Saturday, July 10, 2010

263,Prinsengracht

The land of sex and marijuana. The city where usually people go to have some 'fun'. Slip cakes and brownies, weeds and pots. Slip less ladies cavorting behind glass windows - a mindless job. This, apart from the tulips and the windmills was what I had expected as part of my trip to Amsterdam last month.

Amsterdam was much more than any of this. The canals with their beautiful boat houses, the windmills, the smiling people on their cycles and then the house that hid eight people for two years from the Gestapo. This post is about my feelings as I stepped back in time on entering Prinsengracht 263, Anne Frank Huis, Amsterdam.

I’ll probably fail at putting it into words, but it was definitely one of the most overwhelming experiences of my life. Not “getting married” overwhelming, or “having a kid” overwhelming, but overwhelming in the sense that I was standing in the same place where people hid for 2 years in order to save their lives. Standing and walking around in the same place where this girl wrote in her diary, not knowing what would happen to her family, to her. I felt as if I had stepped back in history. To the period that is evident only in the books on holocoust now.

The secret annexe, the thick black curtains on the windows, the narrow staircase, the single toilet that was used by eight people. The flush that could be pulled only after 12 at night and before 8 in the morning, the hollywood stars on the walls, the hope of a young girl amidst the chaos outside. The pointers on the walls by Otto Frank depicting the growth in height of Margot and Anne, the gas stove, the cots, the attic window. As I walked through the rooms, touched the walls, slid the curtains, sat on her bed, the thought of that young girl was never far from me. It was as if she was whispering to me, " You are free, I was not."

  • Birth Name: Annelies Marie Frank
  • Birth Date: June 12, 1929
  • Died:March 31, 1945
  • July 6, 1942: Frank and family moved into hiding place, "Secret Annexe"
  • August 4, 1944: Hiding spot found by the German Police
  • March 1945: Died of typhus at age 15 while in a concentration camp
  • AP: Anne Frank Saplings May be Planted in 10 US Cities (April 17, 2009)
  • The concentration camp was liberated one month after her death
"'Would anyone, either Jew or non-Jew, understand this about me, that I am simply a young girl badly in need of some rollicking fun?'" Friday, 24 December, 1943

"I've reached the point where I hardly care whether I live or die. The world will keep on turning without me, and I can't do anything to change events anyway. I'll just let matters take their course and concentrate on studying and hope that everything will be all right in the end." - February 3, 1944

"It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart. It’s utterly impossible for me to build my life on a foundation of chaos, suffering and death. I see the world being slowly transformed into a wilderness, I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too, I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty too shall end, that peace and tranquility will return once more" - July 15, 1944

"You know what I do when I think I can't stand another minute cooped up? I think myself outside. You know the most wonderful part of thinking yourself outside. You can have it any way you like. You can have rows of roses and violets all blooming in the same season, isn't that wonderful!" July 15, 1944


"I don't think of all the misery but of the beauty that still remains."
Anne Frank

33 comments:

vineetasdiary said...

I had tears in my eyes when I read 'Anne Frank's diary.. You are right.. you actually feel the place when you its history.. and this history was really terrifying

Kavi said...

Sometimes, what people have gone through is forgotten in the hustle bustle of modern day life and living !!

Thanks for sharing. This is soul stirring !

KParthasarathi said...

My eyes turned moist and I have no words to express my feelings.I was struck by the words "You know what I do when I think I can't stand another minute cooped up? I think myself outside. You know the most wonderful part of thinking yourself outside. You can have it any way you like."
Sujata,with minimum words you have brought out tellingly the sordid event.

Aparna said...

I was numb I think, when I stood there. Do you remember the staircase going up? And the tiny room? How did so many of them stay there for 2 years and not make a sound? I stood there and thought what we all are capable of doing in order to stay alive. And what we all are capable of doing to those who dare to believe in a different god.

Dr.Banashri Bhuyan said...

We can still feel the pain by reading ur post........Thanks for sharing!!

sujata said...

@vineetasdiary yes it was a terrifying chapter in the history of the world. The house, today is a place that stands against all kinds of prejudice.

@Kavi I agree Kavi, it made my trip worthwhile, this small place on the banks of a canal

@Partha The quotes from her diary are put on the walls of that house. She was a a girl with strong opinions and very vocal about them. Even today, her thoughts are not out dated.

@Aparna The staircase was so narrow, but the only thing that made me choke back my tears were the blackened windows, how would it be not to be able to see the outside, the seasons..nothing!

@Dr Banashri thanks

ZB said...

I havent read the book but can imagine the pain and the poignancy, reading just the excerpt.

I have been to Amsterdam (Just airport) while on transit many a times, but never got out.The next time i will. Tulips, windmills and now the Ann Frank diary....thanks for sharing. TC

Nona said...

If you walk outside the streets along the canals, you will not guess the misery, loneliness and torment originated from one of the outlining serene buildings!

अनिल कान्त : said...

gr8 post !!
thanks for sharing.....

radha said...

Very nice post. Very moving account.

sakshi said...

Anne Frank's diary is one of those books where every sentence punches you so hard right at your heart. It makes you love life more and more even with it's little flaws ain't it?

Hey you should put up more pics of the beautiful place.

The Holy Lama said...

We all appreciate what we have when we those chilling reminders of past. BTW, does Amsterdam have lots of people who use cycles? I heard so somewhere.

Nikita Banerjee said...

Gosh...I had goosebumps! A very nice post Sujata. Very touching.

Pesto Sauce said...

Very poignant, Holocast was an evil time

Suraj said...

Thanks for introducing me to Anne Frank's writings, i still cant believe that a girl of her age could survive 2 years at a hideout.I really feel i was privileged to have a life full of freedom. The fear of death can be more painful than death..

sujata said...

@ZB its a must visit place.

@Nona the city is lovely and so are the people, friendly and warm and speak english very well, so that was an added bonus after Paris, which I found very impersonal.

@Anil thanks

@Radha thanks

@Sakshi, it made me realise the number of things that I take for granted, simple acts that I dont even realise that I am doing..and then now when i look out of the window, or even flush the toilet, i think of her.. Taking pics is not allowed inside the house of Anne Frank.

@The Holy Lama Amsterdam has a seperate pathway for cycles, there are various kinds of cycles and I think everybody owns atleast one and they use it to go to work to shop to take their dogs and kids around in huge baskets attached to the cycles, it was lovely.

@Nikita I did too, even now I get goosebumps when I read the diary.

@Pesto Sauce It sure was, hows muscvat treating you? enjoying the heat?

@Suraj This was one place when I entered, I thought, you would have felt it as deeply as I was feeling.

sakshi said...

I meant pics of Amsterdam :(

kavita said...

"It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.These words of Ane are very ..inspiring..imagine not to give up her faith on humanity after all the tough things she had to go through.

Zillion thanks for sharing your feelings so wonderfully.

indranil said...

i shall not comment on the AF hauz as its already become too stereotype for various reasons.

but your opening line about Holland was disappointing and pretty theatrical. of course you made it up in your next few lines since you usually write your heart out, i felt it was more pre-conceived playing out to an audience.

Arun Meethale Chirakkal said...

That’s a different kind of a travelogue! I’m just speechless about the transformation that seemed to have happened in the girl’s life between 24th December 1943 and 3rd February 1944. Just about forty days, and the urge to ‘have frolicking fun’ had paved way for ‘I hardly care whether I live or die’. I’ve a copy of Anne Frank’s Diary at home, untouched.
Now I feel guilty about my callousness.

kochuthresiamma p .j said...

the diary of A F gave me many a sleepless night as an undergrad - i even wished i hadnt read it. does the same to me even now. this post went a step further-coming from a pilgrim at Af's house. lovely ost.

R. Ramesh said...

hey...lovely post ya..and yr blog is looking more colourful..my daughter is a anne frank fan... enjoyed reading..

Sonu said...

Wow you really visited there...that's really great!!!...
Annne Frank's Diary is one of my favorit book.Her lines are very emotional sometimes...means you can feel the sadness of a butterfly who wanted to fly..

Keep writing didi...
:)

gaelikaa said...

I read Anne Frank's diary when I was a kid and was fascinated. I once worked as a guide on an "Anne Frank in the World" exhibition on it's Dublin stint. I think lots of girls read that book at the age of 13 or so and I'm going to get a copy for my 13 year old daughter now that I come to think of it. Amsterdam is one of those cities which I've always longed to visit. Nice one Sujata xxxx

sujata said...

@Sakshi :( :( sorry didnt understand earlier...:(:(

@Kavita the place is mesmerising

@Indranil to each his own! The cliche of amsterdam never appealed to me neither before the trip, nor after. What appealed was the smiling faces of the people, the cycles, the canals and the home like atmosphere of the city. Paris was too impersonal compared to Amsterdam.

@Arun Read it now

@ Kochuthresiama p.j thanks, its a house against all kinds of prejudice.

@Ramesh thanks, how are you doing?

@Sonu thanks dear.

Harish said...

Anne's diary was heart wrenching

Destiny's child... said...

I can imagine what you felt. Though I have read some excerpts of her diary, I have never actually read the book...I must, I assume...

deeps said...

havent read her writings in full, but got a line or 2 to read...
and someone has told me the story in fact....
here you got a neat introduction written in novel-style...

thanks :-)

anilkurup said...

I always feel that when we visit distant lands it is our stepping into the historically poignant places of the land that really etch in us.And you have done the exact thing. Of all the beautiful sights of Holland and Amsterdam including its museums it is the tiny place where the little girl and her family lived, away from the ubiquitous Gestapo which is solemnly beautiful.
(Perhaps you can change the font size of your postings and the colour of the letters )!

Sumandebray said...

i feel sad whenever I remember Anie Frank.
I feel ashamed as afellow human that for a few dollars some leaked their hideout.
I also feel sad for someone forgot to return my book

Bikramjit Singh Mann said...

Oh My god..
if you look at history there are so many atrocities that have been done .. germans in world war.. the mughals in india.. russians in afghanistan .. The Sikhs in 1984, the mumbai riots

my heart goes out for the girl, bad bad thing to have goen through.. there is a very good English movie i just saw recently "The boy in striped pyjamas" Beautiful movie , sad movie

Thanks for sharing this ... God bless the souls of all who died in such atrocities

Anonymous said...

I think it's so sad why the jews were killed I am reading anne's diary now and I cry every time it gets sad and my friends comfort me but it doesn't change the fact their dead now does it it's so unfair that a young and beautiful girl like anne was killed why was life unfair back then why couldn't they live the life we have today.

Anonymous said...

Why oh why did they had to die I have dreams about it every night