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    Anne Frank’s Diary: The Secret Annex

    How do we know it was possible for Anne Frank, her family, and their friends to have hidden in the Secret Annex for 25 months without being discovered?

    Holocaust deniers claim:

    The Franks and their friends, who were hiding in the Secret Annex, would have been discovered long before 25 months elapsed.

    The facts are:

    There is no reason the inhabitants of the Secret Annex would not have been able to remain in hiding for 25 months without getting caught. They took great cautions when anyone else was in the building.  

    In 1982, Robert Faurisson, a French Holocaust denier, called the Frank’s hiding place “a glass house” in which the Franks and their friends would have moved about within the hearing and “under the eyes” of their neighbors.[1] Further, he claims that the “swinging cupboard” is an “absurdity” and that others not only would have noticed its installation but the “oddity” of its location.

    Faurisson concludes that it is “foolish” to believe there was “the least possibility of a really secret life in those premises.” These “improbabilities, incoherencies and absurdities” means that Anne’s 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.”[2]

    The facts about life in the Secret Annex:

    Noises

    In Faurisson’s attempt to make his case that their presence would have been heard by the neighbors and office workers, he lists in detail every noise he can find in Anne’s diary. For instance, he notes that on August 5, 1943, Mrs. van Daan used a vacuum cleaner at 12:30 in the afternoon. What Faurisson fails to tell the reader is that Anne wrote in the same entry that before Mrs. van Daan started cleaning with the vacuum the “whole gang breathes a sigh of relief” because the warehousemen “have gone home for lunch.”[3]

    The Franks and their friends did fear that the people in the office or in the buildings that adjoined 263 Prinsengracht on either side would hear them and took precautions. They strove to be utterly silent from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. when the business downstairs was open. 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, the Frank family and their friends did have several close calls. On one occasion, two neighborhood youngsters who knew the warehouse held spices broke into the warehouse to find the spices. While they were in the warehouse area, one of them noted: “I suddenly heard the toilet being flushed. The pipe ran down the back just like in our house. I therefore understood immediately that there were people in the building and thought: ‘Let’s get out of here!’ We didn’t say anything about this. We were used to keeping our mouths shut because periodically we also had somebody in hiding at our house.”[4]

    The windows in the back have a view onto the common courtyard area of the block

    263 Prinsengracht was really two separate houses sitting on top of a common warehouse area which extended from the front to the back of the entire building. There is no indication that there is a separate back portion to the house from the street and canal. However, there are windows in the Secret Annex that have a view out onto the courtyard area which is surrounded by the block of houses, the backs of which share the common area.

    Faurisson claims that those in the Secret Annex used electric lights and candles that would have been seen in the courtyard. He fails to note that the windows in the back part of the building (the Secret Annex area) were covered with curtains, and the Franks and their friends took care to keep them covered to show no evidence of their tenancy. Anne records: “. . . 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)

    The movable bookcase/cupboard

    The entrance to the Secret Annex and the movable bookcase/cupboard that camouflaged the only door into it was accessible only through the private office of the director, Victor Kugler, who was one of the Frank’s protectors. Any visitors to the business were never admitted further than his office. Thus people entering from street level could not directly access the staircase that led to the Secret Annex unless they went through Kugler’s office. The movable bookcase was built by another of their protectors, Johan Voskuijl. Its installation would not have been observed by anyone who didn’t already know they were there.[5]

    Further, the bookcase is not an “oddity.” There is no indication in the small landing in which it was installed that it is out of place. The room looks like a place to keep rarely needed business records and other items, and the bookcase is a natural furnishing. There is no reason to believe there is any more house behind it unless you were very familiar with the house or had the floor plans. That it was effective camouflage is noted in Anne’s diary 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.

    Anne Frank Model House, by Alexisrael [Public domain], Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0, via Wikimedia commons.

    Eventually the intruders left without discovering the secret of the book shelf, which is in itself a testament to its natural presence in the little room. When the Franks were arrested, the Dutch Nazis came directly to the book shelf door on the strength of their informer’s information.

    Clearly, life in the Secret Annex was dangerous and precarious but the layout of the house, their protectors, and caution made it possible for the Franks and their friends to survive there secretly for 25 months. It lasted until August 4, 1944, when their luck and caution finally ran out.

    Conclusion

    The residents of the Secret Annex took great care to be quiet and give no signs that they were there during the times people were present in the building itself or the buildings to each side. Once the office staff left the building in the evening and on the weekends they resumed a slightly more “normal” life, although they were still very careful about lights and noise.

    The windows to the courtyard were covered by curtains and the entrance to the Secret Annex, camouflaged by the movable bookcase, was accessible only through the private office of Victor Kugler, one of their protectors. However, even with all their precautions they had several close calls.

    Nevertheless, it is apparent that their presence in the Secret Annex was known by at least some of their neighbors who chose not to turn them in for their own reasons. Whoever turned the Franks in had no such reservations.

    Faurisson’s conclusion that the Franks and their friends would have been caught immediately is insupportable.

    NOTES

    [1] Robert Faurisson, “Is The Diary of Anne Frank Genuine?” Journal of Historical Review, Spring 1982 (Vol. 3, No. 2) at www.ihr.org/jhr/v03/v03p147_Faurisson.html.

    [2] Robert Faurisson, “Is The Diary of Anne Frank Genuine?”

    [3] All diary quotes are taken from the Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl (Definitive Edition), translated by Susan Massotty, edited by Otto H. Frank and Mirjam Pressler (Bantam Books, 1994).

    [4] See account of Hans and Els Wijnberg in Inside Anne Frank’s House: An Illustrated Journey Through Anne’s World (Overlook Duckworth, 1999), p. 53.

    [5] Inside Anne Frank’s House: An Illustrated Journey Through Anne’s World (Overlook Duckworth, 1999), pp. 72-73, 98.