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I could write sentences, paragraphs, and pages, but no single word can convey the emotions I felt while standing in the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. I first read The Diary of Anne Frank when I was around ten or eleven. I saw it on the autobiography shelf of my elementary school library, and when I checked it out, my librarian made sure to tell me to ask my mom about Anne Frank before I read it. That statement sent off little alarm bells in my head. I was very interested in reading things that were off limits to me so naturally I started reading right away. At that age, I couldn’t understand the Holocaust. I couldn’t understand that Anne died of typhus in unbearable conditions just months after her last entry, and I certainly couldn’t understand how impactful her dreams would be on me in the future.
I’m not sure I could have handled the Anne Frank House without having visited several other Shoah memorials and museums first. By the time we arrived in Amsterdam, I was better at coping with that dark place your mind goes when seeing graphic images from Auschwitz or the faces of 4,000 children before they were deported from France and sent to their deaths. Rather than focus on the Holocaust and its tragedies on the whole, I was able to devote the time to reflecting on Anne and her own life. There is a terrifying truth that stood out to me in all her quotes written elegantly on the walls: Anne Frank’s dreams came true. She wanted to be a famous writer. In 2019, she is definitively one of the most famous writers of all time. I left with a phrase said in a speech about Anne by Emma Thompson tattooed on my heart: “All of her would-haves are our opportunities.” I have been newly inspired to take those opportunities thanks to this visit.