It's been a lighthearted trip for the most part, but yesterday we started the morning in Amsterdam with a very heavy visit to the Anne Frank House. It was here, hidden in a secret annex behind a false bookcase mounted on a swinging hinge, that Frank, her family, and a few friends remained invisible to the Nazis for two years. Not once in that time could she go outside. They had to remain absolutely still and silent with the blackout curtains drawn during the daytime hours when the warehouse below them was occupied. All she could do was write, and her diary reveals an emotional maturity and a capacity for love and understanding way beyond her years. Over and over again, I was struck with reminders that she was just a child: her height marked in pencil on the wall, diary entries about wishing she could play in the street, pictures of actresses decorating her makeshift bedroom. No human deserves what she endured, and certainly not an innocent little girl. They have her actual diary on display, and it's a sobering moment to come face to face with her handwriting in the very place she put pen to paper.
The visit felt even more timely when it was revealed that Anne's family was denied refugee status in the US. America closed it's doors to many Jews in search of safety, and just like Anne, many of them were ultimately captured by the Nazis and died in Auschwitz. I picked up a small postcard with an image of the false bookcase that I'm sending to the White House. I hope we can develop the capacity to learn from our history and cease repeating the worst mistakes of the past. Anne's diary entries reveal the slow steady progression of the Holocaust: a law was passed requiring the Jews wear gold stars; then one banning them from riding trams, then from riding bikes, then from visiting Christian homes. The rounding up of the Jews and the horrors of the concentration camps didn't sprout up overnight, and while people like to think nothing like that could ever happen again, it takes daily vigilance and determination to stand up to the worst instincts of society. One of my favorite entries from Anne's diary, discovered after her death, reads, "How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world."
That night we played the Paradiso Noord in Amsterdam. It was a smaller crowd than we'd been playing for the last few nights in Sweden, but what they lacked in size they made up for in enthusiasm. As I walked onstage, a woman handed me a handwritten request list with six of her favorite songs, which was a first. I was able to work four of them into the short set. Not bad!
This morning I went for one last walk around the canals of Amsterdam. The sun came out and it was the kind of glorious winter weather where you can ditch your jacket and pretend for an hour or two that spring has arrived. I bought a croissant and sat by the water watching boats and trams go by and tried to soak it all in: the sounds of the seagulls fighting over scraps of food and the bikes whizzing past and the bells of the tram and the boat engines shifting and revving as they make sharp right-angle turns in the narrow waterway. I poked my head into the Canal Museum and bought a print of a beautiful painting to commemorate my time in the city. So often on tour you only get to see the highway into town, the dressing room, the stage, the hotel, and the highway back out. It was pretty unique to get to spend so many nights in the same hotel (thanks, Backstage!) and to see so much of a city. I know I've only just begun to scratch the surface, so I'm certain I'll be back, but for now it's off to Utrecht, where we play our last Dutch show.