Amsterdam has a well-deserved reputation for international art, picture-perfect canals, and impressive architecture. But beyond the the Van Goghs and the Rembrandts—visiting the Anne Frank House Museum is one of the most striking parts of any visit. In the face of unrelenting Nazi persecution, she recorded the trials and tribulations of her family’s life in hiding in Amsterdam. The diary, later published as a book, has been continuously in print ever since and is one of the most read books on the Holocaust.
Amsterdam was Anne Frank’s home for much of her life, and there are many important landmarks for visitors interested her legacy.
Top Anne Frank sites to visit in the city
Near the Westkerkerk Cathedral, there is a small bronze statue of the young Anne Frank, created by sculptor Mari Andriessen in 1979.
The Secret Annex
Also known as the Anne Frank house, the family hiding place was part of Otto Frank’s warehouse. Anne lived ten years in Amsterdam; nearly 20% of that time was spent hidden at 263 Prinsengrach in the Secret Annex. In the back of a building and up a secret passageway were a secret series of rooms hidden behind a bookcase. Today, it’s an impressive and awe-inspiring museum.
At the Westerkerk, a clock face could be seen from the Annex. Anne mentions chiming of the carillon repeatedly in her diary. From their hiding place, the clock was visible and audible both day and night.
See Kitty, Anne Frank’s actual diary, on your visit to the Anne Frank House museum. Walk through the secret bookcase door, up to the annex where the book was found after the Franks and Van Pels were arrested in August of 1944. The diary was found and hidden until the end of the war, then returned to Anne’s father.
What to Know Before You Go
The Frank family was Jewish Germans, originally hailing from Frankfurt, Germany. Their saga to escape persecution began long before they went into hiding in Amsterdam. After the Nazis rose to power in 1933, they left Frankfurt and moved to Amsterdam to escape the ever-increasing discrimination.
As war was looming and becoming more imminent, Anne’s father, Otto, tried desperately to move the family to the United States. Pulling strings with his business connections, Otto was tantalizingly close to securing required visas, but the Nazis invaded Holland on May 10, 1940, and Holland became an occupied country. For the family, the window to escape had closed.
The Nazis took action against the Jewish population, limiting their movements, property ownership and a whole host of rights. The family, facing increased pressure, was forced to go into hiding on July 5, 1942. With nowhere to go, they sought refuge in their hiding place, carrying their belongings to the Secret Annex above Frank’s business.
For two years, Anne detailed her life in hiding in her diary, Kitty. The diary details persecution of Amsterdam’s Jewish population, life in confinement and her prevailing fear. Anne’s childlike optimism looks to a better future; other times, fatalistic, she reminds readers of life on the razor’s edge. Will they be found out? What will happen to them? For the reader, we know the ending before we even begin; a fact that makes the book all the more challenging to take in.
In fall of 1944, Anne and her family were tracking the Allied forces as they marched steadily towards liberating Holland. Then, shockingly, those in the Annex were betrayed by someone who knew their hiding place. The Nazis promptly sent them to concentration camps.
Otto Frank survived the War. Anne’s mother, Edith, died of malnutrition; Anne’s sister, Margot, of typhus. Anne herself was killed by typhus at Bergen Belsen, just before the end of the war. Only 5,000 of Holland’s 107,000 Jewish residents survived.
Anne Frank’s story has made the Holocaust and the horrors of war more tangible for generations that didn’t experience it first hand. At the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam, standing in the very rooms that hid the family is sobering. They are more than numbers and impersonal historic facts; it’s impossible not to feel a personal connection to the events that transpired when visiting the tiny hiding space where the Frank and Van Pels families hid.
Planning your visit
The Anne Frank House is open daily, often late into the evening. Check the official website for opening times and the latest ticket policies. Several EF College Break trips visit Amsterdam. If you’re 18-28 years old, these trips are the best way to see this city.