While in Amsterdam my ten year-old son and I visit the secret annexe where Anne Frank, her family and four other Jewish people hid from the Nazis from July 1942 until August 1944. The rooms are part of the Anne Frank Museum in the city centre. I read Anne’s diary when I was at school and know her story well. I feel moved to be stepping in her space, the very place where she lived, dreamt, loved and wrote from the age of thirteen to fifteen, the age of my daughter now. The rooms in the secret annexe are empty but there are poignant signs left behind by Anne and the rest of the group. Anne’s bedroom wall is covered with pictures of film stars which she cut out of magazines and glued there. In the corner some pencil marks on the wall show where Anne’s mother, Edith, recorded the heights of her two daughters during their time in hiding. Progress through the annexe rooms is slow and silent as visitors inch their way along, absorbing everything. The eight people in hiding here were eventually betrayed and sent to Nazi concentration camps where around six million Jews were murdered. Of Anne’s group only one person survived, her father Otto.
But while the visit is a moving pilgrimage for me, my son is completely bored. I tell him Anne’s story beforehand and he thinks it’s very sad, but there’s nothing to engage him at the museum. The only thing he’s interested in is seeing the visitors’ book where Justin Bieber wrote his infamous remarks but it doesn’t seem to be on display – maybe it only comes out for famous people. I have no problem with my son being bored, but I’m disappointed because I think it’s really important for children to know and understand what happened in the holocaust so that it never happens again. Our visit prompts family conversations about prejudice, racism, Hitler, the holocaust, Nazis and democracy but I wish the museum did more to engage with young visitors.
Family travel lowdown: Tickets for the Anne Frank Museum can be booked online to avoid queueing and at the time of our visit cost €9 for adults, €4,50 for children from 10 to 17 years (under-10s are free). My ticket was free of charge for the purposes of this review. Thanks to holland.com for arranging our trip to Amsterdam and to KLM for providing our flights from Kent’s Manston airport.
Sarah MumofThree World says
My eldest is 12 and I think we he would appreciate it. My nearly 10 year old might too, but I know my 7 year old wouldn’t. There is an effort at the end to engage with kids and bring it all up to date with videos of controversial rappers etc.
I know, but mine had switched off by then. The Anne Frank website is great though.
I still haven’t made it to Amsterdam yet even though it’s been ‘on my list’ for many years. Like you, I read Anne Frank’s diary as a child so would love to visit.
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I think you’d love Amsterdam. I’d love to go back and explore it some more.
Louise Edwards says
I went here many years ago before children. It is very moving but even as an adult I found it hard to comprehend fully. It is a shame the museum don’t do more for children though. I imagine he will always remember it and want to go back again when he is older.
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I hope so. You’re right, it’s very hard to take in and can be overwhelming.
I read her book several times as a teenager, I think I would find visiting very moving.
A shame that your son didn’t connect with it but he is still young and he will remember that he went. Hopefully it will have more meaning as he gets older and begins to understand the full weight of what happened.
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I found it very moving and could see others did too. The atmosophere inside was quiet and reverential.
Even though he was bored at the time you will probably find it is something that he will appreciate in the long run. I remember going on a school trip to the village of Eyam when I was around nine. I couldn’t really understand why we were being traipsed around the place but the stories of the tragedies I discovered whilst there remain with me to this day. I did a little internet search on the village the other day and I do in fact remember much of what we were shown. Now I totally get why we were made to walk for what seemed like miles to find a well and some graves and I appreciate that I had the opportunity to visit such a place.
You’re right, I’m sure he’ll remember it, especially because we talked about it a lot afterwards.
We visited last year, and I didn’t think my kids took much in. Having said that my eldest (same age as your son) has just started her WW2 topic at school and she’s been remembering things from the visit and telling her class about it, so she must have taken something in!
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My son’s just started learning about the Blitz at school too!
I loved the museum and think it’s such an evocative place. My children are much too young to understand but it’s a shame there isn’t more to engage older children. I suppose that it is very difficult, even for adults, to imagine that terrible time and what it must have been like so to try and allow children an insight is always going to be tricky. I think it’s great you took him though, it might be one of those places that he is too young to understand right now but will think about and look back on when he’s a bit older.
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I think you’re right, it is tricky. I’m definitely glad I took him there though, and at an age when he will remember it.
A place I’ve always wanted to visit, bit of shame there’s nothing to engage younger generations though x
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I’m still glad I took my son there though as it was a springboard for some great discussions. The Anne Frank Trust does have a very good website with some good stuff for kids: http://www.annefrank.org.uk/learn-zone/welcome