The Anne Frank House in
Statue of Anne Frank
stands on Westerkerk plaza near the Anne Frank House
After entering the "secret Annex"
from the second floor, through the door that is concealed by
a bookcase, you are standing in a tiny vestibule. In front of
you is the extremely steep staircase up to the third floor; straight
ahead of you, on the left side of the vestibule, is the door
to the room of Mr. and Mrs. Frank and their daughter Margot.
To the right is the door to the bathroom.
The tour proceeds into the parents' room,
which is part of a large room which has been divided by a wall
to create two rooms; the other part is Anne's room which she
shared with the dentist, Dr. Friedrich Pfeffer. The parents'
room is 13 feet long by 8 feet wide and Anne's room is 13 feet
long by 6 feet wide. A door on the right-hand wall of the parents'
room opens into Anne's room.
Before Dr. Pfeffer joined the Franks
and the van Pels in the annex, Anne shared her room with her
sister, Margot. After four months, 16-year-old Margot moved into
the room that her parents shared, to make room for Dr. Pfeffer
to move in with Anne.
Although Anne was 13 years old at that
time, and very precocious, her parents obviously still considered
her to be a child or they would never have allowed a grown man
to sleep in the same room with her. Dr. Pfeffer was the same
age as Anne's father; both were born in 1889, the same year as
their arch enemy, Adolf Hitler. According to Anne's diary, her
parents had a marriage of convenience and Otto was not in love
with his wife, so apparently having their teen-aged daughter
sleeping in the same room with them did not bother them.
Anne did not get along with her roommate,
Dr. Pfeffer. They fought constantly and each one disapproved
of the other. On display is a farewell letter which Dr. Pfeffer
wrote to his fiancee, Charlotte Kaletta. Anne was critical of
Dr. Pfeffer writing and mailing letters while he was in hiding,
as this could have given away their secret.
On March 19, 1943, Anne wrote:
"Pfeffer not only writes letters
to his wife, but also carries on a busy correspondence with various
The walls of Anne's room and her parents'
room are both covered with a tan colored wall paper that looks
like wallboard. In the parents' room, the walls on both of the
long sides have oily stains at the level where the occupants
would have rested their heads against the wall while seated on
the narrow beds.
Anne's bed was on the right-hand side
of the room as you stand at the door, facing the window. Anne's
bed was actually a divan or sofa, according to her diary. The
divan was only 1.5 meters long or about 4.5 feet. Anne was five
feet tall and, according to her diary, she had to use a chair
to extend the divan for sleeping. On Dr. Pfeffer's side of the
room was the small desk where Ann wrote her diary. At the end
of Dr. Pfeffer's bed stood his dentist's drill, which he had
occasion to use a couple of times. In her diary, Anne mentions
that she had to have a root canal in one of her front teeth.
Between Anne's bed and the rear window,
there is a cupboard built into the lower part of the wall. The
door of the cupboard is covered with wallpaper, so that it is
hardly noticeable. The cupboard was closed when I visited and
it was probably nailed shut. In the cupboard, Anne kept her prized
possessions including a pair of red high-heeled shoes which Miep
had bought for her second-hand.
A drawing of the house, which I saw in
the museum, shows that there was a chimney for a fireplace behind
the wall next to the cupboard, but if there was ever a fireplace
in the room, it is now closed up. The parents' room had one of
the two stoves in the annex; the other one was upstairs in the
room where the van Pels family slept. The stove in the Franks'
room, which is gone now, was against the left-hand wall and the
stovepipe went through the wall, directly to the outside, not
into a chimney.
Both Anne's room and her parents' room
have windows which overlook the walled garden in the open space
in the center of the city block. Just after the Franks moved
in, Anne and her father made sheer curtains and hung them up
so that the neighbors in the house behind them could not see
in. Since the annex had previously been a factory and had not
been used for two years, the sudden new addition of curtains
might have alerted the neighbors that something was going on,
but most of the Dutch people sympathized with the Jews and would
not even think of reporting them to the Nazis. At night, the
windows in the annex had to be covered with blackout cloth, like
all the windows in Amsterdam during the war.
When I visited the annex in September
2002, the curtains were gone, but the windows were covered on
the inside with screens, which looked like cloth. The screens
were closed by wooden pegs that had been nailed shut. The cloth
screens prevent visitors from getting a good look at the garden
in the enclosed courtyard. From what little I could see, there
are several trees in the open space. In her Diary, Anne mentioned
looking out at the chestnut trees from the attic window. I walked
around the entire block where the Anne Frank House is located
and I did not see any opening from the street into the interior
courtyard, although there surely must be such an entry.
Both of the long walls of Anne's room
are decorated with photographs which Anne's father thoughtfully
brought along to the annex just before they moved in. They have
been covered with glass to preserve them. Her choice of photographs
is surprising since there are only non-Jews in the pictures that
she displayed on the wall. Included are pictures of unidentified
blond children which Anne had clipped from magazines. There are
pictures of Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret of Great
Britain who were about the same age as Anne. There is a photo
of a German actor, named Rühmann, that I had never heard
of before and pictures of Anne's favorite American movie stars
cut from magazines. I recognized the photographs of Merle Oberon,
Greta Garbo, Deanna Durbin and Ginger Rogers, which Anne had
cut out of movie magazines. Strangely, her walls did not have
a photo of Hedy Lamarr, a Jewish actress, who was considered
the most beautiful woman in the world at that time. Instead of
putting a picture of one of the famous Jewish actors like Edward
G. Robinson on her wall, Anne chose Ray Milland, a non-Jewish
English-born actor who was popular in American at that time.
There is also a color photographic print
of some strawberry plants in bloom with some ripe strawberries
ready for picking. Her father owned an expensive Leica camera
and this may have been some of his work. Anne also put an advertising
poster for her father's company, Opekta, on her wall.
Anne wrote on July 11, 1942, five days
after moving into the annex:
"Our little room looked very
bare at first with nothing on the walls; but thanks to Daddy
who had brought my picture postcards and film-star collection
on beforehand, and with the aid of paste pot and brush I have
transformed the walls into one gigantic picture. This makes it
look much more cheerful."
On the other side of the wall of Anne's
room was the annex of the building at 265 Prinsengracht. There
is a light fixture on the ceiling which consists of a bare bulb
with a lampshade around it. When I visited the annex in September
2002, there was a modern portable heater in Anne's room. I noticed
a security camera near the ceiling in Anne's room so that visitors
can be monitored.
There is no furniture now in any of the
rooms where the 8 people were in hiding. The furniture was removed
by the Nazis shortly after the fugitives were taken to police
headquarters for transport to the transit camp at Westerbork.
If there were any furniture in the rooms now, there would be
no place for the tourists to walk, as these rooms are very small
The 8 people in the annex had to share
one bathroom and it could not be used during daytime hours because
the sound of the toilet flushing could have been heard by the
employees working in the office just below Anne's room. Some
of Otto Frank's workers didn't know that anyone was hiding in
the building. In her diary, Anne mentions going downstairs to
the toilet on the first floor on occasion, after the workers
had left the building.
The most surprising thing about the annex
is the toilet. The toilet bowl is white porcelain with blue flowers
on the inside of the bowl, reminiscent of Delft pottery. In today's
world, such a fancy toilet bowl would be very expensive. The
toilet has no seat on it, but this was common in Europe back
then. Above the toilet is an old fashioned pull chain for flushing.
The toilet is in a little closet and is separate from the rest
of the bathroom. There is a sink with only one faucet for cold
water. Gone now is the dresser that was part of the bathroom
furnishings. There is no bathtub or shower stall in the bathroom.
This part of the bathroom is big enough that it could also serve
as a place where Anne could go to get away from the others for
some privacy. In her diary, Anne mentions using the bathroom
to curl her hair and to bleach the hair on her upper lip.
There are two doors into the bathroom,
one from the hallway and one from Anne's room. To get to her
room, Anne had to go through either the bathroom or her parents'
room. The door from the bathroom into Anne's room has a panel
of frosted glass, and there are also windows next to the door
with frosted glass which let some light from the rear windows
in Anne's room into the windowless bathroom.
All the stairs in the Anne Frank House
are extremely steep and narrow. In case you are wondering just
how they managed to get furniture into the rooms on the upper
floors, the photograph below will explain it. On the roof top
you can see a small extension for a pulley in the attic which
was used to hoist the furniture up and through the windows. The
center house in the photograph is the Anne Frank House; it has
a light hanging over it to illuminate the house for tourists
Pulleys were used to
hoist furniture up to the upper stories
Visitors can disembark
from boats which dock in front of the house
Canal boat tours pass
the Anne Frank house
Among the many items on display in the
Anne Frank house, there is a tiny map of Normandy that was cut
out of a newspaper and pinned to the wall of Otto Frank's room.
On this map, he followed the progress of the Allied invasion
on D-day, June 6, 1944. On that day, Anne wrote in her diary:
"This is the Day",
came the announcement over the English news at twelve o'clock.
The invasion has begun! English parachute troops have landed
on the French coast. Great commotion in the Annex! Would the
long-awaited liberation ever come true?
Otto Frank's employees, except for the
"helpers," would always leave the building for lunch,
so during the lunch hour, the people in hiding could go down
one floor to Otto's office where they could listen to the radio.
According to Anne's diary, the helpers would frequently come
into the annex to have lunch with them and bring them the news
of the day.
Otto Frank was not religious but his
wife came from an Orthodox Jewish family. On display in the annex
is her prayer book which she would read to Anne. The 8 people
in hiding kept busy with reading and studying. Otto Frank was
reading a book by Dickens, which is on display. Margot Frank
was taking a correspondence course in Latin while she was in
hiding. One of her Latin lessons is on display. Auguste van Pels
was studying a Dutch-German textbook, which is also on display.
The display which surprised me the most
was a board game which Peter van Pels received for his birthday.
It was a game like Monopoly, except that the game consisted of
buying stock in the Stock Market. Anne wrote about this in her
diary on November 9 and 10, 1942:
"Yesterday was Peter's birthday.
At eight o'clock I went upstairs and looked at the presents with
Peter. He received e.g. a board game, a razor and a lighter."
This page was last updated on March 16,