|Watergate tourist. I know: sad.|
|Watergate tourist. I know: sad.|
|Witch House, Salem (photo credit: Library of Congress)|
|(courtesy of Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division)|
|(photo courtesy of the John F. Kennedy
Presidential Library and Museum)
And it’s heartbreaking.
Before my fabulous friend’s and my recent visit to Amsterdam — a destination I chose solely because of my lifelong wish to visit the Anne Frank House — the Dear Man told me about two amazing things that greatly enhanced the experience.
First, he alerted me to this remarkable site, which contains photos
of (and related to) Anne Frank, blended with current photos of the same sites. Looking at these photos left me speechless.
Then he found the Anne’s Amsterdam app (which I’m sorry to report is no longer available), which allows a person in Amsterdam to do the same thing, only in real life. For true!
So my friend and I trekked around Amsterdam with the app, and she (who can navigate, unlike some of us) located these sites for us to visit.
At some of these locations, I did gasping and standing still and staring wide-eyed. Actually, I mostly did that the entire time.
I don’t know how many times I’ve watched this, but it’s lots.
The thing that was interesting, too, was that the Frank family’s home didn’t bear a plaque. It appears to be just any other home in Amsterdam, and it looks like people live there. For some reason, this surprised me. You could be walking down the street, and you wouldn’t know you were looking at a place that was so significant. It’s a bit strange.
Amsterdam is an amazing city for so many reasons, but the absolute highlight was seeing the Anne Frank House and visiting these other sites.
It was one of the best things I’ve ever had the opportunity to do.
Anne Frank House: A Museum with a Story published by Anne Frank House
Back when I first read Anne Frank’s diary, I dreamed of visiting the house where she and her family and the others were in hiding. And I swore that when I first went overseas, that would be my destination. And then I wondered whether it ever would really happen.
A decade or two passed (or maybe three) and finally the opportunity presented itself. And I kept repeating to myself, “Lucky, lucky, lucky…” because really: how many of us get to actually realize a childhood dream?
And then I thought of how Anne’s childhood dream—of publishing her story—came true, but how it happened only after her much-too-young, much-too-terrible death. And then I felt that awful sick feeling that comes over me when it hits me that that was really real.
So when I visited the Anne Frank House recently, the experience was very real and also surreal.
And when I saw the swinging bookcase, I stopped in my tracks and blinked a whole bunch to keep from crying.
People, it’s an emotional experience to visit that place.
The good people at the Anne Frank House museum have put together a remarkable website that allows virtual visits.
But there’s nothing that really compares to being in that space. My God. Anne’s movie star pictures are still on the walls of her room, and one of the doorways still contains the marks the Franks made to record their daughters’ growth in height.
It’s devastatingly moving.
The museum’s book, Anne Frank House: A Museum with a Story,
is a wonderful companion. It provides photos of the spaces with the furniture in place, so you can get a sense of what it was like when the Frank family, Van Pels family, and Fritz Pfeffer lived there. (The rooms are now devoid of furniture.)
At the end of the book, there are pages about the fate of each of the occupants of the secret annex. And it was in this section that I struggled to keep it together.
A small book, but an important one.
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
When I was in 6th grade, I read a book that captivated and devastated me. And those feelings have remained the same ever since.
The first time I read Anne Frank’s writing, I experienced shock and amazement and horror and wonder. Marveling that a girl my own age could write the way she wrote. Horrified at the hatred that caused her death.
And when my book club read her diary earlier this year, those feelings returned tenfold. Because reading her words and her ideas as an adult reader, I realized from a completely new perspective how remarkable she was.
And then I said some really strong curse words because she was killed.
When I read her diary earlier in life (all those times I re-read it), I was reading the edited version. The first time I’d read The Definitive Edition was this year, and I kept wondering if the reading experience was different only because I was now an adult, or whether reading the longer edition made that big a difference. I’ll never know. I’d’ve had to have read the edited version this year, followed by the definitive edition, to have gotten a good sense.
But these two things kept making me pause and feel a sense of admiration: her insightful commentary on herself and her situation, and her marvelous prose style. The girl could write.
The only saving grace is that her diary was salvaged and published. When a book becomes a stronger work upon re-reading it, you know you’re reading something of enormous power.
The Anne Frank website states these words, and they fill me with hope for humanity:
“Otto often concludes his letters with the words: ‘I hope Anne’s book will have an effect on the rest of your life so that insofar as it is possible in your own circumstances, you will work for unity and peace.'”
Update… In late 2013, I visited the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, fulfilling the dream I’d had since sixth grade — of standing in the space where she lived and wrote. A remarkable experience. I’m still overcome by it.
Here’s the deal: #2 Nazi Hermann Goring’s nephew was an American
B-17 pilot. The young fellow was named Werner Goering, and he was born in the
States to parents who’d emigrated from Germany shortly before his birth.
(And the dude was a Mormon, which I think is also a little bit unexpected.)
So… the U.S.
government was a little bit weirded out about what would happen if:
So the government found a guy who’d agree to shoot Werner if
either thing were to happen. And this guy—Jack Rencher—became Werner’s best
Holy crap. That’s all
So that whole story is downright unbelievable (except it’s true).
|(photo credit: Library of Congress Prints & Photographs)|
And then add to the mix the B-17 lore the author tosses in for
At the EAA Museum in Oshkosh,
there’s a B-17 you can walk through (actually: crouch through) and I
can tell you, those are some seriously tight quarters. Not only that, but they
were flying at 30,000 feet, and it was hella cold up there. And then they’d get
shot at, and lots of them went down in flames. Not great.
Those were some tough fellas.
So the book doesn’t stay on course, because the author deviates
plenty to tell all kinds of great B-17 stories. And for me, that really worked.
But if you’re wanting just the narrative of Werner and Jack and the rest of the
crew, you just might frustrated by the other tales that accompany their strange
But if you’ve got the aviation bug, you’ll just marvel at the ways
people can survive (and the valiant way others died to save their buddies).
Of course, in the end, we learn that some of the story was indeed
too good to be true.
But still. I’m stunned by this book.