AMSTERDAM, The Netherlands — Anne Frank wanted her words to outlive her
They have done so, but perhaps not in the manner the little girl ever thought.
There’s a museum on a street corner in downtown Amsterdam. Inside the museum is the girl’s house, where she lived with her mother, father and older sister.
The house was their prison. They had to hide there, inside where Anne Frank’s father, Otto, ran his business. They couldn’t go outdoors. They couldn’t be heard by anyone beyond the walls. They had built a bookshelf to hide the doorway where the family was hidden.
The house imprisoned them, but there were no bars.
Their imprisonment was due simply to their religion. They were Jews and Adolf Hitler had begun his genocide against them.
Anne Frank kept a diary. It has become the stuff of literary legend. It has been published in countless languages.
This German girl whose family fled to The Netherlands to escape the persecutors of Nazi Germany wrote of her life in “prison.” She wrote with stunning eloquence.
One of the most stunning elements of this exhibit lies in the silence that envelops it. All the scurrying, the noise, the hustle and bustle outside the walls of that place is lost the moment you walk inside. It reminds me mildly of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., where one can hear chatter right up to the moment you stand before The Wall; then it becomes something of a religious experience.
One gets the same sense of spirituality when walking through Anne Frank’s house.
She lived just 15 years on Earth. The Nazis from whom she and her family were hiding found her and her family eventually. They sent them to Auschwitz.
Only her father survived. Otto Frank lived until 1980, and only after retrieving his daughter’s diary and ensuring that it was published.
It is an astonishing exhibit to see up close. The courage of this girl has lived through the ages since her death.
My sense is that it will live forever.
I don’t know if Anne Frank knew she would die so soon after she wrote these words in her diary on April 5, 1944: ” When I write I can shake off all my cares. My sorrow disappears, my spirits are revived!” She died of typhus in February 1945.
It doesn’t matter, really, what she might have known.
This little girl should inspire all of us who have followed her.