I have a problem. A traveling problem, I seriously can’t get enough of it! So after a wonderful week of traveling around northern Spain, I got to have a raging time in Amsterdam with Anne Frank and Van Gogh.
So Thursday night, we headed to Amsterdam from Sevilla. Usually I love going to airports, however the cafeteria employees at the Sevilla airport are on strike (really? What else is new in Spain…if it isn’t the garbage workers, its the students…). So our 3 hour wait was actually difficult.
Once we arrived to Amsterdam, it was like we had arrived at Disneyland. All of the city was lit up, people were out, and we were ready for a great weekend!
The next morning we head out with all the bicyclists of Amsterdam to get the REAL Amsterdam experience:
Fun story about bagels. The Polish Jews invented them. YES. TRUE FACT. I learned about it at the Jewish Historical Museum. The Polish women would bake them, back then they were much thinner than they are now. And then the men and children would sell them on the streets.
Amsterdam is FULL of history. We were able to squeeze in many great sites, and truly learn about the history of this great city. There was even time for a stop or two at the famous coffeeshops that can legally sell weed…but that story will not be posted here. Of course we visited the Red Light District for many awkward encounters with prostitutes and sex shops (there is even a Sex Museum…). We also did the historical things like the Anne Frank House (read below for more) and the Dutch Resistance Museum. Sadly, we didn’t visit the famous Kuekenhof tulip festival because it was unseasonably cold…and let’s be real I want to frolic through the tulips.
A really cool (and nerdy!) museum I went to was the Dutch Resistance Museum. The name says it all: during WWII when the Nazi’s invaded Amsterdam, the Dutch people literally set up an opposing political party that out right (PUBLICLY) degraded the Nazi political party. This resistance party went as far as to create propaganda against the Nazi party, lead protests, and even steal and create fake food stamps and/or ID papers. This party called the Dutch population to continue writing about the war in their underground newspapers, speak about what the Nazi’s were doing in the underground radio broadcasts, and even broke drafts to report to become Nazi soldiers. For example, all university males were suppose to report to their university to be “Identified.” However, that really meant “Come and you will have no choice, but to become a Nazi officer.” The Dutch didn’t think that was cool, so the parents just kept their sons in hiding, sent them to relatives outside of the Netherlands, or got doctors notes saying their sons were too “sick” to come to school, AKA to join the Nazi movement.
Of course the Nazi’s created more and more regulations and rules to counteract this resistance, but they under estimated the intelligence and passion the Dutch people had. Here are some more examples of how the Dutch people worked against the Nazi’s during the Occupation:
Finally, what you have all been waiting for: The Anne Frank House. Yes, THE ANNE FRANK HOUSE. Seriously, I was sooooo anxious to get there. I can’t say it enough: I NEVER thought I would make it to her house. I have read her diary so many times, and I have studied the Holocaust so much that it has always been a dream for me to get to see the place/city that inspired her to write. I’m sorry to say that photos were NOT allowed inside the place (seriously, a security guard threatened to carry me out when I tried to sneak a picture…). However, you all know her story, and if you don’t go buy it. Seriously, it is a wonderful story that will change the way you look at life.
Anyways, the tour starts in the warehouse where Anne’s father worked. Once Jews weren’t allowed to own businesses, he sold the warehouse to another man Jo Kleiman to run the business while Otto Frank oversees it. Once it became too dangerous for the Frank family to live in Amsterdam, it was decided that they would hide in the “secret” annex of the warehouse, and Otto’s office employees would help them. As you continue through the warehouse you see and listen to different interviews from the four employees, the most important is Miep Gies. You also get to read excerpts from Anne’s diary about how see felt and saw these events occurring. At this point I was still in shock that I was ACTUALLY in the house.
Then you climb up the staircase from hell to the offices of these 4 workers, and then you see it: The fake bookcase. THE bookcase that housed the 8 jews behind it. The rooms where Anne Frank, Margot Frank, Edith Frank, Otto Frank, the van Pels, and Fritz Pfeffer lived for almost 2 years in hiding. And it was RIGHT there. Seriously. Just behind this bookcase was the 4 rooms that these people ACTUALLY lived in. Now I wish I could describe to you what these rooms looked like, but Otto Frank had decided that the Anne Frank Foundation would not put furniture or other things in the rooms. And to be honest, there would be no way for ANYONE to move through the place. So the rooms were bare for only quotes from Anne’s dairy.
First you go through the room that Margot, Edith, and Frank shared. The only evidence of their existence is the growth chart of Anne and Margot during the two years they lived there. At this point it really hit me that I was standing where Anne stood. I don’t want to get all nerdy on you all, but this was a big moment for me. Anne Frank’s book is what made me want to be a history teacher (in the 8th grade, thanks Mr. Langer). Not only just a history teacher, but the one who makes history come to life. That is because history IS real life, it’s what we have used to create our present and also our future. We learn from history to create more history that is hopefully for the better.
That leads me to our next stop: Anne and Fritz’s room. Again, there is no furniture, the only evidence of anyone being in this room is the movie magazine clips that Anne taped to the wall from the magazine’s Mr. Kleiman brought her every week. I can’t tell you what it was like to be there. It was surreal. I just kept imagining her spending hours in this room, writing in her diary, writing short stories, reading magazines, just passing the time as she could.
The next room was the kitchen/van Pels room where Mr. and Mrs. van Pels stayed. Above this room is the attic where their very handsome son Peter (AKA Anne’s bf) lived. There wasn’t anything in this room except for a mirror that showed into the attic, that obviously had been recreated with various items.
Next you step into a passageway that leads you back into the house next door where the “museum” is. Here is where shit got real. This is where you learn about how the 8 were found by the SS, the deportation, and how everyone faired out. Not so Fun Fact: It is still unknown who told the SS that there were jews hiding in the office. Once the 8 were rounded up, along with the 4 office employees, the Franks, van Pels, and Mr. Pfeffer were brought to the Hollandsche Schouwburg theater to await their deportation assignments.
Sadly, Otto Frank was the only one to survive the concentration camps after the Liberation of the Jews on May 8th, 1945. Even then, Anne died in March of 1945, a few weeks before liberation. Also in this room is where you can find the actual registration cards of all 8 people. You can see the dates they were registered, what camps they were deported to, as well as when they died. Again, I was literally in shock at all of this. You can’t even imagine what it is like seeing these cards. Finally, the tour brings you back downstairs where you get to see Anne’s ACTUAL diary along with the many short stories she has written. You can also see the papers where she began re-writting her diary to be published after the war. She heard the British announcement calling for all the first hand accounts, diaries, photos, etc of WWII. That was mind-blowing.
The tour ends with two more exhibits. The first is about the Frank family, with photos and family items that Otto Frank left for the Anne Frank Foundation. Also throughout the last part of the tour are interviews with Mr. Frank after the war. I remember one quote from him stating how he couldn’t speak about his family anymore. You could see the physical pain on his face of when he thought about his family. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to be liberated from what is the closest thing to hell, only to find that none of your family had survived. Then imagine arriving back to Amsterdam (4 months AFTER the Liberation) to find that you have literally nothing. That was Otto Frank’s life. He said it wasn’t until Miep gave him Anne’s diary that he found something to live for: to publish her story.
Once I had scoured the gift shop for postcards as well as an amazing museum book, we left the Anne Frank House. I was still in shock, I couldn’t believe what I had just seen; what I had learned. It was amazing. This experience is one that I will truly cherish and it will stay with me the rest of my life. Visiting the Anne Frank house has revived my passion for History and becoming the teacher who ignites my future students passion for learning. I will leave you guys with one last quote to ponder until my next post:
“To build up the future, you have to know the past.” -Otto Frank.