Disclaimer: I haven’t actually read the diary of Anne Frank so I imagine a great deal of the power of the experience is lost if you haven’t. Though admittedly the museum does do a good job at presenting various choice extracts from the diary; read aloud and written down around the house.
My only experience with the Anne Frank story is a BBC adaptation that got half-heartedly played by an RE teacher once at secondary school. The class never got shown the ending for some reason. Teachers were still using VHS when I was at Secondary school so that meant it was usually more hassle than it was worth to remember whereabouts they were on a film with an individual class, so they would usually just shelve it.
Films teachers have started showing me, but forgot to show the ending:
– Roots (1977)
– The Diary of Anne Frank (1980)
– The Cross and the Switch Blade (1970)
– Regeneration (1997)
– Witness (1985)
– Salvador (1986)
– Cliff Richard’s Heathcliff* (1997)
So if anyone could tell me how any of those end, it would be appreciated.
I hope to read the diary one day, but right now I’ve got more important things to do with my time, like watching American sitcoms in full and reading endless, anonymous, speculative comments underneath episode reviews.
For some reason I live in Holland at the minute, so when I heard that one of my old Uni pals was visiting Amsterdam I jumped at the chance to meet up (if anyone else is in Holland hit me up, I’m lonesome). Her friends she was there with were going to the Heineken factory (boo!), but she wanted to go to Anne Frank’s house, which was obviously the more compelling activity.
I was put off going to the Anne Frank museum in my 2 previous trips to Amsterdam, mainly because my colleagues kept talking about how long the queues were. The queue ended up being about 25 minutes long; I’ve waited longer to go on Toyland (RIP) at Alton Towers.
In the queue, we were spoken to by an American guy who was trying to promote his comedy variety show. He singlehandedly dispelled me of the notion that all Americans have good teeth. It is only in hindsight that I realise that it is a pretty shameless thing to try to promote your comedy show by pestering the captive audience in the queue for Anne Frank’s house, would he have hassled us if we were orthodox looking Jews, rather than a dork and a lesbian?
Anne Frank’s house has been subsumed within the museum so it is now encased in the centre of a gift shop, a learning centre, a café. To think that the Frank’s were hoping they would never be found and now millions of people each year are tramping around their house looking at their belongings. There’s no furniture in the house now, due to the request of Anne’s father, Otto Frank; you do get to see their toilet though: result!
The tour does suffer from the same thing that every museum does, where you happen upon an informative video being played, but due to the pace people travel around the house you usually turn up midway through. Meaning that you catch the end of the video, and then wait for it to start again, and then start walking again midway through when you reach the point where you initially arrived. Giving the impression to newcomers that you look like you got bored midway through and left.
You get to go through the various rooms in the house and see how the different areas were concealed, behind bookshelves etc. All the way through the tour you are building up to the crushing inevitability of finding the attic and the final space where the Frank’s were discovered. The house is filled with photos of the family and their correspondence. The mundane nature of the house does give it a lot of power, due to their sheer ordinariness.
I will say I would have like to have been able to see the attic space. You get to see the step ladder and the entrance to the attic, but you can’t go up to see inside the attic itself. Common sense says this is probably because it would have been a logistical nightmare, as traffic around the house would have bottle-necked.
I must admit that my criticism is one that stinks of embarrassing modern day entitlement, that ‘I should be able to see everything!’ and that ‘I want to have every aspect of the Frank tragedy itemized for my consumption! Why didn’t the Frank’s consider tourist accessibility when choosing their hiding spot!?’
Regardless, it does mean that the whole museum builds up in pressure and intensity till you get to the focal point of the whole story and then the museum flinches at the last second. At the very least, I suppose it is fitting that the last image you see is what the Nazi’s would have seen when they finally discovered the family’s hiding spot, mere months before the end of the war.
Afterwards you are led back downstairs, where the Frank family’s fate in the concentration camp is narrativised, you hear an interview with the last woman to see Anne Frank alive at the camp.
The only survivor from the family was the father Otto Frank.
The tour of the house ends on a really strange note, which is kind of unrelated to the Holocaust but is really profound and difficult regardless. It is an interview with Otto Frank talking about the posthumous literary fame of his daughter. I am paraphrasing here, but he says something along the lines of:
“It took me a long time to read my daughters diary, and when I did, I could only read it in short bursts at a time. I feel like I had a great relationship with my daughter. I had a relationship with my daughter as good as any parent/child relationship I know of, and we talked often. But reading her diary, showed me that she had a much richer inner life than I ever could have anticipated, she recorded so many observations and opinions that she never expressed, and I never could have guessed that she held…”
He continues as follows, this is the closing thought that the tour of Anne Frank’s house ends upon:
“Reading her diary has led me to the conclusion, that no parent can ever really know their child.”
Which is one of the saddest things I have ever heard. Imagine losing your whole family, wife and daughters, and afterwards coming to the realisation that you probably never knew them at all.
My mam and my younger sister went to the house last week, after my family came up to visit me. My mam was apparently crying her eyes out all the way round; whilst my dad and brother went to smoke kush (I don’t think Ken had any, he just accompanied David there). At the very least I can say I understand my brother, he’s a boy that just loves him some kush! Ken’s a fucking enigma though (why does he wear such shit t-shirts!?).
The last thing to note if you are planning on going to Anne Frank’s house (which I would overall highly recommend to anyone interested in sadness) is to visit the learning centre tacked onto the museum, because it has a very interesting social experiment attached to it called Free2Choose.
It looks a bit like a game show. It is a square platform, with benches around the outside. there are about 40 or so protruding poles, which have two green and red buttons on. There are four screens, each placed on each side of the square platform, and with different subtitles on each screen for different languages. You are given a GCSE Citizenship-style scenario, illustrated with a short documentary, they usually go as follows:
“This is Zabra she goes to school in France, she usually wears a headscarf, but her school board is planning to disallow the wearing of the headscarf to school as they believe learning should be secular…”
The assembled audience then has to answer a question as to whether they feel that the headscarf should be banned in school. You record your opinion covertly by pressing either the red or green button. The screens then flash up with a percentage breakdown of how people in the room answered the question, followed by an ‘all-time’ aggregate of people’s answers.
The area cycles through multiple scenarios, including: racial profiling/homophobia/the rights of far right groups to engage in politics/Holocaust denial.
Due to me and my friend, generally erring on the side of killjoy open-mindedness and political correctness, you could have put our responses to most of the questions on autopilot. The fun was in seeing how many secret racists/homophobes were lurking in the room. There were a surprising amount; usually accounting for about a quarter of the vote each time around, in a room of roughly 12 voters.
A fun secondary game to play was ‘spot the racist in the room’. The results were inconclusive, it seems racists look just like you or I.
The aggregate ‘all-time’ scores were also interesting, with a roughly 65% non-racist/35% racist breakdown for most questions. The big question is, what were so many racists doing at the Anne Frank museum? Do you think they were just walking round ironically and letting out secret anti-semitic farts?
*This musical got turned off by the teacher because the whole class was pissing themselves at Cliff Richard beating his wife. I have since bought the VHS from a charity shop for 50p, and it does not disappoint, one of the funniest films I can remember having seen. Cliff comes up with a hypothetical explanation as to what Heathcliff was up to when he disappeared to make his fortune, it involves Cliff Richard shooting Aztecs and shagging geisha girls.