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A typical day in the Secret Annex

Anne Frank spent 761 days in the Secret Annex. Although each day was different from the last, there was a certain rhythm to life in the Secret Annex. Based on Anne's diary and a few of her short stories, we can reconstruct what typical weekdays and Sundays in the Secret Annex would have been like.

In the morning

At 6:45 am, the alarm of Mr and Mrs Van Pels went off. Hermann van Pels got up, put the kettle on, and went to the bathroom. After fifteen minutes, the bathroom was free again and it was Fritz Pfeffer's turn. Anne got up and removed the blackout screens from the windows. The people in hiding took turns using the bathroom.

At 8:30 am, a risky half hour started. The men in the warehouse started their working day, while the office helpers had not yet arrived. Any noise from the people in hiding was dangerous, as the warehouse was located below the hiding place and the warehouse staff were unaware of the people in hiding.

At 9:00 am, the helpers started working in the office above the warehouse. The people in hiding walked around in socks and still had to be quiet, but sounds from above now caused less suspicion. The rest of the morning was devoted to reading, studying, and preparing for their lunch break.

The lunchbreak

At 12:30 pm, the warehouse workers went home for lunch, and the helpers and people in hiding had the place to themselves for a while. At 12:45 pm, a few of the helpers, usually Johannes Kleiman, Victor Kugler and Bep Voskuijl, came up to the Secret Annex to have lunch. In the beginning, Johan Voskuijl (Bep’s father) often came up, too. Jan Gies (Miep's husband) frequently joined them as well, although he worked elsewhere.

Miep Gies usually stayed in the office to keep an eye on things. For the people in hiding, it was nice to see other people and to hear the latest news from the city. At 1 pm, the radio was switched on for the BBC news. At 1:15 pm, they had lunch and at 1:45 pm, the helpers went back to work.

In the afternoon

After the people in hiding had cleared everything away, most of them took an afternoon nap. Anne used that time for studying or writing. Around four o’clock, they had coffee and then started on the preparations for dinner.

At 5:30 pm, the warehouse workers went home. Helper Bep Voskuijl usually came by to see if the people in hiding needed anything. After she had gone home at a quarter to six, the people in hiding were no longer restricted to the Secret Annex and they spread out through the building.

In the evening

Hermann van Pels looked at the day’s post, Peter van Pels fetched the bread that had been left for them in the office, Otto Frank wrote business letters on the typewriter, Margot and Anne did administrative chores and Auguste van Pels and Edith Frank cooked dinner.

After dinner, they read, talked, or listened to the radio. Around 9 pm, they started preparing for the night. Pieces of furniture had to be moved, for instance in the room of Hermann and Auguste van Pels. Just like in the morning, they took turns using the bathroom.

Every day when the sun went down, the windows had to be blacked out. After that, the Secret Annex went quiet. The next morning, the alarm went off at 6:45 am again, except on Sundays.

A Sunday in the Secret Annex

A Sunday in the Secret Annex had a completely different rhythm to it and was characterised by 'scrubbing, sweeping and washing', as Anne wrote in her story 'Sunday'. The people in hiding were slow to get going. The first one to get up was Fritz Pfeffer; at 8:00 am he was the first to go to the bathroom. The Van Pels family were next. One of Anne's ‘ordeals' was watching Fritz Pfeffer pray for fifteen minutes. ‘....’  From 10:15 am onwards, it was the Frank family’s turn.

Breakfast did not start until 11:30 am on Sundays. After three quarters of an hour, everyone went to work: scrubbing the carpets, doing the laundry, making the beds.

An extended siesta

After a short break, during which they listened to the news, the cleaning and tidying up continued until about two o'clock. After another round of radio news, a music program and coffee, it was time for an extended siesta. At 2 pm, they would go back to bed for a few hours. Anne did not understand ‘why the adults around here always need to sleep?’

‘Outside, fresh air and laughter’

The most miserable day of the week

Anne considered Sunday the most miserable day of the week. 'I wander from one room to the next, down the stairs and back up again and feel like a songbird that has had its wings torn off and flies against the bars of its cage in total darkness. “Outside, fresh air and laughter,” a voice inside me screams; I don’t even try to answer anymore, I lie down on a divan and sleep in order to shorten the time, the silence,  the terrible fear too, because there is no question of killing them.'

Before dinner, they listened to a concert on the radio. After dinner and the dishes, Anne was 'overjoyed', because another incredibly boring Sunday in the Secret Annex was over.