Today was our day trip to Amsterdam! After a filling breakfast at the hotel, we departed on our journey. We arrived at the beautifully architected train station in the mid-morning and had a nice walk through the city to the Anne Frank house, snapping pictures of the flowers, canals, and the city’s plethora of bikes.
When we arrived at the Anne Frank House, we were given a presentation by a tour guide on Nazi Germany and the life of Anne Frank. We learned about Germany’s economic crisis in the late 1920s and 1930s and the rising anti-Semitism in Germany, two factors which contributed to Hitler’s rise to power. We saw many pictures and artifacts from this period. The one that struck me the most was this image (below) of two Jewish school children being made to stand in front of the classroom while the non-Jewish children read a message on the blackboard that states that “the Jewish people are the root of Germany’s problems.“ It makes me so upset to think of the innocent children being humiliated by their own teachers in front of their classmates.
Next, we learned the Frank family’s story. Otto Frank, Anne’s father, witnessed the highly concerning discriminatory laws in Germany towards the Jewish people, so they immigrated to the Netherlands while they could still leave Hitler’s oppressive regime. They enjoyed a few years of safety living there, but then went into hiding when Anne’s older sister, Margo received a notice in the mail that she was to report to a concentration camp. The family of four spent two years in hiding along with four other Jewish people in the annex of Mr. Frank’s business. In 1944, the Franks were betrayed (who turned them in is still debated) and all eight of the residents were sent to concentration camps.
Otto Frank, the only survivor, published the diary Anne kept during her time in hiding. Anne had eventually wanted to publish a book about her experience, entitling it “The Secret Annex” and her father wanted to carry out her dream after her death. The book has since been translated into 70 different languages and has been turned into famous plays and moves. Anne Frank’s legacy has lived on for so many years because of its deep insight into a family’s struggle for survival in the face of grave danger.
After the presentation, we began the tour of the house with the audio guide. We moved slowly through the narrow staircases and cramped corners, trying to put ourselves in the Frank family’s shoes. One of the things I found most impactful about the visit was the video on Anne Frank’s legacy at the end of the tour. The video contained quotes about the impact of the book/tour on readers/visitors. Nelson Mandela was videotaped speaking about how reading the diary gave him hope during his imprisonment. A US Army Veteran wrote in the museum’s signature book that he now realized why he fought at D-Day. John Green writes in his book “The Fault in Our Stars” about the vastness of the number of people killed in the Holocaust, remarking that there were 4 Arron Frank’s who died with no mourners, memorials, or museum to remember their life and legacy. We mustn’t forget that Anne Frank’s hardship is only one of the 6 million Jews murdered.
After our tour, we walked to the museum quarter of the city to say our goodbyes to the beloved Dr. Markley. We wished her a great rest of the summer. Next, we ate lunch at the “hipster” food trucks in the park, enjoying some delicious veggie burgers, veggie hot dogs, or chicken sandwiches. For dessert, some of us went to try some of Amsterdam’s famous delicacy, Stroopwafels!
For our free afternoon, some of us watched the England-Sweden match of the World Cup, while others walked around and explored the city. A handful of us, myself included, chose to go to The Van Gogh Museum. I loved getting to see the famous Sunflower painting as well as the Almond Blossom painting. I feel so lucky to have been able to witness some of the world’s most famous masterpieces during my time abroad. I also learned a lot about Van Gogh’s troubled life and struggles with mental illness through the museum’s extensive audio guide.
After the museum, we walked around the city for a while and then some us went to get a delicious meal in Chinatown to end a rich day in Amsterdam. I feel fortunate that we got the chance to visit a city with so much history, art, and culture.