De geheime ingang van het Achterhuis

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Bookcase

A bookcase as a secret entrance

In the summer of 1942, the Nazis threatened to carry out house searches if the Dutch continued to refuse to hand in their bicycles. Bicycles were valuable assets in wartime, which is why the Nazis wanted them.

If the front of the building on the Prinsengracht was ever searched, the people in hiding would very likely be discovered.

It became therefore necessary to protect the hiding place better, and helper Johan Voskuijl built a revolving bookcase. This video shows how the secret entrance worked.

Entree met trap woonkamer Achterhuis

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Stairs

Anne on the stairs

‘The warnings start to come out of my ears, I haven’t been sleeping well and don’t feel like working’, Anne wrote on 26 July 1943. The nerves of the people in hiding were frayed with the constant air-raid alarms, the sound of the German defence artillery, bombings, and air combat. They often did not sleep a wink at night and were frightened and worried during the day. What if things would go wrong? There was nowhere they could go. 

Anne came up with an unusual solution for dealing with her fear: ‘at the first loud explosions one runs to the nearest set of wooden stairs, runs up and down them and makes sure, in the course of these repetitions, to fall at least once, even if only gently. The cuts and scratches and the noise made by running and falling see to it that one is too preoccupied to hear the shooting and doesn’t think about it anymore. Yours truly has tried out this ideal procedure, and not without success!’ [2 June 1944]

De badkamer: één toilet en wastafel voor acht mensen

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Growing up

In love, vain, and insecure: Anne is growing up

Anne longed to be an adult, but she also experienced the insecurities of growing up. She fell in love, was a typical teenager, and doubted whether she was beautiful enough. She confided her feelings of uncertainty to Kitty, her imaginary friend.

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Flushing the toilet

A dangerous half hour in the Secret Annex

Between 8:30 and 9:00 am, the people in hiding had to keep very quiet, and the toilet and washbasin could not be used, as the pipes happened to run straight through the warehouse.

The warehouse workers started earlier than the helpers in the offices. They did not know that there were people hiding in the Secret Annex and were not supposed to find out.

Once the helpers had started their working day at nine o'clock, the people in hiding could flush the toilet without raising suspicions: the warehouse staff just assumed that the noise came from the office staff.

Of course, the toilet could still not be flushed too often, because that would attract attention.

Kamer van Anne Frank en Fritz Pfeffer

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Spying on the neighbours

Spying on the neighbours

When the people in hiding had to save on electricity - which was rationed as well - Anne discovered a game to beat the boredom.

Reading at dusk didn't work, so she took out the binoculars to peek from the dark Secret Annex into the brightly lit rooms of the neighbours who still had electricity.

A few neighbours had just started dinner, a family was filming, and a dentist was still at work. Anne was pleasantly surprised. ‘I never knew that neighbors could be such interesting people, at least ours are.’ [Anne Frank, Version B, 28 November 1942]

Once it got really dark, the fun was over: every window had to be blacked out.

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Room decoration

Anne decorated her room with pictures of Hollywood stars, art, and royalty

Anne's room was cramped and bare. To brighten things up, she pasted pictures of landscapes, movie stars, members of the Royal Family, and art on the walls.

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Anne is growing fast

‘Uncommonly pretty’ - Anne receives a pair of red shoes

As a teenager, Anne was growing fast during the hiding period. Her clothes were getting too small and her shoes started to pinch. By March 1943, she only had a pair of clumsy ski boots to walk in. One of the helpers brought her a pair of reed sandals, but they broke down in no time at all.

In the end, helper Miep managed to buy her a pair of red suede shoes with high heels for a considerable sum. ‘Uncommonly pretty’, Anne said, and she was quite proud of them. ‘It’s like walking on stilts and makes me look much taller than I am.’ [Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl, 10 August 1943]

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Arguing with Fritz

A big fight over a little table

It was not easy for Anne to share her small room with a man as old as her father. At the same time, Fritz Pfeffer had a hard time dealing with Anne, a rebellious teenager. The first signs of friction were soon to follow. 

Their main conflict had to do with the writing desk. When Anne indicated that she would like to divide the time at the table more evenly, so that they could both work in peace, Fritz refused. He felt that Anne’s work was not important, unlike his study of Spanish, Dutch, and English. Anne was enraged and calm at the same time. ‘Stay calm, this fellow isn’t worth worrying your head about!’ [Anne Frank, The best little table, 13 July 1943]

Things got so heated that Anne asked her father to intervene. Eventually, Fritz gave in, but he did so reluctantly. Looking back on the argument, Anne wrote: ‘Pfeffer looked very sullen, didn’t talk to me for two days and made a point of sitting at the table from 5 to 5.30 anyway... childish, of course.’ [Anne Frank, The best little table, 13 July 1943]

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The Diary

The diary: Anne’s dearest possession

When Anne had to go into hiding, the diary quickly turned out to be a great support to her. This video tells the story behind the diary, what writing meant to Anne, and how the diary became world famous.

Kamer van Otto Edith Margot Frank

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Reading

When the people in hiding had to be quiet, Otto Frank read Dickens

When the people in hiding had to be quiet, Otto Frank preferred to read books by Charles Dickens. He would usually keep a dictionary at hand, to improve his English. He would read between 8:30 and 9:00 am.

That was when the warehouse workers started their working day, while the helpers in the office were not there yet. The men in the warehouse were not to know that there were people hiding in the Secret Annex. 

Any noise from upstairs might arouse suspicion, and so the people in hiding were absolutely forbidden from using the water drainage that ran along the storeroom. ‘Not a drop of water, no WC, no walking, everything quiet.’ [Anne Frank, ‘Wenn die Uhr halb neune schlägt’, 6 augustus 1943; in ‘The secret annex’ 23 august 1943].

Anne wrote in her diary. When the helpers arrived by 9 am, the people in hiding sighed with relief: time for breakfast. Otto would put his Dickens away for the day.

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A day in the Secret Annex

A day in the Secret Annex

What was the daily routine of the people hiding in the Secret Annex, how did they fight boredom, and what were the dangers they faced? No two days were the same, but in her diary, Anne tried to describe an average day in the Secret Annex.

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Religion

Anne and religion

Edith Frank was a religious woman. Unlike Otto, she had regularly gone to synagogue before they went into hiding. She had also brought her prayer books to the Secret Annex.

When Otto decided to read to Anne from the works of classical German writers such as Goethe and Schiller, Edith gave Anne her prayer book, with prayers in German and Hebrew. This did not go down well. ‘Out of courtesy I’ve read a few prayers in German, I think they’re nice but it doesn’t do much for me.’

After the war, Otto confirmed this impression. ‘I remember that Anne never paid special attention when we celebrated Jewish holidays or when Mr Pfeffer said the Friday evening prayers. She would just quietly stand there. I believe that the religious aspects of Judaism meant little to her, although the ethics of the doctrine did.’ [Otto Frank, memories of Anne Frank, 1968]

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Hope

Hope in the Secret Annex after the invasion of Normandy

On 6 June 1944, the people in hiding received wonderful news: Allied troops had landed on the French coast, in Normandy. Would this finally mean the end of the war and the German occupation?

The people in hiding hoped the war would soon come to an end. Margot told Anne that she might return to school as early as October. 

The people in hiding followed the news closely: via the BBC, German reports, and German and Dutch newspapers. Otto Frank cut a map of Normandy from the De Telegraaf newspaper of 8 June. He used pins to carefully track the progress of the Allies.

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Anne is growing

Anne had a grow spurt of 13 centimetres in two years’ time

When Otto, Edith, Margot, and Anne entered the Secret Annex, they had no idea how long they would have to stay there.

As time went on, Otto and Edith noticed that Anne was growing fast. Her clothes no longer fit, and she did not have proper shoes to wear. With height marks on the wall, Otto kept track of Anne’s growth.

In the period of little over two years that she was in hiding, Anne grew 13 centimetres. Margot was sixteen years old when she entered the Secret Annex, and she only grew one centimetre while she was there.

Kamer van Hermann en Auguste van Pels

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The stock exchange game

The stock exchange game

On 8 November 1942, Peter celebrated his first birthday in the hiding place; he turned 16. In her diary, Anne listed the presents he had received: a lighter, a mirror, a shaver, a shaving brush, a tie, some candy, and a Stock exchange game from the office staff.

Anne mentioned the Stock Exchange game once more, when they played the game for two consecutive afternoons at Easter 1944.

After the people in hiding were arrested, the Stock Exchange game was left behind in the hiding place; the original game board has been preserved.

The game revolves around trading in equities, such as rubber, oil, sugar, and tobacco. The game board shows a map of the then Dutch East Indies. Peter dreamed of going there after the war to work on a plantation.

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The food gets worse

The longer the war, the worse the food

When they had just gone into hiding, the food was still fairly good, but before long, it became more difficult to get food of a reasonable quality. ‘Blech, the mere thought that I have to eat that swill makes me nauseated!' [Anne Frank, 14 March 1944] 

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Friction

Friction and reconciliation

The eight people in hiding tried to keep their spirits up as best they could. The constant fear of discovery generated tension, and the differences in character caused friction, too.

In October 1943, Anne said: ‘My head is still swimming from all the bad language that has flown through this respectable house in the last month (...) To be honest, I sometimes forget who we’re having a fight with and with whom we have already made up.' [Anne Frank, 17 October 1943, B-Version]

Still, there was frequent laughter at the table, and the Jewish holidays and birthdays were a source of cheerfulness, too. The helpers were called on to help find gifts.

Kamer Peter van Pels

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Overalls

Peter's clothes: overalls during the week, his good suit on Sundays

In one of her tales, Anne elaborated on Peter, his room, and his clothes. When it came to his clothes, there was a big difference between weekdays and Sundays.

During the week, Peter preferred to wear blue overalls with a wide brown belt and white socks. The overalls were convenient, because he did a lot of tinkering and carpentry.

According to Anne, Peter was careful with them, because he didn’t want them to be washed too often. The scarcity made it difficult to get new overalls during the war.

On Sundays, Peter would put on his best clothes, presumably to keep up a semblance of normality. ‘A nice suit, neat shoes, a shirt, a necktie, in any case there is no need for me to sum up all the rest, for everyone must know what decent clothing is like.’ [Anne Frank, My first interview, 22 February 1944]

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Peters bicycle

The money was running out: even Peter's bike was put up for sale

It is a strange sight: Peter’s bicycle, hanging on the wall of his room, neatly wrapped in brown paper, waiting for better days.

As the war dragged on, the Van Pels family started to run out of money, and they tried to sell some of their things. A suit of Hermann’s, clothes of Auguste’s, and Peter’s bike.

One of the helpers tried to sell it, but no one wanted to buy it. Still, Peter never rode his bike again.

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First kiss

Anne’s first kiss

When Peter van Pels and his parents first came to the Secret Annex, Anne did not like him much. Yet slowly but surely, they developed a friendship and even fell in love. They first kissed in the attic of the Secret Annex.

Zolder van het Achterhuis

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Daydreaming

Daydreaming by the attic window

‘As long as this still exists, I cannot be sad.' [Anne Frank, 17 February 1944.]

To prevent discovery, the people in hiding kept away from windows that had not been blacked out. The attic window was the exception, and it gave Anne a chance to look outside.

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The Attic

The attic: rats, cats, and a place to be alone

‘I go up to the loft almost every morning to let the stuffy indoor air blow out of my lungs’, Anne wrote on 23 February 1944. The attic was the only place where she could be alone for a while or talk to Peter undisturbed.

Other than that, the people in hiding used the room mainly for storage purposes. There was a pantry, a barrel of potatoes, there were bags of beans, and laundry drying on the clothes lines.

The attic was not suitable for sleeping. It was not insulated, and rats sometimes roamed the loft. Fortunately, the cats, like Peter's cat Mouschi, kept the problem somewhat under control.

Landing with bookcase

The revolving bookcase on the landing concealed the entrance to the Secret Annex. Helper Johan Voskuijl built the bookcase.

Entrance

From this landing, the Frank family's room is to the left, the bathroom is to the right, and the room of Mr and Mrs Van Pels is up the stairs.

Otto, Edith, and Margot Frank’s room

During the daytime, this was the living room of the Frank family; at night, it was converted into the bedroom of Otto, Edith, and Margot.

Room of Anne Frank and Fritz Pfeffer

Anne, a sharp-tongued teenager, shared a room with Fritz Pfeffer, a man her father’s age. This caused tensions.

Bathroom

The bathroom has a sink and toilet, which the eight people in hiding had to share. Anne had her turn every evening from 9:00 pm to 9:30 pm.

The room of Hermann and Auguste van Pels

This is where the people in hiding cooked and ate together, and where they listened to the radio. At night, the room was converted into the bedroom of Mr and Mrs Van Pels.

Peter van Pels´s room

At first, Anne felt that Peter was thick and boring, but later on, the two fell in love. Anne had her first kiss in this room. The stairs lead to the attic of the Secret Annex.

The attic of the Secret Annex

The attic is where the people in hiding stored their food and hung up their laundry. Anne came here when she wanted to be alone or talk to Peter.