Monday, June 29, 2009

Remembering Anne

Anne Frank ~ May 1942
On July 6, 1942 Anne Frank moved with her family to the rear annex of the house at 263 Prinsengracht in Amsterdam. They lived in hiding here for 2 years with another family and a 8 people. On August 4, 1944 the house was raided by the Gestapo thanks to tip from an unknown person. Everyone was arrested and taken to several different concentration camps.

We had the opportunity to visit the annex when we visited Amsterdam. We read a few books to give the kids a little background on Anne, her diary, and the treatment of Jewish people during this time period so they would have a little more appreciation for our visit. We read aloud Who Was Anne Frank? and DK readers: The Story of Anne Frank because they were fairly short yet contained enough background into who she was. The girls have since read these books several times on their own because they are so interested in Anne's story.

We purchased our tickets online before our trip which I HIGHLY recommend if you plan to visit. The lines are quite long so this will avoid ALL lines because you will have a scheduled tour time. The tour is self guided and takes about 1 hour. We paid 24 Euro for our entire family.

What we didn't expect was just how much of an effect this tour would have on everyone. It is a memorable tour that must be experienced. The tour begins with a walk through the offices of Otto Frank's herb and spices business. All of this walk contains displays and quotes from the diary. Then we came to THE hinged bookcase. We walked through the secret door located behind the bookcase into the rear annex where the small rooms were located.

I think Anne's room had the most impact on the kids because it then seemed that this girl we had read about was "real". The pictures that she had glued to her walls are still there. All of the windows were covered with black material so that no one would see them in their hiding place. We talked about how they were afraid to move around or talk during the day because of they feared being discovered by workers below. It was like a light bulb was turned on and they were in disbelief that this had happened to people...a girl in their mind.

We were able to see her diary which was quite exciting for the kids. They also saw a few of the actual stars that had to be worn by the Jews and documents for the concentration camps. There were also videos from inside the camps which we did let them watch....some wouldn't agree with this. We wanted them to see that this was real and not just actors in a movie. They focused on how thin the people were and how unhappy they looked. It is incomprehensible that 6 million people lost their lives during WWII because they were Jewish.

Picture from scanned postcard

Otto Frank is the only survivor from his family. He returned to Amsterdam in 1945 to discover that his family had perished. His wife in Auschwitz and daughters in Bergen-Belsen concentration camps. Miep Gies, family helper while in hiding, kept Anne's diary and gave it to Otto when he returned. We watched a video of Otto talking about her diary and why he finally had it published in 1947.

Our kids begged us to purchase a copy of her diary which has a replica cover of Anne's diary. It is only available at the Anne Frank house and we gave in. This version has dated comments that Anne added later to improve what she had written or to give updates. This will be our read aloud for a while.

This tour was the highlight of our day in Amsterdam. I think the kids learned so much more than they could have if they had only read a book. We also purchased The Last Seven Months of Anne Frank by Willy Lindwer at the museum store. This book was written from the transcripts of six in-depth interviews with women who survived the Holocaust that was then used to create a documentary film. They all spent time with her during the last seven months of her life. "These women survived the concentration camps and their fears of death by having courage and by remembering that they too were people who deserved to live."


Proud Mom said...

What a wonderful experience to share with your children (the museum and the books!) We were in Amsterdam last summer during a Baltic cruise - we had to choose just one tour either the city tour or the Anne Frank museum and we choose the city tour..... we did see the statue and the front of the house (amazing how small it was!) Thanks for the nice write up about the inside!

Jennifer said...

At least with the city tour you were able to see more of Amsterdam since you had to choose between the two. We still traveled around the city on the trolley cars (crazy experience which is another story)after our tour. The Baltic cruise sounds like a good one!!