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Reconstruction: the arrest of the people in hiding

On 4 August 1944, Anne Frank and the other people in hiding were discovered and arrested. In this reconstruction, you will learn what we know about this day, when what they had feared for so long finally happened.

“A short man came in, holding a revolver that was pointed at me.”

Karl Silberbauer is in charge

Friday, 4 August 1944 was a warm and sunny day in Amsterdam. To the people in hiding, it was the 761th day in the Secret Annex, more than two years since the day Anne and her family had entered the hiding place on 6 July 1942.

Between half past ten and eleven in the morning, police officers showed up at the building at Prinsengracht 263. SS-Hauptscharführer Karl Silberbauer was in charge. At the warehouse on the ground floor, the officers addressed employee Willem van Maaren. He referred them to the first floor, where the office staff was. There are no indications that Willem, or the other warehouse workers, knew that there were people in hiding in the building.

On the first floor, the office staff were working when the door suddenly opened. Helper Miep Gies was one of the office staff. After the war, she said: ‘A short man came in, holding a revolver that was pointed at me.’ The police officers walked into Victor Kugler's office: as the managing director, he was responsible for the business operations. They questioned him and took him with them to search the building.

‘I said to myself: as long as it is only a house search'

After the war, Kugler said: ‘The police went upstairs to the storeroom in the main building, and they asked what we kept in all those crates, sacks, and bags. I had to open them all. I said to myself: if it is only a house search, I hope it will soon be over.’

During the inspection, they also came to the landing with the revolving bookcase. Casual observers would not notice that there was an entire house hidden behind the bookcase, but the police officers discovered the entrance to the Secret Annex.

“My wife, the children, and the Van Pels family all stood there with their hands up in the air.”

Anne's diary papers fall to the ground

The people in hiding were completely taken by surprise. For more than two years they had been living with the constant fear of discovery. And now, without any warning, the moment had come. Otto: ‘I was upstairs with the Van Pels family in Peter's room, helping him with his schoolwork. Suddenly someone came running up the stairs and then the door opened and there was a man right in front of us with a pistol in his hand. Downstairs they were all gathered. My wife, the children, and the Van Pels family all stood there with their hands up in the air.’

Fritz Pfeffer was also taken into the room. The people in hiding had to hand in their valuables. Silberbauer took Otto's briefcase, which contained Anne's diary papers, and emptied it out to put the valuables in. Anne's diary papers fell to the wooden floor. The group had to prepare for departure.

Police officers take the helpers and the people from the Secret Annex away

Helpers Victor Kugler and Johannes Kleiman were arrested together with the eight people from the Secret Annex. The police officers took them away. By then, it was around 1 pm: the raid had taken a little over two hours.

Jan Gies, the husband of helper Miep, came by to have lunch with the people in hiding, as he often did. Miep warned him about the presence of the police officers and Jan immediately left and went back to his place of work. There he reflected: what could he do?

He decided to go to the brother of helper Johannes, who worked on the Bloemgracht, near the hiding place. Together, they walked to the bridge on the other side of the canal, from where they saw the people from the Secret Annex and their helpers getting into the police van.

Interrogation

The group of eight was taken to the SD building on the Euterpestraat. The officers locked them in a large room with the arrested helpers. Then they were taken in for interrogation.

The officers tried to find out if the helpers or people from the Secret Annex knew of other hiding addresses. Johannes Kleiman and Victor Kugler kept silent. Otto Frank said that after 25 months in the Secret Annex, they had lost all contact with friends and acquaintances and therefore knew nothing.

Then the people from the Secret Annex and the helpers were separated. Johannes Kleiman and Victor Kugler were taken to the detention centre at the Amstelveenseweg, the eight people from the Secret Annex to the detention centre at the Weteringschans.

“Later, Bep and I went upstairs to the Franks' bedrooms. (...) And there we saw Anne’s diary papers all over the floor.”

Miep and Bep find Anne's diary

Some time after the arrest, helpers Miep Gies and Bep Voskuijl went  to the Secret Annex with Willem van Maaren. Anne's diary papers were still scattered on the floor. Miep later said: ‘Later, Bep and I went upstairs to the Franks' bedrooms. And there we saw Anne’s diary papers all over the floor.’ Miep and Bep picked up the papers and took them to the office.

There, Miep kept the papers in a drawer. Of the eight people in hiding, Otto was the only one to survive the war. When he returned to Amsterdam after the liberation, Miep gave him the papers.