The Secret Annex – Visiting Anne Frank House
I remember watching a movie about Anne Frank based on her diary when I was a kid. I’m not sure how much I understood or knew about World War II at that time, but the story of a girl and her family hiding out in an apartment from the Nazis stuck with me. When Andy and I started planning our time in Amsterdam, Anne Frank House was one place I knew I had to visit.
Not a typical museum
The museum is tucked down a side street, opposite one of Amsterdam’s many canals. If it weren’t for the big glass doors and the line that snakes around the corner, I might have missed it. This isn’t a typical museum. This is a former store where eight people lived in close quarters for about two years.
I walked through the museum, which starts in what was the store. The arrows continue through a few rooms until they reach the area that was the secret hiding place for the Frank family and a few other people they knew.
I stopped to read everything posted on the walls and to watch every video shown throughout the museum. I tried to imagine what it must have been like to hide in this place, unable to leave, unable to even walk around during the day, but I just couldn’t. There’s no way to really imagine something like that, to really put yourself in their shoes.
Throughout the museum, there were various quotes from Anne’s diary written on the walls. Some could have been from a typical teenager’s diary, but others were more directly about her specific situation.
I long to ride a bike, dance, whistle, look at the world, feel young and know that I’m free.
It just broke my heart to read things like that. I tried to imagine myself at her age, trapped in a darkened apartment, always wondering if I’d be discovered, just wanting to go outside and be a normal kid. I tried, but I couldn’t possibly relate to what she went through.
The videos in the museum mostly showed interviews with people who had known Anne – classmates from before they went into hiding, a friend who ended up at a different section of the same concentration camp, even her father who was the only one of their family to survive the concentration camps. Their stories brought tears to my eyes and made me laugh from one second to the next.
When Anne’s father read her diary after her death, he pushed to get it published just a few years later. There were so many families hiding from the Nazi’s during this time period, and he knew how important it was to share her story with the world. He spent the rest of his life fighting for human rights.
I don’t normally like museums, but this one is well worth a visit. It was an emotional experience to imagine a time in history when people were punished, tortured and killed simply because they were Jewish. Having to hide your family in a tiny space for two years, only to be captured and sent to concentration camps anyway is a heavy thing to try to relate to. Sometimes while traveling it’s important to learn about the ugly pieces of history, and this is certainly one of them.
Visiting the Anne Frank House
The museum opens most days at 9am, see here for full opening and closing times and directions. Tickets are 9€ for adults at time of writing. The museum is located near the Westermarkt tram stop, and the stop announcement on the tram says that it’s the stop for Anne Frank House, so it’s hard to miss.
The line to get in can get quite long. I highly suggest buying tickets online a few days to a week ahead of time. It’s an extra 0.50€ but it allows you to skip the line.
My visit took about an hour. No photos allowed inside the museum.
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May 27, 2013 @ 12:29 PM
I do not know if you had the chance to visit it yet, but I highly recommend EL-DE Haus / Museum of National Socialism in Köln. It is also not your typical museum, just a large exhibition of documents in almost empty rooms with multimedia devices to narrate, and it provides a very comprehensive view of the time, not only the Jewish aspect of the story, but also the Gypsy aspect, the euthanasia and castration program for handicapped and homosexuals, the court and certification for the purity of race etc. And it certainly evokes some interesting and sad reflections about the human nature …
May 27, 2013 @ 10:25 PM
Wow, that sounds really heavy! I haven’t been there, or to Koln at all yet, but I’ll keep it in mind for whenever I do get up to Koln. Thanks Eva!
May 27, 2013 @ 7:58 PM
I LOVED the museum, although it was so, so sad. I had read the dairy when I was younger and so it was fascinating to see where she actually lived. It was definitely one of the highlights of the city.
Shocked to see how big the line was – I was there in November and I walked right in lol.
May 27, 2013 @ 10:26 PM
I imagine there are less people during cold November as opposed to May when it at least *should* have been warm. It really was a sad place to visit, but so interesting. I’m really glad I went.
May 28, 2013 @ 6:31 AM
Good review Ali. I will definitely visit here someday. Anne Frank’s story changed the world.
May 28, 2013 @ 10:17 AM
Thanks Kim, so true!
May 28, 2013 @ 10:10 AM
I was planning to visit Anne Frank House but came down with the flu and ended up stuck in bed for most of my time in Amsterdam. I remember reading her diary when I was in school and would have loved to visit. Ah well, just a reason to go back.
May 28, 2013 @ 10:18 AM
Ugh, that sucks to be sick while you’re traveling! You should definitely go back sometime though, great city, great museum. I hope you’re feeling better now!
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February 15, 2016 @ 11:43 AM
[…] really is worth buying a skip the line ticket for the Anne Frank House. The line can get really long since it’s one of the city’s most popular attractions, and it’s […]