On June 12, Anne Frank would have turned 90 years old. Since my elementary school years, I have had a strong interest in learning about Anne Frank and her diary is one of the first books that I read. A particularly special memory is when the “Anne Frank: A History for Today” exhibition came to Bethesda 2003. I also continued to read about Anne Frank’s story and other Holocaust experiences throughout the years.
I had the opportunity, on Jan. 3, 2017, to visit the Anne Frank House where she, her parents and older sister, another Jewish family and a Jewish man hid from the Nazis from 1942 to 1944. The building was opened to the public in 1960. Given that Anne Frank’s 90th birthday would have been this year and as Yom Hashoah is today, I have been reflecting on the visit.
At the Anne Frank House, I was able to learn extensively about the archival work to document Anne Frank’s life that is done there. One of the most significant things that I learned is that there is sometimes no substitute for observing something directly. While standing in the hiding place, I began to sense, in a way I had not previously, the fear that was part of the daily lives of the eight Jews hiding there.
Additionally, the obligation of zachor (remembrance) felt especially relevant. It was very emotional to realize that this is where eight Jews hid from the Nazis and were arrested resulting in the murders of seven of them.
Another aspect that was deeply moving was seeing a lot of people from all over the world. I remember thinking how important it is that people of many nationalities are visiting the museum. Indeed, the Anne Frank House’s 2017 Annual Report, available on the internet, stated that, in that year, 1,266,966 people visited. Copies of her diary in many languages are available for purchase, demonstrating the worldwide appeal of Anne Frank’s story. Professionally, I am seriously considering teaching about the Holocaust and the visit to the Anne Frank House has contributed to the person I am today in many ways that will surely continue to resonate in the future.
Nathan Weissler is a college student and lives in Chevy Chase. This article is adapted from a dvar Torah he delivered at Ohev Sholom – The National Synagogue in 2018.