The Anne Frank House in Amsterdam

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 other people."

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 and cramped.

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 at night.

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, 2009