I can remember the first time I knew of Otto Frank’s idea for the Secret Annex. Otto had been paying attention to the Nazis for quite some time, and had noted their strong desire towards the expansion of Nazi rule. I myself must admit that I knew nothing of the terror we were about to face. Soon Jews were wearing Yellow stars on their chests, not allowed into public places, not allowed to associate with non-Jews, and finally being deported to “work camps”. Since Otto and his family were Jewish, I began worrying about their safety.
I had worked for Otto at the Dutch Opetka Company in Amsterdam for quite ome time, and in that time, we had become close friends and I admired Otto for his wit, and love for his family. I believe that during my worrying, Otto had been secretly making plans for his family to move into the hidden apartment above the company offices. He continued to prepare the annex for over a year, until finally the Frank family had it’s first encounter with a deportation scare. Otto’s two daughters Margot and Anne were his pride and joy, so naturally when Margot received a deportation notice on July 5, 1942, Otto told the family of the “Secret Annex” he had been preparing for over a year.
In addition to his wife Edith, Margot, and Anne, he also told me; Miep Gies. I was astounded by this plan, for it consisted of absolute seclusion from the outside world, and complete silence during business hours. I knew Anne and Margot would have to miss a great deal of school, social gatherings, and the normal events that teenaged girls attend. I knew Anne in particular would not be happy about the move, because of her love for movie stars, boys, and friends which she would not be able to indulge while living in closed quarters.
I was relieved however to learn that not only I would have the knowledge of this plan, but Otto’s business partners Victor Kugler,Johannes Kleiman, friend Bep Voskuisl, and her father would also help with the tedious task of concealing a family from police, and the rest of the world. Bep, Victor, Johannes, and I would have the great task of operating the business with an absence of our employer, hiding a family, pretending to know nothing of the Frank’s whereabouts, and bringing the Franks clothes, food, literature, news, and hope.
I knew my role was of great importance o the family, I would serve as the messenger, and would visit daily to tell of recent war developments and bring extra treats to the family. Some of my fondest memories are of Anne’s smiling face, when she saw me enter the annex with outstretched arms eager to embrace her. Before the Franks would move into the Secret Annex, they would leave a false trail behind which implied that they had gone to Switzerland. This trail would lead Nazi officials elsewhere, so that the Franks would be able to move in to the Annex quickly and carefully.
Finally on July 6, 1942 the Frank family would leave their comfortable ome, friends, and lives, for The annex, which would hold them for over two years. Soon Otto’s friend and business associate Hermann Van Daan, his wife, and son Peter would join the Franks in the Secret Annex. This would make the living arrangements a bit cramped for the Franks. I was aware of Mrs. Van Daan’s low tolerance for nonsense, and since I knew Anne so well, I was certain that the two quite possibly would have many quarrels. I tried to help Anne and Margot’s adjusting process by bringing magazines, books, and news of the war going on outside.
Anne even confided to me of her secret blooming romance with Peter Van Daan, who was a bit older than Anne. However the romance did not have much of a chance, since the Annex was small and there was not much room for privacy. For the secret annex now held a new occupant; my dentist Fritz Pfeffer arrived to share the hideaway. This would prove to be another problem to the Families, since in addition to Anne’s disagreements with Mr. and Mrs. Van Daan, she would soon have to share a room with Pfeffer, and the two would bicker day in and day out. But worse than that I began to notice a great change in Mrs.
Frank. She had always held a great hope inside her, and always looked for the bright side of things, but the confining quarters had finally gotten to her, because she had become severely depressed. I began to wonder what would become of the secret annex’s occupants if the war did not end soon. I did not wonder long sadly, because on August 4, 1944, an unknown source would betray the Franks, And others by notifying the police of the secret annex’s secret occupants. I will never forget the way the police came in so fast and suddenly, and charged t the bookcase which covered the entrance to the annex.
So determined they were to discover eight innocent people, who had hid for two years in the confines of a tiny apartment. My worse fears had come true as the police hauled away spirited Anne, wise Otto, depressed Edith, and the others. I barely had a chance to look at the Franks, as they were put into trucks headed towards their fates at concentration camps. I could not even register what was happening since the shock was so great. The police took Kugler, and Kleiman, but Bep and I were spared. I as taken in for questioning but luckily not arrested.
Shortly after the Franks deportation to Gestapo- a Nazi police center, I tried to gain back their freedom, but to no avail, the police scoffed at me and threatened imprisonment if I returned again. Disappointed by my failure, I headed back to the Annex looking for anything at all to remind me of the family that I had grown to love, risked my life to protect, and failed to hide. I was overcome with joy as I found a small journal, belonging to Anne. I recalled how she poured her thoughts in to it daily, and how she had named it “Kitty”. I quickly pocketed it. And brought it home, to hide away in case any of my friends returned.
I prayed several times a day that someday I would see my friends again, and that I would have the chance to return Anne’s beloved diary to her. I would not have the chance to see Anne, Margot, or Edith. For all three would perish from typhus disease all within months of each other. I gasped at the news of their deaths, but was relieved to hear of the surviving of Otto! Here was our chance to show the world what really happened during the war, and a view of a girl who’s dreams of becoming movie star, and whose talented writing skills had been destroyed simply because of her religion.
Otto and I worked together once again, except this time it was not at the 263 Prinsengracht office building, but we worked to publish Anne’s diary. A true account of our lives during the Holocaust. Otto remarried and we remained friends, Anne’s diary had been published and we were proud when we knew that millions had read it, and were enchanted by our Anne, whose life had become widely publicized in many countries, and printed in many languages. Otto and I spoke often recalling memories, and discussing Anne’s diary and it’s importance.
Otto died in 1980. He was the last of the secret annex’s survivors, and it pained me once again as I remembered how the seven others had died in concentration camps. I am now eighty seven years old and my memory serves me well. I feel honored to have been a part of the Frank’s lives, and I continue to this day to tell the story of the Frank family, and my role in hiding them. And I will continue to do so until the day I join the Franks, and others who had died at the hands of the Nazis.