After self-isolating for about a month now here in Florida, I am looking forward to getting back into society at some point soon. Very soon. While I can always keep busy with a project or hobby inside the house, I am really looking forward to getting back together with my friends and getting back to making connections with other people day to day. On this day of angst from feeling cut off from the rest of society, I can’t help but thing of a remarkable young lady who was thirteen years old and the self-isolation she went through.
I’m thinking about the legendary Anne Frank, who was a Jewish girl who went into hiding with her family and a few friends in 1942 because of the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam. For two years, she and her family hid in the upper floor of her house and couldn’t even flush a toilet for fear of being heard by the workers in the floors below. For two years, she and her family could not speak a word during the day time and hid in their small sequestered area of the house without any daylight, as they drew the curtains shut in the day and the night.
The house on the left side of the diagram above shows the Frank’s main house and Mr. Frank’s business. Directly above the white triangle roof in the middle of the diagram between the two houses you will see the room which contains the bookcase that was built to cover the doorway into the “secret” annex part of the house where the Franks and their friends lived for two years. Their secret quarters appears in the building on the right side of the diagram as the upper three floors and attic. Four hundred and fifty square feet is the area of the portion of the annex in which they hid for two years, about one seventh the size of my home. Four hundred and fifty square feet is the area in which eight people self-isolated for TWO years. Makes the month that we have been self-isolating and the space we have to do it in seem pale by comparison.
Anne Frank was the age of my daughter, “Teen Traveler”, when we visited the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam last year. Any given thirteen year old in America today is concerned with their phones and friends, yet Anne Frank was completely cut off from her friends in 1942. Her father fabricated a story about how the family went away to explain their absence from the community , and poor Anne did not even have time to say good bye to her dear friends.
While in self-isolation Anne kept a positive mental attitude, which is evidenced time and time again in her diary, which was later published by her father.
Visiting Anne Frank’s house and museum was a highlight of our trip to Amsterdam last year. It was such a humbling and sober experience, and visitors actually whispered when they toured the rooms in which Anne, her family, and her friends lived for two years in Nazi occupied Amstersdam. Seeing the peeling wallpaper in those rooms and the pictures of celebrities that Anne pinned on her wall was a reminder that life stood still there, as it does for us here, for a period of time. Although now temporarily closed because of the Covid pandemic, the Anne Frank House and Museum is normally open daily from 9:00 AM to 10:00 PM, depending on the day and the season. From November until April, the museum closes earlier, normally at 7:00 PM except for Saturdays. I highly recommend the introductory program, which lasts thirty minutes, before the tour of the house and museum. This introductory program helps create a timeline and reviews significant historical events happening at the time of Anne Frank’s hideout. This is especially helpful for children who may have no frame of reference. Photographs are not permitted inside the house out of respect, and visitors who have disability concerns about climbing stairs might have difficulty visiting here. Tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis and are in limited supply daily. I HIGHLY recommend getting tickets ahead of time on-line at the Anne Frank site in order to avoid long lines and the possibility of not getting tickets on any given day. At the time of this writing, entrance fees are 10,50 Euros for adults, 5,50 Euros for children aged ten to seventeen, and 0.50 Euros for children up to age nine. The introductory program is an add-on fee.
I think of Anne today as I look out my window, as there was a small window in the attic in Anne’s secret annex that she looked out daily to see a chestnut tree which became symbolic of hope. I think of Anne when I hear sounds outside my house today, as she heard the bells of a local church in the courtyard from the same window in the attic. She wrote,
“From my favorite spot on the floor I look up at the blue sky and the bare chestnut tree, on whose branches little raindrops shine, appearing like silver, and at the seagulls and other birds as they glide on the wind. As long as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be.”Anne Frank
The chestnut tree outside of Anne’s attic window, which became diseased, lived until 2010 when a strong wind blew it over. In the years before the tree died, workers from the Anne Frank House and Museum collected chestnuts from the tree in hopes that they would germinate so that the tree would live on in other locations, spreading the message of hope from Anne Frank. Several saplings have grown from these chestnuts and have been planted around the world, including one that was planted at Yad Vashem, Israel’s official Holocost memorial in Jerusalem.
Anne Frank continues to be a source of inspiration for many people, including myself. I think about her when I look out my window during self-isolation from time to time. I know that keeping positive thoughts in my mind when I look up to the sky like Anne did will help make the journey during this pandemic and self-isolation a little easier in some way .
“Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy.” -Anne Frank
“As long as you can look fearlessly into the sky , you’ll know that you’re pure within and will find happiness once more.” -Anne Frank
Life is good. Find happiness and continue thinking positively. Carpe diem, friends…….
To take a virtual tour of the Anne Frank house secret annex, click on the link below: