Revisiting Anne Frank

On a fateful day, a Jewish family had to seek refuge in these very rooms.

At first glance, it seems like any other house that existed around the 1600s, narrow entrance and large windows, a typical Amsterdam canal house. Nothing different from the buildings on either side, or for that matter the ten other buildings along the canal. I stumble into the house, cursing at the rain outside that made my hair frizz up like no one’s business, bored as only a 19 year old can be, taking in the different sections of the house.

I wonder what is so different in this building, which hasn’t seen a decent renovation since the days of Herr Hitler that people flock here from all around the world? Everything is like what you would expect from a house in that era, narrow rooms, poor ventilation and no plumbing.

Still, as I walk past a bookshelf that doubled up as a hidden doorway, into the rear section of the house, I step into a time warp and right into the Nazi era. I didn’t know then, and I still can’t figure out exactly which part of that building affected me the most.

Was it the narrow staircase that led to hidden rooms? Or was it the rooms themselves that were too small to accommodate even five people? Maybe it was the thought that on one fateful day a Jewish family had to seek refuge in these very rooms to try and avoid the atrocities of Hitler’s government.

Not many people are alien to the The Diary of a Young Girl. Nazi war victim, 15-year-old Jew, Anne Frank, wrote her experiences in hiding, and subsequently in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, in her diary, Kitty, which was later found and published by her father. When I had first read the book, I was a little more than 15 myself, the words in the pages I read consumed me like no other book had. I felt like I was part of the struggles of Anne Frank. The pages stayed with me for days after I finished the book.

Standing in the rooms where the book was actually written, sent a chill down my spine. This was where Anne and her family had to stay, feeling helpless, before they were found, arrested and sent to concentration camps. This was the place the Germans raided based on an anonymous tip-off and arrested all the occupants.

The house of Anne Frank has long been taken over by local authorities and preserved in its original state, for visitors to get a full blown account of exactly where and how it all happened. The annexe rooms, as the hidden chambers have been called, have been left largely untouched. Walking through those rooms gave me an eerie feeling, and for the little time that I spent there, the rooms managed to transport me to those fateful days of waiting, hiding, hoping.

A couple of hours inside a couple of rooms changed me. Sometimes I can’t help but wonder what gives us the right to complain about the things we don’t like, or to throw tantrums when we don’t get our way.

Standing in the middle of those rooms, my problems seemed so superficial and silly. In a world where people have been going through unspeakable cruelty, does how my hair looks really matter?

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