The living situation in the Secret Annex as described in Anne Frank's diary was impossible
Holocaust Deniers Say:
The living situation in the Secret Annex as described in Anne Frank's diary was impossible and they would have been discovered almost immediately.
Holocaust deniers argue:
In 1982, Robert Faurisson, a French Holocaust denier, concluded that it would have been impossible to hide in the Secret Annex and that the diary could not be "in any way authentic," that it was "literary fraud" and should be "placed on the already crowded shelf of false memoirs."1
The truth about life in the Secret Annex
Faurisson says that the "invention" of the swinging bookcase is an "absurdity." Its presence would have been a red flag calling attention to the hidden door to any curious worker in the building or to the police.2 However, the swinging bookcase is on a small landing about the size of a modern walk-in closet, which was used to store business records. The stairway leading to it is not in a public area. There is no sense at all that the bookcase is an "absurdity" or that an entire part of house has suddenly gone missing.
Faurisson wrote that it is "foolish" to believe there was "the least possibility of a really secret life in those premises."3 Faurisson goes on at length listing every noise he can find in the diary. For instance, he notes that on August 5, 1943 Mrs. van Daan used a vacuum cleaner at 12:30 p.m. (in the afternoon). Faurisson, in order to make his argument, only quotes a portion of Anne's diary entry. He conveniently omits the portion of the entry where Anne writes they had all "breathed a sigh of relief" because "[t]he warehousemen have gone home now."4
fact, the Franks and their friends strove to be utterly silent after 8:00 a.m. when the business downstairs opened and until after about 6:00 p.m. They made no deliberate noise until they were given the all clear that the building was officially empty by one of their protectors. Anne wrote how much she disliked "having to sit all day and not say a word . . . On ordinary days we have to speak in a whisper; not being able to talk or move at all is ten times worse." October 1, 1942
Despite their best efforts, they did have several close calls. Several times burglars broke into the warehouse at night and those hiding in the Secret Annex were petrified that they had inadvertently been heard and would be turned in. After one such break-in Anne wrote on April 11, 1944: "Ten o'clock, footsteps on the stairs. Father, pale and nervous, came inside, followed by Mr. van Daan. 'Lights out, tiptoe upstairs, we're expecting the police!' . . . We thought of nothing, but simply sat there in pitch darkness . . . no one moved a muscle. Footsteps on the stairs, then a rattling at the bookcase. This moment is indescribable . . . A shiver went through everyone's body, I heard several sets of teeth chattering, no one said a word."
Faurisson also claimed that those in the Secret Annex used electric lights and candles that would have been seen outside. He fails to tell his readers that the office staff drew the curtains in the front part of the house when they left the office and that the windows in the back part of the building were covered with curtains. ". . . at eight o'clock we all trooped downstairs through the hall in pitch darkness . . . . to the alcove. We could switch on the light, since this room didn't have any windows." December 7, 1942
Those in the Secret Annex only went down into the front part of the building only at night or on weekends to listen to the radio in the manager's office or to get some privacy. On Sunday evening: "I'm sitting here nice and cozy in the front office, peering out through a chink in the heavy curtains. It's dusky, but there's just enough light to write by." December 13, 1942.
Life in the Secret Annex was hard, but not impossible. The residents had some close calls during their 25 months in hiding, but they took great care to be quiet and give no signs to the outside world that they were living there during the times people were present in the building. Once the office staff left the building in the evening and on the weekends they resumed a slightly more "normal" life, although they still had to be careful about noise and lights.
The swinging book shelf was built in a small room where business materials were stored. It looked like part of the rest of the materials in the room. Further, the landing was in the back part of the house, on an upper story that was normally accessed only by the staff of the business, who were the ones helping them remain in hiding.
1. Robert Faurisson, "Is The Diary of Anne Frank Genuine?" Journal of Historical Review, Spring 1982 (Vol. 3, No. 2) p. 34 of 35. www.ihr.org/v03/v03p147_Faurisson.html.
2. Faurisson, "Is The Diary of Anne Frank Genuine?" p. 3 of 35.
3. Ibid., p. 4 of 35.
4. All diary quotes are taken from the Definitive Edition, Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, translated by Susan Massotty, edited by Otto H. Frank and Mirjam Pressler (Bantam Book, 1994).