Wednesday July 14, 2016 – Day 18 Part One – Mormon Tabernacle Choir European Tour Journal ~
Last night as I was getting ready to load the bus from Rotterdam back to Amsterdam I received two wonderful surprises from my excited choir friend Rebecca.
#1. Every day the Anne Frank House releases a handful of tickets for the following day – since all other tickets are booked months in advance. It is basically like an online lottery for a few remaining spaces – and SHE WON! Rebecca won 4 tickets for early the next morning – before we had to leave Amsterdam! She invited Mr. Mo and I to join her and her husband Daryn. I had been feeling so disappointed that I would miss seeing the Secret Annex where Anne wrote her famous diary, so I cannot even express how thrilled I was!
#2. While Rebecca and I were rehearsing in Rotterdam, our husbands had been clandestinely booking a romantic river cruise on the Seine in Paris for Friday night! Oh my goodness! ♥
Anne Frank Huis
This morning we needed to board our bus by 10:30 am for Paris. Rebecca & Daryn, plus Mr. Mo & I hurried over to the “Anne Frank Huis [House]” just as it was opening at 8:30 am. There was no line yet, and everything was very quiet. It was perfect.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I first read the Diary of Anne Frank when I was about 10 or 11 years old, then twice more as a teenager. Anne’s first-hand story of hiding from the Nazis in a “Secret Annex” for 2 years had a profound effect on me. In High School, I performed the role of Mrs. van Daan in the stage play version of the Diary of Anne Frank. I feel a very personal connection to Anne, her family and this house – which until today, I had never seen.
Photography Note: Photo taking is not allowed inside the Secret Annex. I was grateful for that rule, and respected it. I took photos outside the house and within the museum area. In this post I have included 2 Annex photos that were available on Wikimedia.
Who Is Anne Frank?
Anne Frank was a German Jewish girl living in Amsterdam with her family during World War II. At the age of 13 she and her family, and a few selected friends were forced to go into hiding together in order to avoid arrest and deportation by the Nazis.
On 5 July, 1942 Anne entered her father’s canning factory, climbed a set of very steep narrow stairs, and entered a hidden door through a swinging bookshelf which revealed a very small 4 room”Secret Annex” attached to the back of the building.
Anne lived in this small space with seven other people – her father Otto, mother Edith, sister Margot, Mr. & Mrs. van Pels, their son Peter, and a dentist named Mr. Pfeffer. None of them knew how long they would have to stay in hiding. They endured this small annex space 24/7 day by day, in cramped, dank conditions with windows blacked out for two years.
Anne wrote in her diary during those two years. She wrote about her fears, hopes, dreams, worries, and conflicts. The crushing boredom, the hopelessness, the sweet moments, the love and longings of her heart, and basic day to day survival.
Her diary became her most trusted friend – the place she could confide her true feelings. Here entries are written as letters to the diary friend, which she named Kitty.
“Dear Kitty, My happy-go-lucky, carefree school days are gone forever.”
August 4, 1944
All of the people in hiding, along with two of their four helpers were arrested on 4 August, 1944 [we are commemorating the 72nd anniversary of that day]. The two helpers escaped. But, Anne and her “annex family” were sent to Auschwitz Concentration Camp. Only Anne’s father Otto Frank survived and returned to Amsterdam. Anne, and the others, tragically died at Auschwitz before the liberation by allied forces.
Immediately after the Annex raid and arrest, Anne’s diary and papers were rescued by one of their helper friends named Miep, and she saved them in hope of Anne’s return.
After Otto returned and learned that Anne, Margot and his wife had died, he was overwhelmed with grief. He eventually decided to allow Anne’s diary to be published to fulfill her dream of becoming a “journalist and published author”.
Anne, and her diary, have become world famous. Her story and words have lived on after her death – just as she dreamed. Her diary is not just a memorial to her, but also a memorial to the power of the human spirit. Her diary is a plea to the world to choose love and peace – because every human being has a voice and a story to tell and we need all of them!
A Hallowed Museum
Otto Frank’s factory and annex have been carefully preserved, with a modern museum created from all of the other areas of the former factory. The house tour is designed for visitors to take as a quiet self-guided walking tour. Quotes from Anne’s diary, and brief explanations of the rooms are tastefully displayed on walls, and other selected areas.
Perhaps what I loved most about this experience – and there were so many things I loved – was how quiet – even reverent – everyone coming through the house was. People were really respectful, and remained silent, or communicated in very hushed tones. It was a sobering space, and a humbling space and a deeply moving space to stand in. I noticed that visitors were even walking softly – just as those in hiding were forced to do during the daytime.
“We all live with the objective of being happy; our lives are all different and yet the same.”
To me, the Secret Annex is a sacred space. Good innocent people were forced to make a terrible sacrifice of their lives, their freedoms and their basic human rights all because their world went mad with bigotry and hate. These good people suffered a complete loss of privacy, they lost fresh air, sunshine, forests and flowers. They lost friends and loved ones and the joys of living. They dreamed of a brighter future – which never came for them.
But, the world knows their names and their sacrifice because of the very smallest and “least among them” who raised her voice and wrote their stories.
After walking through the annex, we entered the rest of the building space which has been turned into a lovely museum. There are many mementos and artifacts from the annex to see, photos, books, and actual diary pages, and pages of short stories that Anne wrote. I enjoyed watching the video interviews with Anne’s schoolmates. That was priceless.
To me, one of the most tender and heart wrenching photos was of Anne’s kindergarten class. Taken long before the war, when it seemed all of those precious children had a bright future ahead. The placard identifies each child by name, and then tells whether they lived through the war, or died. The majority died.
There is a short video being looped a large room with benches which talks about how Anne’s book has changed lives, and the mission of the Anne Frank museum to help spread peace and build unity. It ends with a powerful quote to ponder.
Wow. It’s our turn now. We have all of the opportunities that Anne was denied – including the simple act of being able to open the door, walk outside, smell the air and see the sky! Being in the Annex puts everything about the life we have into perspective.
Anne Frank lived a short life to its fullest. Because she kept a diary, she was able to leave her powerful voice behind for the world to hear, and her stories for the world to enjoy and be inspired by. She was able to change the world just by expressing herself. I began keeping a diary when I was 11 years old after reading Anne’s diary and hearing a powerful quote by Spencer W. Kimball – the prophet of my church at that time.
What will each of us choose to do to leave our stories and legacy and voice behind – so that we will not “live in vain” as Anne feared.
In a corner of the museum are a few screens where visitors can sign the online guest book. My comment was recently approved [link here]. Anne’s words, are my words. Anne’s dream is my dream. Anne’s hopes are my hopes.
We don’t have to live in vain. We each have the opportunity to improve the world. Starting right now. Please spread the word, and keep loving each other. ♥- MoSop
You can visit the Secret Annex online here: Anne Frank House
This is part of a 3-week series sharing my experience during the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s European Tour from June 28-July 16, 2016. Due to security concerns, tour participants were not allowed to share anything on social media until we returned.
Check back each day for a new installment!