By Cathal Coyle
The Anne Frank House is a museum with a tragic story behind it.
“I hope I will be able to confide everything to you, as I have never been able to confide in anyone, and I hope you will be a great source of comfort and support.”
These are the first words Anne Frank ever wrote in her diary. In June 1942, she was given the red and white checked book as a 13th birthday present. This diary was to become a vitally important source, as Anne chronicled her experiences during the Second World War.
Another early diary entry described her family – parents Otto and Edith, and her older sister, Margot – and how they anxiously lived as Jews in Amsterdam during the Nazi occupation.
A month after beginning her diary, Anne heard a knock on the door. It was the police ordering her sister to report to a work camp. This event led the whole family to go into hiding. Anne and her family moved into a secret annexe of rooms above her father’s office of the building at Prinsengracht 263.
For two years during the Second World War, this served as a hiding place for the Frank family, a dentist named Fritz Pfeffer, and the Van Pels family, who had a son named Peter. The entrance to the stairs that led to their home was hidden behind a moveable bookcase constructed especially for this purpose.
The office personnel knew of the hiding place and bravely helped the eight people by supplying them with food and news of the outside world. Anne explained to her diary that the families had to be quiet so visitors on the ground floor couldn’t hear them.
She talked in detail about her family: she adored her father, but felt that her mother didn’t understand her, and she longed to get closer to her sister Margot.
Anne never had the chance to enjoy freedom. On August 4th, 1944, the hiding place was betrayed – her family was reported to the Nazis by neighbours, and everyone inside the secret annexe was arrested and taken to concentration camps.
Of the eight people who had been in hiding, only Anne’s father, Otto, survived. Anne and Margot died in a camp called Bergen-Belsen in Germany. Anne died of typhus, starving and alone, three months before her 16th birthday. Tragically it was only a few weeks later that the war ended and the people in concentration camps were set free.