In Amsterdam, we visited the Anne Frank House. We’d booked tickets on line so avoided the queues.
Our visit began with a thirty minute introduction which gave background to the Frank family, their move from Frankfurt to Amsterdam, the family business and life in occupied Netherlands. There was summary of life within the house once they were in hiding and the importance of Anne’s diary. This family information was shared alongside timelines of Hitler, rise of Nazism and their anti-Jewish measures.
We then visited the actual house, the front part being the office, warehouse and storerooms where Otto Frank’s business was located. The upper floors of the “back house” was where Anne and seven others hid in this annexe for two years.
We walked through the rooms where they lived, we read excerpts of Anne’s diary, there was information about the Frank family, the other occupants and their helpers. There were short videos which added detail. Although the rooms were empty of furniture to allow visitor access, there were photos of how the rooms were furnished at the time.
Back in the modern museum buildings there was information about the concentration camps, video interviews with people who knew Anne and family, how the diaries and family photo albums were saved. The actual diary notebooks are on display, and background of how Otto Frank published the diary in 1947 in the Netherlands and its global impact.
It is a moving place and experience. C~M and I are both now reading Anne’s diary. It is incredible to read about daily life in those cramped conditions, without going outside, with windows blacked out, being quiet during the workday so they were not heard by warehouse staff.
The Netherlands was occupied by Germany in May 1940. Maastricht was the first Dutch city to be liberated in September 1944. During the years of occupation, there were food shortages and rationing, the same for fuel and clothes. This is mentioned in Anne Frank’s diary but I also heard a bit about this from Dutch relatives. It was not only Jews who were taken from their homes, young Dutch men were forcibly sent to Germany to work on farms to support the war effort. Some escaped and made their way back home but then had to go into hiding themselves without any ID papers or ration books.
In Maastricht we noticed small brass cobblestone sized plaques on the pavements, memorials to victims of the Holocaust. These are called “stolpersteine” in German and “struikelstenen” in Dutch. As of August this year, over 48,000 such plaques have been laid in 18 countries in Europe, being the world’s largest memorial project. The plaques state … Here Lived … Born … Murdered …
Margraten, a few miles from Maastricht, is the site of the Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial. It is close to the Cologne – Boulogne Roman road, a route the German’s used for their occupation and again for their withdrawal. A US infantry division liberated this area and the cemetery was soon established here. 8,301 graves are laid out in long curves, each marked with a cross or star of David. The Court of Honour lists the names of a further 1,722 with unknown graves. It is a vast site, beautifully maintained, similar to the British and Commonwealth cemeteries across Europe, just with different headstones. Some graves have no names, marked simply as “Known unto God”.