When I was a girl, I was obsessed with The Diary of Anne Frank. I reread the first half of it so many times that that part of the spine sheds specks of paper; a couple of years ago, I finally finished reading. Because I knew how it ended, I resisted finishing.

One of my favourite parts was the way she described the Annex, with a drawing of 263 Prinsengracht’s floorplan and descriptions of the furnishings, where she and her Jewish family hid during WWII. The significance of this confined space and her ideas about home and vulnerability touched me deeply, even while reading without a full understanding of the war.

Now The Collected Works includes the Definitive Edition of the Diary, the version I read as a girl (translations by Kirsten Warner and Nancy Forest-Flier and Susan Massotty) with the original versions with loose pages and her unfinished rewrite (inspired by the call for everyday people to record wartime experiences).

It also includes stories previously published as Tales and Events from the Secret Annex, letters, and notebooks filled with Verses from Friendship Books, Favourite Quotes, and the history of Egypt. Also, a section of photographs and documents (extensive but not glossy), four essays for context and background, and useful bits like a family tree and a chronology. With a blue ribbon.

Anne’s story came to me as a story of someplace far away, someplace unsafe. Returning to this an adult, with a specific interest in place, I must wrestle with the fact that the Frank family left Frankfurt in 1933, recognizing the growing influence of the National Socialist Party and seeking a safe place. Amsterdam was intended to be a refuge. We can see a photograph of Margot roller-skating in a city square. The family posing for a photograph at Zandvoort beach (about 15 miles from Amsterdam). Anne with her friends, a hoop and a scooter in hand, outside Merwedeplein 37-2. (These are from the archives of the Anne Frank House and collected in a thick, square, glossy-paged Anne Frank: Her Life in Words and Pictures, which I’ve read before.)

As a teenager, I saw a photograph of the building that once housed Otto Frank’s business and would offer a hiding place for eight people, at the back of the second and third floors. Studying the play in school, we watched the film, but that did not make either Amsterdam or the secret annex seem real. Even in the 1950s, there were informal tours of the building; the property was bought and the Anne Frank Foundation established in 1957, along with the neighbouring building (an educational center), and opened in 1960. But students today can tour the house online, even if they cannot travel there. And now there is a 10-second-long video, filming a newly married couple on the street, which captures Anne Frank watching from an upper window.

Turning the page in my calendar for this month, I was struck by the fact that Anne Frank’s place in the world is restricted and confined: her plaid covered diary could rest in your palms.

It’s also inconceivably expansive, in that her experience has come to represent the Holocaust and the broader symbology of “good” and “evil”.

Primo Levi writes: “One single Anne Frank moves us more than the countless others who suffered just as she did but whose faces have remained in the shadows. Perhaps it is better that way; if we were capable of taking in all the suffering of all those people, we would not be able to live.”

And between this intimate and global view? Amsterdam.

In Francine Prose’s Anne Frank: The Book, the Life, the Afterlife (2009), readers view the Jewish Lyceum, the Gestapo headquarters, Huis van Vewaring prison, Amstelveenseweg Prison, the River Quarter, the Jewish Hospital, and the Montessori school. In her first 60 pages, Prose situates readers historically, explains how the residents of Amsterdam responded to growing crisis (there was a general strike, which lasted three days, for instance) and how events escalated.

In Anne Frank and the Remembering Tree by Sandy Eisenberg Sasso (2015, illustrated by Erika Steiskal), the story begins with “I was planted in the heart of Amsterdam, a city of skinny streets, of canals and bridges.” Anne Frank sits on a wooden crate in the attic of the third floor and writes in her diary about this tree. The tree voices all sorts of thoughts and feelings as the witness of events below. There are some interior spreads, but mostly there is room for the tree in these illustrations, so there is a broader sense of the city (and history).

Mouschi, Peter’s cat, narrates The Cat Who Lived with Anne Frank by David Lee Miller and Steven Jay Rubin (2019, illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley). “Church bells chime over crying gulls and the water putt-putt of canal barges.” The illustrations are recognizable from the 360-degree-tour of the annex, but with a black cat on the staircase in Peter’s room prancing across the upper shelf in the room which doubled as kitchen and a bedroom for Margot and Otto and Edith. There are direct quotes from Anne’s diary, including their classic salutation: “Dear Kitty” (not for Mouschi). And there’s a peek into Amsterdam through Mouschi’s travels out a window, even after the annex dwellers’ view is limited to those crowded rooms and closets.

There’s also a rich coffee-table sized, glossy-paged volume called Inside Anne Frank’s House: An Illustrated Journey through Anne’s World, introduced by Hans Westra, the executive director of the Anne Frank House (1999), which has a couple of lovely streetscape views (from inside the business space, both as recreated and in the process of being reconstructed—even the lighting systems are reproduced authentically). It also has a useful fold-out page which aligns photographs of the building’s front and back, with a cross-section which illustrates how the annex connected to the open and functioning business spaces.

Unfinished but underway in my stack are two volumes by Jacqueline van Maarsen, who was friends with Anne when they were schoolgirls. Even though they’ve arrived near the end of my Amsterdam reading, they do seem to give the sense of daily life in the city during wartime that I’ve been craving.

Previous travel destinations this year, inspired by my desk calendar, have included CopenhagenLondonHavanaKyotoParisSan FranciscoMarrakechMexico City, Rome and Shanghai.