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One of the city’s biggest tourist attractions is the Anne Frank house museum which, together with the synagogues and the district in which Rembrandt lived, is one of Amsterdam’s main Jewish vestiges.
Regrettably, this site is not visited for its architectural style or its ornamentation, or because shows are held here or it serves the best coffee. The reason for this house-museum is the sad story of the people who lived here, which Anne Frank, who was just a girl, conveyed to the world.
Located at Prinsengracht 263 in the Jordaan district, this house was used as a hiding place for the family of the Jewish merchant Otto Frank during the Nazi occupation of the city of Amsterdam. From July 1942 to August 1944, the family, together with the Van Pels family and a friend, Fritz Pfeffer, remained hidden in the rooms at the back of the house. Otto’s daughter, Anne, turned 13 hidden in this secret refuge and from the day she arrived, she wrote a diary in which she told the story of her days in hiding from the perspective of the girl she was. Anne called this refuge “The Secret Annex” and invented an imaginary friend, Kitty, to whom she dedicated her diary.
The few friends who knew about the hiding place helped the family to survive throughout these times, and supplied them with food and all they needed to make the refuge a home. On 4 August 1944, when everyone in the house was going about their regular tasks in forced silence, an SS officer and three Dutch policemen entered the refuge. The Franks had been betrayed.
They were all deported to the concentration camps, and only the father of the family, Otto Frank, survived. When he returned to Amsterdam, a neighbour gave him the diary that Anne had written and he decided to publish it so that the world would know what had happened.
Anne Frank’s Diary, or “The Secret Annex”, which is its original title, has become the biggest-selling book in Dutch in history, and the house they hid in, Holland’s most visited museum, with nearly a million visitors a year.
In 1998, the house was renovated. It is not only a museum, but a symbol of a people’s suffering. The refuge, or “The Secret Annex”, moves everyone who visits it as it has been kept practically the same as when they left it.
It is extremely moving to see the photos exactly as Anne had stuck them to the walls, or the chalk lines Otto drew on the wall to mark how his daughters were growing. A map of Normandy, showing the allied advance and the hope of victory, and other personal objects can also be seen. You can also see a display of copies of the diary, in the form of several notebooks and some loose sheets.
The young Anne Frank could hardly have imagined that her personal diary would travel around the world and move so many people many years later. To get a closer idea of her story, which has made history, and to listen to the meaningful silence here, we recommend you pay the house a visit at least once in your life.
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