent many months recovering in a hospital in Amsterdam, and Otto Frank was a big help for her; he visited her often and helped locate an uncle in Switzerland that could care for Hannah and her sister Gabi.

The part that was the saddest for me was one of her last conversations with Anne, as described in her book:

Hannah told her that Mrs. Goslar (her mother) had died in Amsterdam before they were arrested.  So had the new baby.  Grandfather had died in Westerbork.  She explained that so far the rest of their family had managed to stay together–Gabi (her little sister) with her, Papa and Grandmother, all in the same camp but in different barracks.  But now, she told Anne desolately, her father was in the hospital.  He was very, very sick.  [Anne replied:] “You’re so luck to have your family.  I don’t have parents anymore, Hanneli.  I have nobody.  Margot is very sick, too.”  Again they began crying.  [Hannah Gosler Remembers — a Childhood Friend of Anne Frank, 1997]

Now, remember, I was hearing this story from Hannah herself, in a video in the Anne Frank museum.  At this point in the story, she said that what was sad was that Anne thought she was the last one of her family left alive; Margot was dying and her parents had too.  But Hannah pointed out that actually, Anne’s beloved father, Otto Frank, was still alive.  She said that if Anne had known he was still living, she may have lived through the holocaust.  There were only a few weeks left before they were all liberated.  Hannah believed that Anne may have been able to hold on for those last few weeks, if she’d had the motivation to stay alive.  This is when I started sobbing uncontrollably in the museum.  Poor Chris–I held onto him and buried my face in the back of his neck and cried and sobbed as we walked out of the room.  It was just too much for me to hear.  Anne came so close to living through the ordeal, and Hannah actually did live. New research indicates that Anne most likely died the end of February, rather than the end of March, as they used to think, so that connects perfectly with what Hannah recalled. Anne probably died shortly after Margot died, very soon after Hannah’s and Anne’s last conversation. Nobody knows what happened in Anne’s camp, but since Typhoid was rampant, they probably all died rather than being transported away with the others.

But, on the positive side, Anne’s story lives on and has been told all over the world.  The diary has been published in dozens of languages.  Next week I’ll share quotes from her diary; some regarding her dear friend Hanneli.  What an amazing, perceptive young lady.  She was hoping to publish a novel called “The Secret Annex” when she got out of hiding, and could never have imagined how far-reaching her actual diary would be.  Her story will never die!



Anne Frank House Tours

Touring the Anne Frank annex and museum was very emotional for me.  I’ll share more about that in the next post, but first I’ll explain the logistics.  You don’t enter the house from the original front door, but through the museum next door.  However, you do enter the “secret annex” through the famous moving bookcase and use various steep stairways.  You can see all the rooms the families used, including the attic.  Original photos and magazine clippings of Anne are on the wall of her room.  I hadn’t realized Anne used three different notebooks, as well as the original red and white checked diary; or that she also wrote separate stories and poems (in what she called “The Tales Book”), personal notes, a book of quotations, and an unfinished novel on loose sheets of paper called “The Secret Annex.”  These are available to see in the museum, as are many items belonging to the Frank family — photo albums, artwork, paperwork, receipts, tickets, and other items.  In addition, you can learn more about the amazing, loving people who helped the families while they were in hiding.  One of the special places is the wall where the Franks kept track of Margot and Anne’s heights; it makes it all so real and sad when you see something like that.

If you go to the house, I highly recommend arranging for tickets well ahead of time.  Since we travel on standby flights (and aren’t certain of reaching our destination), we didn’t purchase tickets ahead of time, but were able to get them (for later use in the week) by arriving super early one day and waiting for over an hour or two.  Waiting for hours won’t guarantee you’ll get a ticket, either, of course.  So plan ahead if you can.

Though we weren’t able to take photos in the annex, you can see photos online; but the best option is to walk through the entire building on their website in 3D.  It’s a little difficult to navigate, but once you realize that movements are opposite of what you expect, it should work well for you as it did for me.  Click here where it says “Go straight inside.”

The Anne Frank house has huge international connections.  Otto Frank, Anne’s father, wanted it to become an International Youth Center, and it is.  Their website says:

It would be a place for dialogue, where young people could gather; a place serving as a warning from the past, but focused on the future..Now young people from around the world gather here every summer to participate in meetings and debates. They stay in the adjacent dormitories, which the University of Amsterdam students are contractually obliged to give up for two months during the summer…

In addition to hosting youth conferences, Anne Frank House also began offering lectures and courses. This resulted in a regular series of study meetings led by Rabi Yehuda Ashkenazi that created a dialogue between Judaism and Christianity. The meetings attracted priests, ministers, rabbis and members of the public alike.

It was at this time that Anne Frank House also began hosting cultural evenings showcasing literature, poetry and classical music, which where primarily held downstairs at Prinsengracht 265. Those who performed at these musical evenings were usually students from the Conservatory of Music in Amsterdam.

In addition, the family lived at an apartment at Merwedeplein 37 in Amsterdam before going into hiding, and this apartment is also owned and used by the Anne Frank House.  I found this quote from their website to be very interesting:

The Anne Frank House is the new owner of Anne Frank’s former home on the Merwedeplein square in Amsterdam. Its purpose remains the same: the apartment offers accommodation to writers from around the world who cannot work freely in their own countries. The Frank family lived in the apartment at Merwedeplein 37 II from December 1933 until July 1942. Anne first wrote in her diary, which she was given for her thirteenth birthday on 12 June 1942, in the apartment. Three weeks later the family went into hiding.  [November 16, 2017]

I highly encourage you to visit the Anne Frank House if given the opportunity.  Allow plenty of time to view all the rooms, exhibits, films and gift shop.  There are many books available to purchase that tell more of the story of Anne Frank and her friends and family.

This video is excellent too; it doesn’t show all the rooms that the above 3D experience shows, but it’s really good.

Anne Frank House

We were able to tour the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam in 2015.  In preparation for the opportunity, I was re-reading her diary, too.  Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take photos in the famous annex where they hid during World War II.

It seemed unbelievable that we were actually standing in the very rooms where they hid for two years.  The website for the annex and museum has some excellent resources I highly recommend.  Look under the tab labeled “Anne Frank” at the top of the page and you’ll find lots of photos and information.

Here are the photos we took that day.  In my next post I’ll explain some of my feelings about the experience; it was very emotional for me.

I didn’t expect to see this at the museum. This is the Oscar that Shelley Winters received in 1960 for Best Supporting Actress, which she donated to the Anne Frank House 16 years later.

This view is looking across the canal from the house.


One of the churches in Amsterdam–“Westerkerk“– was important for me to see because of its proximity to the Anne Frank House.  It was built between 1619-1631 as a Reformed church.

One of my favorite things about this church is the fact that is has a carillon (a musical instrument of bells) such as the one  that I played at the University of Kansas.  Anne Frank spoke often in her diary about the comfort of the bells from that tower, while her family was hiding there during World War II.

Anne also spoke of seeing the tower and clock from the attic of the annex they hid in.  I can see why this tower and its music and keeping of time would be such a comfort for them.  It’s extremely painful to me, to think that Anne was not able to walk out onto these streets, ride her bike, or have the freedom and happy life she should’ve had, which was taken from her by the Nazi occupation and Holocaust.  Next week I’ll share about our tour of the Anne Frank hiding home.

We were able to take a quick peek inside the church, and it’s beautiful!  But oh, how much I would love to play its carillon!  You can see an example in the video below — wait for it — you will see a live performance just like I was able to do when I lived near our World War II Carillon in Lawrence, Kansas.  Really special!

Dutch Churches

The tourist passes that Sarah and I had for Amsterdam included some old cathedrals.  This first one is called “De Nieuwe Kerk,” or “New Church,”  even though construction on it originally began in 1380!  Following some fires, which nearly destroyed it completely, the interior was restored in 1645.  Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos from the church other than this one, taken from the square:

I do have plenty of photos, though, of the “Oude Kerk,” which obviously means “Old Church.”

This is the oldest building in Amsterdam, and is the oldest parish church, founded in 1213; the stone church was consecrated in 1306  (that’s mind boggling!).

My favorite thing about the church is the wooden ceiling, which resembles the reversed keel of a ship.  Some have written about the Christian symbolism of a ship, and the important analogies of water in the Bible.

Isn’t it beautiful?  I also love stained glass windows, as I think most people do.  They’re really stunning in this church, though some are obviously not ancient.

This church became a Calvinist church in 1578 after the Reformation; I can imagine some of the events and discussions that have taken place here.

Can’t you imagine some of the awesome music performed inside these walls?

Surely, many tears were shed over the many burials here, too.

We couldn’t figure out what this modern display represented, because there was no sign to explain it, but the church continues to be used for many artistic displays and events, as well as for regular worship through music and reading of Scripture.


Dutch Bibles

Another museum that Sarah and I explored in Amsterdam was the Bible Museum.  They have a very interesting collection, as you can see below.

Large, old Bibles:

Several unique dioramas:

Other interesting artifacts and collectibles:

Very interesting!


Rembrandt House Museum

Another museum we really enjoyed seeing in Amsterdam was the home of Rembrandt van Rijn from 1639-1658.  It’s pretty remarkable to see, as restored in 1911.  This is what the museum website says about the restoration:

In order to tackle the restoration plans as meticulously as possible, a restoration team was put together. It was headed by the building historian Henk Zantkuijl, an expert in seventeenth-century houses. The plan was based on historical knowledge built up over many years. There was also a thorough study of available sources. The inventories of the house were very important—the inventory of 1626 belonging to the first occupant of the house and, in particular, the inventory that was compiled in 1656 because of Rembrandt’s bankruptcy. This latter source enabled the experts to work out how the house was laid out during this period and how Rembrandt had used the different rooms. Some of Rembrandt’s drawings and etchings provided additional information.

Here are some photos from this wonderful old building:

These represent some of the items Rembrandt would use for models as he painted:

This is the room where his artwork was on display for purchase.

Best of all, they had a lot of his paintings and sketches on display.

This is called “The Triumph of Mordecai.”

This one is a beautiful nativity scene.

This is the front door of the house, along with a view along the canal; this was a great museum to explore!