The Secret Annex, in the back part of the building, is clearly visible in this postwar aerial photo. Otto Fank's business operated from the front part of this building.
From Monday July 6, 1942 the Frank family goes into hiding. The hiding place is not quite ready yet at that time. Everywhere there are still things in boxes. The people in hiding immediately go to work to make curtains so the neighbors can not see them from outside.
The Van Pels family
The Van Pels family arrive at the Secret Annex a week later. Anne is happy because there are now more people to talk to. The Van Pels family live on the third floor. During the day Mr. and Mrs. Van Pels' bedroom functions as the common living and dining room. Next door is Peter van Pels’ tiny room. Anne writes about it: “…very small, very dark and damp.” Via Peter’s room, the people in hiding can reach the attic, where the food supplies are stored. Anne and Peter often go to the attic so they can talk in private. The Frank family live in two rooms on the second floor.
In July 1942, the people in hiding are unaware that they will spend more than two years in the Secret Annex. All that time, they will not be able to go outside and they will have to share the darkness and dampness of the hiding place, continually fearful of being discovered…
In November 1942, an eighth person joins the people in hiding: Fritz Pfeffer. He is a dentist and an acquaintance of both the Franks and the Van Pels family. Margot begins sleeping in her parent’s room, so then Anne can share the room next door with Fritz Pfeffer. In her diary, Anne Frank jots down her first impression of her new roommate: ''...a very nice man”.
Anne and Fritz Pfeffer's room
(Photo of the refurnished secret annex: Allard Bovenberg)
The people in hiding may not go outside; it is much too dangerous. The curtains of the Secret Annex may also not be opened during the day, otherwise one of the neighbours might see them. The small window in the attic provides the only chance for getting a breath of fresh air. At night, other windows are occasionally opened just a crack.
From the attic where Anne can see the chestnut tree
But it’s actually dangerous even to look outside (photo of the refurnished secret annex: Allard Bovenberg).
On July 23, 1943, Anne writes down everybody’s wishes: "Margot and Mr. Van Pels wish, above all else, to have a hot bath filled to the brim, which they can lie in for more than half an hour. Mrs. Van Pels would like a cake, Pfeffer can think of nothing but seeing his Charlotte and Mother is dying for a cup of real coffee. Father would like to visit Mr. Voskuijl, Peter would go downtown, and as for me, I'd be so overjoyed I wouldn't know where to begin. Most of all I long to have a home of our own, to be able to move around freely and have someone help me with my homework again, at last. In other words, to go back to school!"
A Peek at the Neighbours
In her diary, Anne describes a particular evening when she uses a pair of binoculars to take a peek at the neighbors:
"I never knew that neighbors could be so interesting. Ours are, at any rate. I've come across a couple at dinner, one family was making home movies and the dentist across the way was working on a frightened old lady.”