This Is What Anne Frank's Arrest Looked Like
The summer of 1944 was full of raised hopes and broken hearts all across Europe. By August, the Americans and Russians were trudging toward Germany. Warsaw was in the throes of its bloody uprising. And in the heart of Amsterdam, within arm's reach of a busy canal street, Anne Frank hid with her parents, Otto and Edith, her sister Margot, the Van Pels family (Hermann, Auguste, and son Peter), and Fritz Pfeffer, waiting for the war to end. The Jews in hiding had withstood bombs, near-starvation, two break-in attempts, and the many privations of their helpers during over two years in hiding, and the suspense had begun to take its toll. They were pale and malnourished from life without sun, but they were alive.
Anne, 15 years old and the diarist of the house, had long since grown out of the schoolgirl clothes she took with her into what she called Het Achterhuis (the house behind). In hiding, she studied, argued with her mother, experienced her first kiss, and watched the huge chestnut tree in the back of the house bloom and die and bloom again.
At first, she was terrified the hiding place, in the back of her father's office, would be discovered. "Not being able to go outside upsets me more than I can say, and I'm terrified our hiding place will be discovered and that we'll be shot," she wrote in her diary in September 1942. "That, of course, is a fairly dismal prospect." But by August 1944, she had other worries. She was revising her old diary and reflecting on the new person she'd become. In her most recent diary entry, she wrote about her fear of vulnerability, that people would discover that beneath her cheeky exterior was a deeply serious, deeply emotional young woman. "...I can't keep that up," she wrote. "...Finally I twist my heart around again, so that the bad is on the outside and the good is on the inside and keep on trying to find a way of becoming what I would so like to be and what I could be, if ... there weren't any other people living in the world."
And then, on August 4, 1944, everything changed.
August 4, 1944
[all times are approximate]
8am: Miep Gies goes upstairs to get the shopping list. Anne greets her cheerfully and asks if there's any news.
Before 11am: Somebody places an anonymous phone call to the Sicherheitsdienst (SD) office in Amsterdam, claiming there are Jews hiding at 263 Prinsengracht.
11am: A man in civilian clothing enters the office and points a revolver at Miep, Bep Voskuijl, and Johannes Kleiman, who are working in the front office. Plain-clothes Dutch policemen and a German officer in uniform arrive around the same time and force Victor Kugler to give them a tour of the building.
11:15am: Miep's husband, Jan, arrives to get his lunch. Miep gives him the lunch, some money, and several illegal ration cards and tells him something is wrong. He leaves quickly.
Via The Examiner
11:30am: Kleiman gives a distraught Bep his wallet and tells her to go to a pharmacist's office one street over, call his wife with the news, and disappear.
1:00pm: Kleiman is told to give the office keys to Miep. He tells her to keep out of it and she refuses, but follows his instructions to save what can be saved.
1:15pm: A Dutch policeman enters Miep's office and asks that a car be sent. The German officer, Karl Silberbauer, comes into the office and Miep realizes he has a Viennese accent (she is originally from Vienna). He confronts her and she remains calm until he threatens her husband, whom she defends.
1:30pm: Miep hears the sound of the Franks, Van Pelses, and Pfeffer tramping down the stairs. "I could tell from their footsteps that they were coming down like beaten dogs," she writes. At the same time, Jan stands across the canal from the office with Kleiman's brother. Together, they watch their friends walking from the office door into a green truck. Each is carrying a small parcel. Though the truck drives within feet of them, Jan doesn't get a glimpse of their faces. The Franks are taken to SD headquarters along with their male protectors.
5:00pm: Bep and Jan return to the office. Together with Miep, they go into the hiding place, which has been looted and is in chaos. Miep notices Anne's diary strewn across the floor of her parents' bedroom. She picks it up, along with a shawl of Anne's and a compact of Mrs. Frank's.
Though Kleiman and Kugler were released or escaped from prison, the Franks, Van Pelses, and Mr. Pfeffer were not so lucky. Though Miep and Jan begged and bargained for their freedom, they eventually went on to Westerbork, and from there to Auschwitz on the last transport to leave the Netherlands during the war. Starving, Anne died in March 1945 in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany. Her father, Otto, was the family's only survivor.
Thousands of Dutch citizens performed tiny acts of resistance during the war, from hiding Jewish friends to taking thousands of clandestine photographs to document the terror they saw outside their windows. Anne's arrest could have looked like this, or this (though there was only one armed officer on the scene).
That no photos of that terrifying August day exist could be a matter of fate as much as fear. Maybe a neighbor documented the event, but the evidence was lost to bombs or forgotten in a book. Maybe a photo of the Franks after the Secret Annex will emerge like this extraordinary video of a living, breathing Anne.
Or maybe Anne Frank's arrest was just another razzia (roundup) to the citizens of Amsterdam.