The main characters

Johan Voskuijl

Shortly after moving into the Secret Annex, the people in hiding decided to take Johan Voskuijl into their confidence, alone among the warehouse employees. Before long, he became a great help to them. ‘He is as helpful as can be’, Anne wrote on 21 August 1942.

Johan was Bep's father. He joined Opekta in 1941 as the warehouse manager, presumably through the intercession of his daughter. Bep worked in the office and, together with the other office staff, was closely involved in caring for the people in hiding from the very beginning. 

Johan and the other warehouse employees were not aware of the people in hiding. They had not been informed, in order to keep the group that was in the know small. Eventually the people in hiding decided to inform Johan as well.

The builder of the bookcase

Before long, it was a great reassurance knowing he would keep an eye on the situation in the warehouse. Johan would also make sure that the waste from the Secret Annex disappeared unnoticed in the morning. But that was not all. In August 1942, he built a hinged bookcase to conceal the entrance to the Secret Annex. 

Johan was handy, as is apparent from the beautiful Saint Nicholas gifts he made for the people in hiding: an ashtray for Hermann van Pels (people smoked a lot in the Secret Annex), a portrait frame for Fritz Pfeffer, and bookends for Otto Frank. Anne was filled with admiration: ‘How anyone is able to make things so well with his hands is a mystery to me!’

‘It’s a disaster for us that good Mr. Voskuyl is no longer around to keep us up to date on everything that he hears and that happens in the storeroom.’

A great loss

The people in hiding felt a great loss when he had to stop working in the summer of 1943. Johan suffered from stomach cancer. On 15 June 1943, Anne wrote: ‘It is a disaster for us that good old Voskuyl won't be able to keep us in touch with all that goes on, and all he hears in the warehouse. He was our best helper and security adviser; we miss him very much indeed.’

Still, Johan Voskuijl did not disappear completely from the lives of the people in hiding. In September 1943, Anne wrote that he would occasionally visit the Secret Annex, although he was in very poor health. And when the people in hiding discussed what they would do first once they were free again, Otto Frank indicated that he would visit Johan.Otto did not get the chance until June 1945. Johan Voskuijl died a few months later, on 27 November 1945, 53 years old.

References
  1. Netherlands State Institute for War Documentation [NIOD], The Diary of Anne Frank: the revised critical edition (New York, NY: Doubleday, 2003), B-version, 7 December 1942
  2. NIOD, The Diary of Anne Frank, B-version, 15 June 1943
  3. NIOD, The Diary of Anne Frank, B-version, 23 July 1943.