A wooden staircase ascends from the floor where the offices are located to the landing in front of the movable bookcase. The helpers use this staircase when they want to go to the Secret Annex.

‘Kugler comes up the stairs hurry-scurry, a short sturdy knock on the door and in he comes, wringing his hands in proportion to his mood, either good-tempered and boisterous or bad tempered and silent.’

The people in hiding are helped by Otto Frank’s four employees: Miep Gies, Johannes Kleiman, Victor Kugler and Bep Voskuijl. Miep’s husband Jan Gies helps too; and Bep’s father Jan Voskuijl is also involved.

The four helpers have worked at Opekta for some time: Miep Gies and Victor Kugler since 1933 and Bep Voskuijl since 1937. Though Johannes Kleiman only starts working at Opekta in 1938, Otto Frank has known him since 1923. There is a very friendly rapport between the director and the company personnel.

Completely dependent

From the moment they go into hiding, the Frank and Van Pels’ families - and later Fritz Pfeffer - are completely dependent on the four helpers. After July 6, 1942, the lives of Miep Gies, Victor Kugler, Johannes Kleiman and Bep Voskuijl are almost completely dominated by the inhabitants of the Secret Annex. Still, unlike the people in hiding, every now and then, the helpers can forget their worries with a short vacation, a film, or by going to visit acquaintances and friends.

'They come upstairs every day and talk to the men about business and politics, to the women about food and wartime difficulties and to the children about books and newspapers. They put on their most cheerful expressions, bring flowers and gifts for birthdays and holidays and are always ready to do what they can.' - Anne Frank, 28 January 1944.

Business as usual

While the people in hiding are living in the Secret Annex, Otto Frank’s business continues to operate as usual. The people who work in the warehouse on the ground floor are not aware of anything, except the warehouse manager, Johan Voskuijl, Bep's father. At the end of August 1942, he builds the movable bookcase to conceal the entrance to the Secret Annex.