Last week marked the day 70 years ago when the most famous writer to emerge from the Holocaust was arrested. On August 4 1944, Anne Frank, along with her parents, her older sister Margot, and four other family friends who had been hiding with the Franks in the Secret Annex at the house in Prinsengracht in the Dutch capital of Amsterdam were taken away by the Gestapo after being in hiding for more than two years. They were sent East where, with the exception of Anne’s father Otto, all would meet their tragic and premature deaths.
I’ve read The Diary of Anne Frank countless times. It’s a book that never changes, whose sad ending always stays the same, and yet it’s a book that everyone should read at least once during their lifetime, if not more. Anne was only 13 when her family went into hiding in the summer of 1942. Like any 13 year old, Anne was sensitive, spirited, and often at odds with her mother. But unlike many 13 year olds, Anne would be forced to grow up overnight since her life depended on it. As you read the words of Anne’s diary, you will see Anne’s maturity take place on the pages in front of you.
While I undoubtedly would be thrilled to see famous sights in Amsterdam like the Rikjsmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum, take a walk along its many beautiful canal-lined streets, eat rijsttafel, it is the Anne Frank house that I would like to visit the most. When I was 11 my first piano teacher embarked on a month long trip to Europe and included in his itinerary was a trip to Amsterdam. For my birthday that year he brought back a lovely book from the Anne Frank house that was basically a text and image based history of Anne’s life, along with side information on the events of the Holocaust.
Many people don’t understand why a person would ever want to visit someplace “depressing.” The Anne Frank house definitely qualifies as such since out of the eight people that hid there for those two years, only one would survive after being interned in concentration camps. But to me “dark tourism” is one of the most important facets of tourism; learning from and understanding the past is imperative. This often is not done enough and horrific events do keep getting “repeated” in many parts of the world.
The sad thing about Anne and her story is that she was just one of more than one million children who died in the Holocaust. While her story is known around the world and will always will be thanks to her diary and the chance to visit the Secret Annex space, the vast majority of children who died in the Holocaust will never have their story known. But that doesn’t mean their memory is any less important.
Here are some wonderful children’s titles on the Holocaust:
Upon the Head of the Goat by Aranka Siegal
Touch Wood: a Girlhood in Occupied France by Renee Roth-Hano
The Cage by Ruth Minsky Sender
The Endless Steppe: Growing up in Siberia by Esther Hautzig
Kindertransport by Olga Levy Drucker
Rose Blanche by Roberto Innocenti