051609 Anne Frank House, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

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I was an adult when I read The Diary Of Anne Frank for the first time.  I’m glad I didn’t read it as a kid; I don’t think I would have fully appreciated how tragic the story is and how poignantly it was written.  So on May 16th, 2009 I made my way past Amsterdam’s numerous coffeeshops and through the red light district to Anne Frank House.  Sure, it might not have been the most direct route but hey, tourists will be tourists.

I was told to expect a long lineup to get in and sure enough the line was around the block.  It was a nice day and the bells from the church carillon across the street were pealing.  It was a peaceful, pleasant wait amongst a respectful crowd.

The self-guided tour starts at the bookcase that hid the entrance to the secret attic.  Upstairs you can fully explore the annex where the Frank family and four others kept themselves hidden from the Nazis for over two years.  I was surprised by how spacious the quarters were, but with eight people on edge it probably got pretty small pretty quick.

I remember being horrified at how squeaky the floorboards were.  Every movement up there must have been excruciating.

Despite the diary’s wonderfully descriptive narration I could never really get a grip on the layout of the attic Anne and her fellow fugitives were trapped in.  Now that I’ve actually seen the space I’m looking forward to reading the book again.   

At the end of the tour is The Book.  The actual, original diary of Anne Frank.  On the walls lining the room are quotes by notable people from all over the planet.  The one that stood out to me was from Nelson Mandela.

“On Robben Island, some of us read Anne Frank’s Diary.  We derived much encouragement from it.  It kept our spirits high and reinforced our confidence in the invincibility of the cause of freedom and justice.”

To think that the great Nelson Mandela and his fellow political prisoners drew hope and inspiration from the personal writings of a thirteen-year-old girl; from a simple book that sat before me in that small room.  It was overwhelming.

There lies proof of the power of the written word.  Even a young child – armed with nothing but a pencil and some paper – can impact the world.

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