Forced to tiptoe silently, cooped up in a safehaven within Amsterdam’s streets when she longed to be free, all this teenage girl had to keep her sane was the power of words. She wrote in her diary constantly, moulding it into her best friend when she was prevented from a regular life. You could tell from her words that she wanted to be normal and have friends, but also to make a difference and be her own person.
Anne Frank is someone who we can all relate to, but obviously with the startling difference in that she lived in the midst – and took the brunt – of World War II. As a Jew, she went through a horrific experience we can’t even imagine, and yet we grew up with Anne Frank, feeling connected with her words.
The Anne Frank House in Amsterdam is one of the top tourist attractions. I read Anne Frank’s Diary when I was little as so many did and I remember being surprised at her openness and flair. Now, as I visited the Anne Frank House and saw her quotes dotted around each room, I think she is a true inspiration and the most switched-on young girl I think I have ever come across, in real life and in fiction.
“I don’t think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains.”
“It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”
“Where there’s hope, there’s life. It fills us with fresh courage and makes us strong again.”
“Women should be respected as well! Generally speaking, men are held in great esteem in all parts of the world, so why shouldn’t women have their share? Soldiers and war heroes are honored and commemorated, explorers are granted immortal fame, martyrs are revered, but how many people look upon women too as soldiers?…Women, who struggle and suffer pain to ensure the continuation of the human race, make much tougher and more courageous soldiers than all those big-mouthed freedom-fighting heroes put together!”
I wanted to see, breathe in and feel the presence and atmosphere of what changed this girl’s life in such a devastating way; yet that somehow allowed her to find strength and develop her writing. I wanted to feel even closer to Anne Frank than I did in her diary, for her character to be impossibly tangible.
What surprised me about the House was how intricate it was. What I had always imagined was a bit like my grandmother’s flat in Czech Republic. A bit small, one level and outdated decor. It was nothing like that. The layout was extraordinary; those Amsterdam houses may be narrow but they have a lot of depth.
As a reader, I couldn’t wait to see that secret bookcase. Were all the books/files in tatters? Was it obvious now that it was in reality a secret passageway? Now we know it was, did anything give it away? It looked wethered and worn, but it also looked so small. How on earth did people get behind this? With great difficulty we discovered, as we scrambled up the rickety steps. It wasn’t like in Scooby Doo when you stay on the same level using the bookcase as a door, nor did you descend into some dungeon lair. You had to maneouvre yourself to climb up and not be too inappropriate to the person infront by averting your eyes from their very prominent bum threatening to brush your face.
The whole time, I couldn’t get my head around the fact that Anne Frank had done all this, seen all this. She saw that bookcase too, she walked every step I did. Sometimes I imagined her walking with me, picturing her to be in control and confident in her movements, showing me what her every day life was. In what was her room, you see the remnants of how she decorated it. This was one of the most fascinating parts for me as you saw her grow and I was again reminded of the kind of incredible woman she would have grown up to be (not that she wasn’t already impressive).
She put up magazine cut outs and pictures: movie stars more so when she was younger, then as you followed her age around the room, her attention turned to art. But she always had a keen eye for visuals; I couldn’t help but connect with the images she picked, respect them and gather her sophistication, intelligence through what she chose to reflect herself.
Her father impresses and moves me incredibly for making all of this possible. At the end of the visit, you see a museum and video of an interview with him. I’m not at all ashamed to say that it made me cry. It was so beautiful what he said and what he’s achieved. You can just imagine how if you survived an awful international tragedy yourself and then discovered none of your family made it, you would hold on to anything you possibly could to keep them alive in any way you could. And really, to keep your own sanity.
Anne Frank was a strong girl – that’s shown in her diary – but what I love is that her strength reached her father and made him strong too. In her untimely death, amongst her hopes and dreams for herself and the world, she inspired her dad. It must have been very difficult for him to make his family life so open, but he selflessly thought of Anne and understood her story was worth telling. He still carried out her writer dreams, and I can’t express how beautiful and pure I think that is.
And with that, I’ll leave you with more quotes from Anne Frank. There is so, so much we can learn from her; she was ahead of her time. She was a fantastic girl.
“I wish to go on living even after my death.”
“Let me be myself and then I am satisfied. I know that I’m a woman, a woman with inward strength and plenty of courage.”
“I love you, with a love so great that it simply couldn’t keep growing inside my heart, but had to leap out and reveal itself in all its magnitude.”
“I’ve found that there is always some beauty left — in nature, sunshine, freedom, in yourself; these can all help you.”
“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. As longs as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be. And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.”
“In the long run, the sharpest weapon of all is a kind and gentle spirit.”
“Although I’m only fourteen, I know quite well what I want, I know who is right and who is wrong. I have my opinions, my own ideas and principles, and although it may sound pretty mad from an adolescent, I feel more of a person than a child, I feel quite indepedent of anyone.”