Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Anne Frank's Secret Annex
For those of you unfamiliar with the story Anne Frank, I'll give you just a little background. In 1942, when Anne was thirteen years old, she and her family were forced into hiding by the Nazis. In German occupied Holland, Jewish people like the Franks were being rounded up and sent to concentration camps throughout Europe. Rather than endure the horrors of the camps, the Franks and four other people spent more than two years hiding in secret rooms inside the Amsterdam building that had once housed Mr. Frank's office and warehouse.
The "Secret Annex," as Anne called it, could only be accessed by means of a door that was cleverly disguised as a bookcase. Behind it lay a few small chambers and an attic. Every day, the Franks walked on tiptoe and spoke only in whispers, afraid that someone might hear them in the warehouse below. For two years, the Franks and their friends lived without sunlight or fresh air in the hope that the Allied forces (including the Americans) would eventually arrive to drive the Nazis out of Amsterdam. When the Allies finally did march into Amsterdam, it was already too late for Anne and her family. The Nazis had discovered their hiding place in the summer of 1944.
Throughout her years in hiding, Anne wrote at great length in her diary. She documented the daily life of her family (including the many quarrels), kept track of the war, and confided her secret thoughts and desires. After World War II ended, her father--the only member of the family to survive the Holocaust--worked hard to have it published. The resulting book is funny, sweet, thrilling, horrifying--and ultimately heartbreaking. In the more than sixty years since it was written, The Diary of a Young Girl has become one of the most famous books in the world.
On Monday, I visited the house where Anne Frank hid from the Nazis, but I didn't take any pictures. Some rooms seem to remember what's happened in them, and it didn't feel right to snap photos in a place that had witnessed such terror. But I was so inspired by what I'd seen that started rereading The Diary of a Young Girl. It's even better than I remembered--and I recommend it to everyone. Anne was just a teenager, but she managed to create something that has inspired the entire world.