Friends help Anne Frank's secure a place to hide from the Nazi forces that have taken over Holland.
By JOYCE APSEL
© St. Petersburg Times, published September 27, 1999
On May, 10, 1940, the German military invaded Holland, violating its neutrality, and bombed Rotterdam, killing civilians and leveling buildings. The Dutch forces surrendered on May 15, under threat of further bombings. Queen Wilhelmina and other government officials went into exile in England. Anne Frank and her family, like other Jewish refugees, found themselves once again under Nazi oppression.
In the midst of the war and occupation, Anne celebrated her 13th birthday and received a red and white plaid diary on June 12, 1942. Anne wrote in her diary on June 29, 1942:
"Our freedom was severely restricted by a series of anti-Jewish decrees: Jews were required to wear a yellow star; Jews were forbidden to use street cars... Jews were forbidden to visit Christians in their homes; Jews were required to attend Jewish schools. You couldn't do this and you couldn't do that. But life went on."
Anne's continual struggles not to allow herself to be dehumanized by the Nazis and to retain her spirit and human dignity are among the most powerful themes throughout her diary.
In 1942, mass round-ups (razzias) of Jews and deportations to work, transit and concentration camps were to become routine throughout the Netherlands. The Franks began to prepare to go into hiding -- parents Otto and Edith wanted to try to keep the family together. Victor Kugler and Johannes Kleiman, two business associates and friends, helped with preparations for the Franks and the van Pels family. Earlier, Victor Kugler, Johannes Kleiman and Jan Gies had worked with Otto Frank to prevent Nazi confiscation of his business by transferring ownership to non-Jewish associates and renaming it "Gies and Co."
By June 5, 1942, there was a total ban on Jews traveling without first gaining permission. On July 5, 1942, Anne's sister Margot was among those who received the first call-up notices sent out for "labor service in Germany." The very next day, first Margot and then the other family members moved into their hiding place -- an annex of rooms behind Otto Frank's office at 263 Prisengracht in Amsterdam. Hermann van Pels (Otto Frank's associate), his wife, Auguste, and their son, Peter, arrived a week later on July 13 (they are referred to in the diary as the van Daans). On Nov. 16, 1942, they were joined by the eighth and final resident of what Anne called the "secret annex," Fritz Pfeffer (in the diary called Albert Dussel). Anne shared a room with Mr. Dussel and the diary describes the stresses and strains of a teenage girl and middle-aged man negotiating space and privacy in the secret annex.
For 25 months, Anne Frank recorded the ups and downs of life in hiding. On July 11, 1942, Anne wrote, "The Annex is an ideal place to hide in. It may be damp and lopsided, but there's probably not a more comfortable hiding place in all of Amsterdam. No, in all of Holland."
Anne stated that she felt "privileged" to be with her family in hiding while others were being hunted. "It's like the slave hunts of the olden days" (Nov. 19, 1942). In fact, the Franks were most unusual in being able to hide together, having resources to buy food, and that so many associates of Mr. Frank were willing to help the Franks and others hiding in the annex.
In Holland, as everywhere in Europe during World War II, few people had a place to hide. Of the minority who went into hiding, most were split up from other family members and moved from place to place. "Onderduikers" was the term used for those who went underground in Holland, literally meaning "divers" or those who "dive under." In one survey cited by author Bob Moore in his book, Victims and Survivors (St. 's Press, hidden children had an average of 4.5 new addresses during this time, some as many as 37.
Next: The Helpers.
Dr. Joyce Apsel is director of education at the Anne Frank Center USA in New York. Please address questions or comments about this series to: Floridian, Anne Frank and Human Rights, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731, or e-mail Floridian@sptimes.com.
1. Remember to write in your diary/journal at least three to four times each week.
2. Begin a timeline about Anne Frank, starting from her birthday when she received her red and white plaid diary on June 12, 1942. Keep a record of events that you felt were important in Anne's life from this series of articles in the St. Petersburg Times.
3. If you and your family had to go into hiding because you feared for your lives, what items would you need to take? Make a chart to show what items you could not live without, and what items you would like to have. Look in today's St. Petersburg Times and see if you can find pictures of these items (look in the advertisements, too). Cut these items out and place them on your chart. Go over this chart with someone in your family to see if they agree with what you have chosen. Make any changes you feel are necessary. Place this chart in your diary/journal.
4. Do research to find out what the annex looked like where Anne and her family were hiding. Make a drawing of the annex and label the different areas. Design a hiding place for you and your family. Use the chart you just created (see above) to make sure that you included everything that is necessary for survival.