By 6 p.m. Saturday evening, after more than 24 hours in my hotel room and about 18 hour after starting to feel gastro unease, I was adventurous and certain enough to grab a shower and depart the hotel with Dr. P for one sole purpose: visiting the Anne Frank Huis.
Anne Frank’s story has been told better by too many others for me to begin to recount here. In fact, in the last three years I’ve seen two different dramatized versions of her story on stage at Webster University.
Alighting from the tram a few blocks from the Anne Frank Huis, we walked past the silent West Church, alongside one of the main canals, and stood in line briefly for tickets. Then we started climbing.
The front floors of the ‘house’ are the old jam- and jelly-making factory managed by Anne Frank’s father. These rooms are now interpretation and presentation spaces, stark, austere, with a few artifacts such as the secretary’s typewriter. A screen above the artifact runs a loop of an interview with Biep, the secretary, in her 90s, recalling how she helped the family.
Finally one reaches the back of the house, the warren of rooms that served to hide Anne Frank and family and friends for years during the War. The rooms are stark and barren, but the wallpaper is the same. The marks indicating Anne’s growth in height are still on the wall. Her pasted wall decorations are still there. The kitchen sink, the small stove to heat the rooms, the stairs to the attic where she longed to touch the chestnut tree – it’s all there.
And even now, as I type this in Vienna two days later, I am in tears.
I felt in the Anne Frank Huis the same way I did in Buchenwald several years ago: passionate sadness, horror, anger. How any humans could treat others this way is beyond my comprehension. How a race or country or nation or people could be so blinded by evil as to fall in line willingly is beyond anything that I can fathom.
I hope that Anne Frank’s House, and her story, stand for centuries to come as a testament to hope and love in the face of monstrous evil.