When I was young, I have a vague memory of a book having been on our family shelves. I remember it as “The Diary of Anne Frank” but I think it may have actually been called The Diary of a Young Girl. I sort of vaguely knew that it was the story of a young girl’s life during a war.
Recently I traveled to Europe with my wife and her family. It was an important trip for me since it gave context to some of the history that I just barely learned back in school. We got to see first-hand some of the artifacts of the Berlin Wall, for example, and to visit the Jewish Museum in Berlin. And later, during our visit to Amsterdam in The Netherlands, I found out that we were staying in a hotel that was on the same street as the house where Anne Frank lived while writing her diary and hiding from Nazis (Prinsengracht).
One day during our trip, after a very busy morning of being busy tourists, we decided to visit the Anne Frank House. My co-travelers had all seen it before, and they seemed to think it was important that I see it. A few tram rides later (it was on the same street as us, but on the other side of the city), we eventually were standing in front of the house. It was late afternoon by that point, and there was a line of hundreds waiting to enter the attached museum.
I was told that it was nothing like this thirty years ago, when my traveling companions had visited before, and that at the time they had simply walked up to the house, walked in, and experienced what they could experience while standing in that place. Today, we decided not to wait on the line – it reminded me too much of what it is like to get into New York’s Statue of Liberty. Instead we stood in front while my father-in-law told me a story – about the history of the house and Anne Frank’s life and about his previous visit. That story gave me the connection I wanted. I did not take any photos because the overwhelming tourism of the area made me feel a little uncomfortable. As we walked away, a bachelorette party passed on a small boat and made a ruckus.
Later, back in New York an unexpected additional connection arose. As a family member of a victim of September 11th, I am on a mailing list for the group Voices of September 11th. I received an email from Founder Mary Fetchet telling me about a workshop that the organization is co-sponsoring along with the newly opened Anne Frank Center USA, located in Lower Manhattan. It is a workshop on diary-writing.
I plan to attend the workshop, and hope to find some good new writing during that process. Whatever I can, I will plan to share on this blog. For me, now, that is my own personal way of best further exploring the life and memory of Anne Frank.