(And Why You Should Go There)
Here at Lilly Likes Amsterdam we are all about the special little nooks and crannies that fill up the city. One of those, that we have only mentioned in passing so far, is the house where Ann Frank had her attic. Not all of us have been taught our Second World War history, so not all visitors to the fair city of Amsterdam know that you can still stop by here. Worse… more than a few of us think her house was in Germany… Ahem.
For all those who know the name but not the story, Ann Frank was the daughter of a Jewish family living in Amsterdam during the war. The site they lived is actually the current site of the museum… so when we say you can visit her house; we really mean it. The street contained her father’s house and business, with an annex out back. It is in the upper floors of the annex that the ten of them, including non-family members, hid in secret for so long.
Of course, Ann was eventually found, and her various family members were sent to different concentration camps. Only one of them survived and returned to the attic. When they returned, they found it empty. Although they permitted the site to be turned into a museum, that single area stays empty, a true testament to the loss of such inspirational lives.
There is something heart-stoppingly humbling about this location. We won’t go any further, just yet. Ann Frank and her story of hiding out during a war where mass genocide was normal for her people isn’t for everyone, especially not those who need to keep an elevated mood. If you want something a little cheerier to read, we urge you towards our less WWII heavy blog posts. There is a plethora of coffee shop of Amsterdam articles for you to choose from if you want something lighter. If not? On with the show…
The Story of Ann Frank
Despite our inelegance at describing it, the Ann Frank story is one of hardship, kinship, and hope in dark places. This little girl, two weeks after her thirteenth birthday, was forced into hiding from the occupying Nazis. She dreamed of being a writer and spent the months that she and her family hid in the empty annex writing short stories, filling in her diary, and fighting for space in the tiny space shared by eight people. Eventually, her family were joined by another Jewish family from the city, and then a further single person moved in to share a room with her.
Put simply, we can only imagine how impatient and frustrated everyone must have been after a few weeks in those conditions. We thought #lockdown2020 was bad, but they had to hide out for months in fear of their actual lives.
As you can see, her diary is of huge historical interest, providing an insight into occupied Amsterdam, allowing us a glimpse of living during wartime, and stands as testament to the resilience of the Jewish people. Don’t get us wrong, it isn’t a happy sight, but if you come to Amsterdam and you don’t go visit the Ann Frank house, you will likely leave feeling like you missed something. Just save the coffeeshop visit till afterwards…
Where is it and What does the Ann Frank House Contain?
You will find the Ann Frank House on Westermarkt 20, 1016. If you get lost, hop on one of the many rickshaw’s and ask the driver to take you to the Ann Frank House, everyone will know it as an important tourist spot.
It contains all of Ann’s diaries, including two books where she recorded memorable quotes that she liked and a book of her short stories. It is also preserved with artefacts from Wartime Amsterdam, which means it is like a little trip back in time. They have a gift shop and online tour for everyone who can’t make it to the city, which is really sweet. They have such a wonderfully important part of history to preserve that we can’t recommend them enough, Please give freely when you visit so they can continue doing the important work of preserving this astonishing historical period.
FYI, they have a café in there that does a fairly good breakfast. You should try to buy tickets in advance as there are often queues.
How Does the Ann Frank Story End?
The Frank household and the refugees they took in were found on the 4th of August, 1944… only a year before the war ended. They were located by a tip off to the Gestapo, so they were found under the worst possible circumstances, by the worst possible people. They had been in hiding for 25 months by then. Another 11/12 and they would have made it. We hope whoever turned them in is suffering the wrath of a thousand papercuts in Hell right now.
The occupants of the house were taken to German concentration camps where they were split up and systematically murdered. Only one survived – the last one they took in. The Frank family were accompanied by the Van Pels family and by Fritz Pfeffer, who shared a room with Ann. Fritz would return to the attic after the war, only to find that he was the sole survivor. Out of eight found by the Gestapo, only one survived to tell the tale.
Fritz Pfeffer gave permission for the museum to be opened in the 1960’s in order to commemorate the family that took him in and hid him in their innovative hiding place. He had only one request. He asked that the attic remain as empty as it was on the day he returned. The museum kept their word, kept the annex empty, and housed itself in the Frank’s shop/main house building instead.
Of all the stories we have told here at Lilly Likes, this one touches us the most. The story has turned the museum into a pilgrimage point for history buffs. It’s also a loving memorial that testifies to the endurance and spirit of the human race.