Empty. Just as the Nazis left it.
Now a museum, the attic that housed the Frank family, van Pels family, and Fritz Pfeffer, is exactly that. Empty.
No beds. No chairs. Barely scraps of personal items.
It was never refurnished intentionally, as to stay true to its final condition and serve as a reminder. A reminder not of how the Frank family almost survived, but of how they, and millions of other Jews, were systematically murdered.
Compared to many who were immediately sent to concentration camps, the Frank family was lucky.
Once World War II began, the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam quickly proved to be dangerous for the Jews. Unable to the leave the country, Otto Frank knew he had to do something to protect his loved ones. With the help of a few loyal employees who would bring food and supplies, the Frank family and another Jewish family moved into the cramped rooms above Otto’s office.
Here they hid, behind the cover of a trick bookcase, for about two years during World War II. Unable to talk louder than a whisper or use running water during the day, the living conditions were prison-like. But it was better than the rumors they had heard about the “work” camps.
After two years in hiding, someone snitched. All of the inhabitants of the Secret Annex were arrested and sent to concentration camps. Including the children, and the most famous member of the family, Anne Frank.
The Holocaust took the lives of everybody:
Hermann van Pels
Auguste van Pels
and Peter van Pels.
All except Otto Frank.
Most people are familiar with the story of Anne Frank, and many have even read the book. It’s a tragic story.
But it’s not just a story.
Anne Frank’s Diary, her story, and the house where she lived serve as a reminder for us today.
Don’t repeat the past.
It’s easy to learn about the Holocaust and distance oneself. We think we’re so much better today than we were during Nazi rule.
“The Holocaust was so long ago. We would never kill people or discriminate against anyone based on religion or race today, right?”
Open your eyes and look around.
Trump’s America completely closed off its borders, targeting an entire religion. Plans are forming to build a wall. Keeping immigrants and refugees as far away as possible.
It’s not the first time this has happened.
Before going into hiding, the Otto family tried to immigrate to five different countries, including the United States. They, and millions of other Jews, were denied access to all of them.
Listen to the things being said around you.
A couple of days ago two men were killed for defending a Muslim woman who was being harassed by a white supremacist. She was being berated for a simply for being Muslim.
Ignorant people stereotype all Muslims as terrorists: inherently evil beings. Others think all Mexicans are criminals, out to steal their jobs and rape their women. Violent, hurtful language is used against entire groups of people; be it Muslims, Mexicans, or any other “undesirable” immigrant group.
Sound familiar yet?
Jews were stereotyped similarly, and were blamed for the problems of Germany. People blindly accepted these stereotypes because they needed a scapegoat for their problems.
Tragedy was the result of these close-minded ideas and stereotypes.
Anne Frank and her diary made all of the deaths during the Holocaust real and relatable. She was a regular teenage girl, put to death for her religion.
Her story is a warning to us: remember the past, and don’t let it become our future.
But her story also shows hope, and the good that people are capable of.
The faithful helpers, Miep Gies, Victor Kugler, Johannes Kleiburg, and Bep Voskuijl, selflessly put their lives on the line to hide the Frank and van Pels families.
They got nothing in return. No money. No extra food. Some even got arrested for the illegal act of hiding a Jew.
There were no incentives. They did it because they knew it was right. They couldn’t let their boss, coworkers, and friends be marched to their imminent death when they had done nothing wrong. Except for being born into and believing in the “wrong” religion.
Two years. Two years they successfully hid these Jews out of the goodness of their hearts.
People can be good. People can be kind.
So be a Miep.
Be a Bep.
A Victor, and a Johannes.
Love your friends and neighbors regardless of gender, age, sexuality, race, religion, or whatever else.
Be tolerant of others, and think for yourself before believing stereotypes.
Do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do.
This is the lesson of the Anne Frank House.
Cover photo from http://worldschildrensprize.org/anne-frank