Almost 3 years ago, I went on the Christmas trip I had been dreaming of for years. In third grade, I picked up my first biography of Anne Frank, and was instantly fascinated and drawn to her life story and ambitions that were never to be because of the devastating effects WWII had on Jewish people. However, I initially didn’t want to read it. The book that I always read was out that day, so I picked up the biography and instantly could not stop reading it.
I came home that night, and wrote a page-long review of the maybe 30-page biography, when my normal book reviews were, like, a paragraph at the longest. When I got the report back at the end of the week, my teacher wrote on my A+ report “I’ve been to the house in Amsterdam where her family hid.” Instantly, I knew I would make it there. One day.
As soon as I started saying “I need to see the Anne Frank House,” I didn’t stop. I mentioned it for years, until we had the time and money to plan and book a trip. We hired a travel agent for flights and housing, but I was tasked with the excursions and historical sites. We narrowed down our long travel list to 4 cities (we ended up spontaneously going to a fifth!): Amsterdam, Vienna, Salzburg, and Munich, with a day trip to Bratislava during our stay in Vienna. Then, just a few weeks later, our trip was booked for Christmas of 2018.
At last, just 3 short months into my freshman year of high school, the day came of our flight. We made the hour-long drive to Dulles Intl. Airport, and we were on the plane that night to Amsterdam. I woke up hours into the flight, and we were crossing over the North Sea (if I have my geography correct) into the Netherlands. As soon as I stepped out of the airport and into the city, I was in total awe. I was instantly comfortable. Little to no cars, bikes everywhere, the sweet smells of the holiday season, and knowing there were plenty of English speakers around made my whole experience.
If you’ve ever heard how seriously Europeans take Christmastime, they aren’t joking. Everywhere I turned, I saw a Christmas tree, a Christmas market, or dazzling lights. Honestly, I probably saw some combination of 2 or 3 of those everywhere I looked.
After a quick breakfast stop, we got to walking. Everywhere. According to the app on my phone, I logged over 16,000 steps. Considering the only transportation besides walking were planes from city to city and Ubers from airports to hotels, I really mean everywhere.
Since our Anne Frank House tickets weren’t until noon, we explored a ton of the city. The Van Gogh Museum, Rijksmuseum, and just the city in general was absolutely breathtaking.
The hours continued to pass of constant walking. Well, until it started raining and my mom forced my dad to stop and buy an umbrella.
Then, it was time. We walked right into the line of people waiting to go into the Anne Frank House, and blended into it. More walking, and we were inside, picking up audio guides and headsets that would tell the story of Anne Frank. I suddenly thought back to my little third-grade self, who had just picked up the Anne Frank biography in her teacher’s classroom. “We did it..” I said to myself, before moving past the famous bookcase that led me right into The Secret Annex.
To preserve the memory and protect the items inside, I wasn’t allowed to take pictures inside her living quarters. Although I did end up taking a picture outside, in the lobby, and purchasing another copy (I now have 3, at least) of “The Diary of Anne Frank,” my main takeaway of this experience was my emotion.
I remember walking out of the house, into the street, totally moved.
I had so many more questions. How did we let this happen? Why did we let this happen? How can we stop it from happening again?
Out of the 8 people who hid in the annex, 1 survived the horror of the Holocaust. Anne Frank’s father lived for years after, preserving her memory and telling her story. The 7 others who died, Anne Frank, her mother, sister, the family of 3 and the man living in the annex along with them are just a few of the approximately 6 million Jewish people killed, and the 10 million+ overall. (For more info on the Holocaust, head to https://www.ushmm.org/)
After the Anne Frank House, my family met a coworker of my dad’s who had moved full-time to Amsterdam. She, along with her sisters, gave us a full tour of the city and what sites to see. We stopped for lunch at The Butcher, which I think might be my favorite burger place in the entire world. Every time I mention wanting to go back to Amsterdam, I mention the same 2 things: seeing the Anne Frank House again, and having another Butcher burger.