At the age of 16, I had the opportunity to travel to Amsterdam with my family. Even at an early age, I had a genuine interest in history and different cultures of the world, and I had never traveled outside of the country, so I was very excited about this trip.
In our travels through the city, I had many wonderful experiences. I visited several nice restaurants, had seen interesting live performances, and soaked up the culture everywhere I went. I went to the Van Gogh museum and beautiful Catholic churches hidden throughout seemingly regular neighborhoods. The most memorable venture for me, however, was when I went to the Anne Frank house.
I don’t think anything can necessarily prepare a person for an experience like that. Sure, one can read about the atrocities of the mid-twentieth century that took place all over Europe – worldwide, really – and one can view photographs online of the reprehensible things that were done to people over the course of that time, but it’s difficult to fully comprehend what people were subjected to until you are actually standing in the same space where it all occurred.
Behind a normal-looking, innocuous bookshelf on the top floor in what used to be Anne Frank’s father’s business, opened up a single space that was approximately 450 square feet in size. For two years, eight people hid in this tiny space from an invader who was determined to find and exterminate people like them. Upon entering that room, I was floored. I couldn’t believe that they were forced to live like that – in hiding from murderous tyrants.
I think that’s when I realized the power of the human spirit and its will to survive. What lengths could a person be willing to go to simply stay alive and protect the ones he or she loves? I posit that that limit doesn’t exist; people will likely do anything necessary to survive.