Anne Frank was thirteen years old when she and her family went into hiding in Amsterdam, her world contracting to a few small rooms behind a bookcase in her father’s office building. Three days later, she wrote the following entry in her diary and described the “secret annex” in which she would spend the next two years—a period during which the Nazis would rule the Netherlands with an iron fist and send countless Jews to concentration camps. Tragically, Hitler’s men discovered the Franks’ annex two years later, leading to Anne and her sister’s untimely deaths in Bergen-Belsen. Her diary has since become one of the most significant documents of the 20th century, providing an intimate and poignant view of life during the Holocaust and a voice to the countless lives lost to humanity’s darkest period.
The Diary Entry
Thursday, July 9, 1942
So there we were, Father, Mother and I, walking in the pouring rain, each of us with a schoolbag and a shopping bag filled to the brim with the most varied assortment of items. The people on their way to work at that early hour gave us sympathetic looks; you could tell by their faces that they were sorry they couldn’t offer us some kind of transportation; the conspicuous yellow star spoke for itself.
Only when we were walking down the street did Father and Mother reveal, little by little, what the plan was. For months we’d been moving as much of our furniture and apparel out of the apartment as we could. It was agreed that we’d go into hiding on July 16. Because of Margot’s call-up notice, the plan had to be moved up ten days, which meant we’d have to make do with less orderly rooms.
The hiding place was located in Father’s office building. That’s a little hard for outsiders to understand, so I’ll explain. Father didn’t have a lot of people working in his office, just Mr. Kugler, Mr. Kleiman, Miep and a twenty-three-year-old typist named Bep Voskuijl, all of whom were informed of our coming. Mr. Voskuijl, Bep’s father, works in the warehouse, along with two assistants, none of whom were told anything.
Here’s a description of the building. The large warehouse on the ground floor is used as a workroom and storeroom and is divided into several different sections, such as the stockroom and the milling room, where cinnamon, cloves and a pepper substitute are ground.
Next to the warehouse doors is another outside door, a separate entrance to the office. Just inside the office door is a second door, and beyond that a stairway. At the top of the stairs is another door, with a frosted window on which the word “Office” is written in black letters. This is the big front office—very large, very light and very full. Bep, Miep and Mr. Kleiman work there during the day. After passing through an alcove containing a safe, a wardrobe and a big supply cupboard, you come to the small, dark, stuffy back office. This used to be shared by Mr. Kugler and Mr. van Daan, but now Mr. Kugler is its only occupant. Mr. Kugler’s office can also be reached from the hallway, but only through a glass door that can be opened from the inside but not easily from the outside. If you leave Mr. Kugler’s office and proceed through the long, narrow hallway past the coal bin and go up four steps, you find yourself in the private office, the showpiece of the entire building. Elegant mahogany furniture, a linoleum floor covered with throw rugs, a radio, a fancy lamp, everything first class. Next door is a spacious kitchen with a hot-water heater and two gas burners, and beside that a bathroom. That’s the second floor.
A wooden staircase leads from the downstairs hallway to the third floor. At the top of the stairs is a landing, with doors on either side. The door on the left takes you up to the spice storage area, attic and loft in the front part of the house. A typically Dutch, very steep, ankle-twisting flight of stairs also runs from the front part of the house to another door opening onto the street.
The door to the right of the landing leads to the “Secret Annex” at the back of the house. No one would ever suspect there were so many rooms behind that plain gray door.
There’s just one small step in front of the door, and then you’re inside. Straight ahead of you is a steep flight of stairs. To the left is a narrow hallway opening onto a room that serves as the Frank family’s living room and bedroom. Next door is a smaller room, the bedroom and study of the two young ladies of the family. To the right of the stairs is a windowless washroom. with a link. The door in the corner leads to the toilet and another one to Margot’s and my room. If you go up the stairs and open the door at the top, you’re surprised to see such a large, light and spacious room in an old canalside house like this. It contains a stove (thanks to the fact hat it used to be Mr. Kugler’s laboratory) and a sink.
This will be the kitchen and bedroom of Mr. and Mrs. van Daan, as well as the general living room, dining room and study for us all. A tiny side room is to be Peter van Daan’s bedroom. Then, just as in the front part of the building, there’s an attic and a loft. So there you are. Now I’ve introduced you to the whole of our lovely Annex!
Anne Frank’s diary, known in English as The Diary of a Young Girl, was published posthumously in 1947 by her father, Otto, the only survivor from the secret annex. It has since been translated into over 70 languages.
To learn more about Anne Frank and her diary, visit…
- Anne Frank House Museum, maintained by the Anne Frank Stichting, which conserves the Frank family’s hiding place, displays an exhibition on the life and times of Anne Frank, and promotes her diaries.
- Anne Frank Fonds, established by Anne’s father, Otto Frank, which manages the rights to her diary and works toward promoting education and humanitarian ideals.
- Anne Frank on Wikipedia.
Excerpted from THE DIARY OF A YOUNG GIRL: THE DEFINITIVE EDITION by Anne Frank, edited by Otto H. Frank and Mirjam Pressler, translated by Susan Massotty, translation copyright © 1995 by Penguin Random House LLC. Used by permission of Doubleday, an imprint of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. 815 words from THE DIARY OF A YOUNG GIRL: THE DEFINITIVE EDITION by Anne Frank, edited by Otto H Frank and Mirjam Pressler, translated by Susan Massotty (Viking, 1997) copyright © The Anne Frank-Fonds, Basle, Switzerland, 1991. English translation copyright © Doubleday a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group Inc, 1995.