The diary of Anne Frank is undoubtedly the most famous one in the world. In what is now known as the Anne Frank House, hiding in the Secret Annex Anne wrote about her fears, annoyances and dreams for the future. A visit to this house on Prinsengracht 263 in Amsterdam brings history back to life and puts a face on the Holocaust.
It is hard to imagine that 13-year-old Anne had to live in only a few small rooms on Prinsengracht, without ever being able to step outside. Together with her father Otto, her mother Edith, her sister Margo, the Van Pels family and Fritz Pfeffer, Anne spent 2 years during the Second World War in hiding. She shared her bedroom with Fritz Pfeffer, the man who often annoyed her. Pfeffer made odd sounds in his sleep and Anne could only use the small desk in the bedroom when he was taking an afternoon nap.
The Secret Annex has been restored to its original state and left practically untouched – from the bedroom still decorated with pictures of movie stars, dancers and artwork to the front office window where Anne tried to steal a secret glance of the outside world. Most visitors are struck by the size of the rooms in the Secret Annex: it seems almost unimaginable that 8 people spent 2 years hiding in these 75 square metres.
When Anne looked out the window she gazed upon a large, white chestnut tree. She frequently wrote about this tree in her diary and described how it changed throughout the seasons. Unfortunately, the tree is now no longer there, but its cuttings have been spread around the world so Anne’s tree continues to grow and flourish. The church clock of the Westerkerk is still visible from the Secret Annex. When the church chimes ring, you can visualise the diary even more, as Anne loved the sound of the chimes and often mentioned the church in her diary. The original version of it is also on display in the Anne Frank House.
“It is hard to imagine that 8 people hid in this tiny space for 2 years”
The diary begins on 12 June 1942, when Anne received the diary as a gift for her 13th birthday. Her last entry was on 1 August 1944. Three days later, on 4 August, life in the Secret Annex was brutally interrupted. The people in hiding had been betrayed and all 8 were arrested and deported. Only Otto Frank survived the war. When he recovered Anne’s diary after the war, he decided to publish it. The diary has been translated into more than 70 languages, which exceeds the number of translations of any other Dutch-language book in history. To date, over 30 million copies have been sold.