While in Amsterdam for those few days on my Van Gogh pilgrimage, I also visited the Anne Frank House. I had tried to book online before leaving to avoid the long queue, but it was booked a week in advance. However long queue or no long queue, I had already decided such a visit was a must.
So we arrived not long after opening at 9.00, and the queue was already long and slow moving. Now I'm not the most patient or contented queuer, but there are times when inconvenience, delay and anticipation are more significant than cramming every unforgiving minute with value for money tourism. We got talking to the couple behind us who had just flown over from Bitmingham, and who were also making a pilgrimage to this place of humane and humanising memory of a young girl whose honest goodness and innocent intelligence defied and triumphed over the inhuman bureaucracy of the genocidal imagination.
Then once we got in, after an hour's waiting, we made our slow way through the house, with the sound of the Kerk bells from nearby, the same bells she heard sounding when in hiding. And the slowness of those in front of us allowed time to see, to think, to pay attention, and so to imagine. One of the greatest moral challenges of our age is the safeguarding of the moral imagination, the developed capacity to anticipate, and have symathy with, and realise in thought and vision the cost and consequences of the intractably human lust for power, power over others, exerted for ends other than humane.
Anne Frank's Diary is one of the most astonishing achievements of World War II. Not just the transparent goodness and hopefulness of the entries; and more than the faithful recording of the experience of what it is like to be afraid, and hated by the powerful and ruthless; and more too than the exposing of political malignity observed and critiqued by a young woman wo was naive, but wise, and whose own future would be foreclosed by the lethal consistency of the racist mindset. The Diary is first hand evidence of human resilience, of spiritual awareness, of life loved as gift and mystery, and of that instinctive will to live and to live well, that occasionally illuminates the historical landscape, and gives us all hope and a much needed reminder of the glory of a human life whose music cannot be silenced.
Then near the end of the exhibit, time to look at the faces of those who hid in the hiding place, blqck and white photographs, and behind the face of Anne Frank, another queue, at the arrival station of Auschwitz, and then images of the Shoah and the Camp liberations. I was overwhelmed by then, having just stood in a slow moving queue to enter this house, and to pay respects to this story of one girl amongst 6 million of her people, and one girl amongst countless more people across continents, whose deaths are the fearful mathematics of state generated hatred linked to military ambition.
It is one of the sanitising statistics worth pondering, that all day every day, this house is open, and the queues are constant. And if everyone who comes to this place comes respectful and goes away subdued by a wondering sadness but a renewed commitment to the nourishing of humane values, then there is hope for us. The Hebrew Bible has the prophetic observation, "a child shall lead them". And so she did, and does.