Tuesday, May 28, 2013

337 (2013 #21). Inside Anne Frank's House

introduction by Hans Westra, Executive Director, the Anne Frank House

I read this book, which is subtitled An Illustrated Journey Through Anne's World, as an accompaniment to Anne Frank:  The Biography. This is a beautiful, large, coffee-table style book full of wonderful photographs of Anne Frank and her family, the people who helped them in hiding, and the hiding place itself.

The first part of the book is background on the Frank family and the others that hid with them, with (on many of the 33 pages) the bottom fourth of the page devoted to photographs illustrating what was going on in Germany and the Netherlands in the 1915-1942 time period, providing some context. This is followed by a fold-out page with a cutaway diagram of the interior of the building at 263 Prinsengracht where the eight Jews hid.

The next section is the main part of the book, which follows the museum route through the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. Hans Westra, its executive director, writes,

After the arrest on August 4, 1944, the Secret Annex was emptied of all its furnishings by order of the German Occupation authorities. To provide a better impression of the situation during the hiding period, color photographs of a temporary refurnishing of both the front part of the house and the Secret Annex, are included in this book. In 1954, black & white photographs of the Anne Frank House were made by the photographer Maria Austria. Many of these photographs also appear here. 

The color photos of the refurnishing are quite interesting - one can see that the eight in hiding were crowded, yet the warm colors and lighting and the quality of the furnishings makes one feel they weren't too bad off. Including the 1954 black-and-white photos was important. They are stark, as most of the rooms were still empty or nearly empty since the 1944 arrest. Anne's attempts to decorate the room she shared with her sister (and later, a dentist in his 50s) with pictures and magazine clippings of movie stars and other things that interested her, are quite poignant, as they appear in both the color and the black-and-white photos.

The final section of the book covers the period after the arrest of those in hiding and two of their helpers, with detail on what happened to each of them.  There's also a discussion of Anne's diary, its publication, and the preservation of the Anne Frank House.

While the photographs are stunning and informative, the text that accompanies them is rather weak and sometimes confusing.  Perhaps the text suffered in translation from Dutch to English.  Nevertheless, the book is an outstanding addition to the body of works on Anne Frank, and especially nice for those who might never visit the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam.

© Amanda Pape - 2013

[This book was borrowed from and returned to my university library.]

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