While in Amsterdam, we visited the Anne Frank House, a somber must-see.
Tourists line up around the block, in the rain and cold, waiting to shuffle quietly through small, dimly lit rooms. Quotes from Anne’s diary are written on the wall in Dutch and English. Anne’s bedroom wall posters are encased in plexiglass.
It was something to walk behind the bookcase and stand in the small rooms that Anne and the seven others shared for too long and too short a time.
I waited to write this post because I was trying to find the right words to describe it, but “it was something” is as good as I can come up with…awe and sadness and pain and pride.
Near the end of the museum is room (opened in April, 2010) that discusses the charges that Anne didn’t actually write the diary. I’d heard these before and dismissed them. I never questioned that Anne would be tackling philosophy and the big questions of her day. She was living in an attic because of them. Why wouldn’t she?
Then there are the claims that it’s too well written for a thirteen-year-old. As the museum explains, Anne revised the writings about events in her diary. She didn’t fabricate them. In 1944, during one of the exiled Dutch government’s broadcasts, there was a call to keep all personal documents, like diaries, for after the war as a testament to what happened. Anne took the call seriously. She actively wrote and revised for posterity. The museum has the drafts to prove it.
When we read excerpts of her diary in school, we were told that Anne aspired to be a journalist or to write novels. I’d always attributed the well written diary to that…an amazing natural talent that I desperately wished I had.
But hearing that she actively revised and edited made my heart break even more. It wasn’t happenstance or luck that made her pages beloved by millions. She was a writer. Because the writing is in the revising and the editing. While aspiring, she succeeded but never knew it. I’m sad that she never knew what she accomplished. I’m sad that we will never see what she could have accomplished.