“Our little room looked very bare at first with nothing on the walls; but thanks to Daddy who had brought my film-star collection and picture postcards on beforehand, and with the aid of a paste pot and brush, I have transformed the walls into one gigantic picture. This makes it look much more cheerful…” (The Diary of Anne Frank, July 11, 1942)
Just like so many other young girls, Anne decorates her room with pictures. Immediately after the Frank family takes up residence in the Secret Annex,
Anne pastes all sorts of magazine clippings and postcards on the walls of her room. While hiding in the Secret Annex, Anne regularly spends time working on her photo collection. She finds it boring to have to look at the same images all the time. “Yesterday I put up some more film stars in my room but this time with photo corners so I can take them down again.” (October 18, 1942)
Fascinated by Royal Houses
Anne is utterly fascinated by the different members of royal houses. She keeps track of the birthdays of people belonging to different royal families and spends hours drawing their family trees. Before the war, Anne received postcards of the British Royal family from a cousin in England. In her room in the Secret Annex, she pastes her favorite images of Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret on the wall above her desk. Anne was also a frequent and rather vocal supporter of the Dutch Royal family, often to the irritation of the others in hiding. In the Occupied Netherlands, it is forbidden to openly express loyalty to the Dutch Crown.
"The three girls are lovely"
In 1943, a recent photo of the Dutch Royal family, who is exiled in Ottawa Canada, is smuggled into the Netherlands. A picture postcard produced from this photograph is illegally distributed throughout the country. During the war, many postcards similar to this one are made of the Dutch Royal family. The sale of these cards generates funds used to finance the activities of the Resistance, like helping people in hiding. Anne is given one of these cards by the Bep, a person working in Otto’s office who helps the people in hiding. Anne notes in her diary: “Bep has had a picture postcard of the whole royal family copied for me. Juliana looks very young, and so does the queen. The three girls are lovely. It was terribly nice of Bep, don’t you think?” (December 30, 1943) Anne first puts this postcard into her photo album. She later pins it to the wall, next to the image of the British Royal family, using a thumbtack. All of Anne's cards are refastened to the wall by somebody, in possession of a roll of tape, sometime after the war.
After the War
In the mid-fifties, when it seems likely that the Secret Annex wiil not be saved
from demolition, it occurs to Otto Frank to remove the map of Normandy; the height markings; and the collection of film stars on the left-hand wall of Anne’s room; complete with wallpaper and all. Later, for the opening of the Anne Frank House in 1960, the original ambience of Anne’s room is restored as best as possible for that time. However, the preservation of the cards and photos continues to be a constant concern of the museum. Restoration specialists are often consulted. Each of the images on the wall has its very own story to tell. Four visitors to Anne’s room are clearly made aware of this when, much to their great surprise, they are confronted with - themselves!
"It is somewhat strange"
For more than fifty years, her portrait hangs amidst the photos of film stars and other pictures in Anne Frank’s room. Millions of visitors come to the Secret Annex but nobody knows who that smiling girl is, until an old friend from America recognizes her. “It is somewhat strange, yes. But it’s me, that’s for certain,” says Joyce van der Veen. When she was thirteen-years-old, Joyce, a contemporary of Anne Frank, was renowned in the Netherlands as a talented dancer: “At that time, photographs were made of me for Margriet, a popular women’s magazine.” Shortly after the photograph was taken, Joyce and her family went into hiding because of their Jewish background. “After the war I became a dancer in Paris. I finally landed in the United States, where I worked as an actress…For Anne Frank, that picture must have been a symbol of the outside world. For me it was just a pretty picture. Amazing, because it’s only now that I realize how many people have seen this photograph.”
"I was very surprised'
Until recently, nothing was known about the image of a small angelic-looking girl on one of the walls of Anne’s room. That is, until the German Countess Nayhauss-Cormons contacted the Anne Frank Zentrum, the sister organization of the Anne Frank House in Berlin. The countess had discovered that she herself appears in one of the photos in Anne’s room. “I was very surprised. I do indeed appear in one of the photos that Anne had glued to the wall. I think this was an expression of her yearning for freedom and a normal life. I was approximately one-and-a-half years old when a photographer in Berlin, Hedda Walter, asked my mother if she could make a photograph of me. My mother agreed and over a period of years, a number of photos were taken. In this particular instance, I was about three or four years old. The photo was taken in the Karolinger Garten, a small park in Berlin that still exists. I had curly blonde hair, long dark eyelashes, and big blue eyes. I was wearing a long dress made of organza - a special kind of fabric - and I had a bow in my hair, which was then quite fashionable. This photograph appeared in 1936 in one of the well-known Germans women’s magazines (Elegance, Elegante Welt, or Silberspiegel). Afterwards, at a studio called Atelier Binder, a number of photos were made that were sometimes used for advertisements. My mother refused to accept money - it was not done in those days - but we both had a lot of fun. To me, these photographs are now part of a lovely memory.”
‘Is that you?’ ‘Yes, yes, it’s me…’
As a Jewish girl at the time of the Second World War, Marijke Otten was forced to go into hiding, as was her husband Daniel Otten. She had never felt the need to visit the Anne Frank House, but when they finally did visit the museum together, more or less by chance, their visit took an unexpected turn.
‘Just look at this!’, said Daniel as we were standing in Anne’s room. There was a photo of a little girl of about two years old, cut out of the Libelle magazine. It was me. At that moment my eyes misted over. I knew that photo. I’d seen it in my baby album all my life, with my mother’s caption written alongside it. Familiar, taken for granted even… All the people around me were so excited. ‘Is that you?’ ‘Yes, yes, it’s me…’
The photo was taken by Maria Austria, a well-known photographer of the time who sometimes supplied photos to Libelle. Marijke’s mother worked as her assistant. Anne Frank obviously thought the picture was cute, cut it out, and stuck it on the wall of her room.
Marijke had never wanted to visit the Anne Frank House, but in a way she’d been there all along…
‘I never noticed’
Marianne van der Heijden had often visited the Anne Frank House, but she only recently discovered that Anne Frank had put a picture of her on the wall of her room. ‘I used to be teacher, and I’d often brought my pupils to the Anne Frank House. Strangely enough, I never noticed back then that my photo was hanging there. I was much too busy keeping an eye on my class!’
Some years ago she was in the museum together with her son, who lived in Japan at the time, and some Japanese friends. ‘My son saw the photo straight away. We were dumbstruck, and our friends, who were great admirers of Anne Frank, were deeply moved.’
The photo was taken by a photographer from Tilburg, where Marianne was born. She was three years old when the photo was taken, and she has a framed print in her living room at home. ‘My mother knew Sis Heyster, a psychologist who wrote articles on education for Libelle magazine, and the photo was used to accompany one of those articles. It was a well known family tale that I’d been in the Libelle, that was something a bit special.’
Marianne doesn’t find it so important that so many visitors to the museum have seen her photo, but she hopes that her portrait brought Anne Frank some happiness. ‘Perhaps I meant something to her without even knowing it.’
"The monkeys have been asking about you"
During the restoration activities, as pictures were being removed from the wall, another surprisine came to light. The back of a picture postcard of chimpanzees can now be examined for the first time. Anne received this card in 1937 from her mother in England. Edith, who is there visiting family and friends, writes: