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History of Anne Frank Museum Amsterdam

Embark on a journey through time as we unveil the remarkable story of the Anne Frank Museum. 

In this article, learn about the struggles surrounding the location where Anne Frank took refuge during World War II. 

Join us as we explore how the place of refuge was saved, from demolition to becoming a renowned museum.

The History of the Secret Annex

Every year, more than a million people visit the hiding place of the Frank family, famous for Anne Frank’s tale during the war. 

However, the building itself has its own history, stretching back 350 years and linking with Amsterdam’s fascinating past.

Origins of the Building

After 1585, during Amsterdam’s Golden Age, Prinsengracht 263 was created. 

This private home, situated next to warehouses, responded to the increasing demand for living, working, and storage space at that time.

Private Homes and Warehouses on the Canal

Centuries ago, in the heart of Amsterdam, a network of canals emerged for transporting goods. 

Merchants stored their treasures in waterfront warehouses. As the city developed, the need for trade and living space grew. 

In 1635, Prinsengracht 263 emerged as a solution—a private home accompanied by two warehouses. 

Smart ‘annexes’ were built in backyards to meet the demand for more space. These connected to the main houses via corridors, allowing daylight into the homes.

The Secret Annex of Anne Frank

The hiding place used by Anne Frank was constructed in 1739. The old annex was demolished and replaced with a larger one. 

Later, there was another change: The basement was replaced by a room at street level. This modification was helpful for companies needing both offices and storage. 

Almost 200 years later, Otto Frank chose it for his company, Pectacon.

The Stairs to the Hidden Entrance to the Secret Annex

In 1940, Otto Frank rented the entire building on Prinsengracht. 

Before that, the main house and annex were used separately, but now they were used together. 

The ground floor became the company’s workshop, the first floor for storage, and the second for offices. 

To move between the first and second floors, you had to go outside and climb a steep staircase to the annex. 

To solve this, a new staircase was constructed within the main house.

Living in Hiding in the Secret Annex

When Anne’s sister Margot was forced to attend a workcamp in Germany, the Frank family decided to hide in the annex of their business. 

They mostly stayed on the second and third floors, and you could only access their hiding spot through a secret entrance carefully hidden behind a bookshelf. 

The hiding spot was on the upper floors of the annex, and the business spaces on the ground and first floors were not directly connected to it. 

As a result, anyone passing through Prinsengracht 263 would have had no idea what was happening behind the bookshelf.

The Sale of the Annex

The Pieron family, who owned the building, didn’t know about the people hiding in the Secret Annex. 

However, in 1943, the family sold the property to a new owner for 14,000 guilders. 

Anne was worried that this change could lead to the discovery of the hidden residents. 

One day, the new owner and an architect came to inspect the house. 

Luckily, Mr. Kleiman was there and showed them everything except the Secret Annex, claiming to have forgotten the key. 

The new owner asked no further questions and never returned to see the Annex.

The Prevention of the Demolition of the Secret Annex

A little more than a year later, things turned bad: the Secret Annex and the people hiding there were discovered. 

Out of the eight people hiding, only Otto survived the war. There was a chance that Prinsengracht 263 would be demolished after the war. 

However, as Anne’s story became known to more people, there was growing opposition against tearing it down. 

In the mid-1950s, they halted the demolition, and the Anne Frank House Foundation was created soon after. 

They restored the building, and on May 3, 1960, the Anne Frank House opened its doors to the public.

History of the Anne Frank Museum Amsterdam: From a Hiding Place to Museum

During the Second World War, the Secret Annex was a refuge for Anne Frank and several others. 

After the war, this secret refuge was abandoned until 1957, when the Anne Frank House was founded with one aim: to preserve the historic hiding place.

The Return of Otto Frank

As the only survivor of Auschwitz, Otto Frank returned in June 1945, eager to restore his companies, Opekta and Pectacon. 

The Secret Annex, their former refuge, remained empty.

Purchase and Sale of the Hiding Place

After World War II, Prinsengracht 263 and nearby places suffered. In 1950, the Berghaus textile factory aimed to buy and demolish them, including the special hiding spot. 

Otto Frank, fearing its destruction, made efforts to save it. In 1953, Otto’s company, Opekta, bought Prinsengracht 263 from Wessels. 

However, they could not repair it entirely due to a lack of funds. In 1954, realizing it couldn’t be saved, Otto sadly sold it to Berghaus. 

The wartime hiding spot was now empty and falling apart.

Saved from Demolition

A committee of influential Amsterdam citizens led efforts to save the building in a pivotal move. 

In 1957, the Anne Frank House organization was founded with the goals of protecting the hiding place, making it accessible to the public, and promoting Anne Frank’s ideals.

Building Donated by Berghaus

In 1957, Berghaus changed their minds and donated Prinsengracht 263. A developer bought neighboring properties. 

After discussions, the developer agreed to pay the organization 350,000 guilders for all the properties. 

Mayor Van Hall and the University of Amsterdam played key roles in securing funds. 

In 1958, the municipality and the University planned student housing for the corner properties. 

The University’s support filled the financial gap, ultimately saving the historic place.

Opening of the Anne Frank House

Prinsengracht 263 opened to the public after significant repairs on May 3, 1960. 

The Secret Annex remained empty due to Otto Frank’s wish. 

Following the opening, the number of visitors grew gradually until it reached 1.2 million per year, showcasing Anne Frank’s enduring legacy.

FAQs

What is the Anne Frank Museum?

The Anne Frank Museum, also known as the Anne Frank House, is a museum dedicated to preserving the hiding place of Anne Frank and her family during World War II and promoting awareness of her story and the Holocaust.

Where is the Anne Frank Museum located?

The museum is located at Prinsengracht 263 in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. This is the actual building where Anne Frank and her family hid from 1942 to 1944.

What is the history of the building that houses the Anne Frank Museum?

The building dates back to the 17th century and was originally a private home and warehouse. Over the centuries, it underwent several modifications, including the construction of the Secret Annex where Anne Frank hid during the war.

Who was Otto Frank, and what was his role in the building?

Otto Frank was Anne Frank’s father. He rented the entire building for his company, Pectacon, before the family went into hiding in the Secret Annex of the building.

What prompted the Frank family to go into hiding?

The Frank family went into hiding when Anne’s sister, Margot, received a call-up to attend a workcamp in Germany. They hid in the Secret Annex of Otto Frank’s business premises to avoid persecution by the Nazis.

How was the hiding place kept secret?

The entrance to the Secret Annex was hidden behind a movable bookshelf, making it nearly impossible for outsiders to detect the presence of the hidden rooms where the Frank family and others were hiding.

What happened to the building after the war?

After the war, the building was almost demolished. However, due to the efforts of a committee of influential Amsterdam citizens and the increasing awareness of Anne Frank’s story, the demolition was halted. The Anne Frank House Foundation was created, and the building was restored and opened as a museum.

When did the Anne Frank House open to the public?

The Anne Frank House opened to the public on May 3, 1960, after significant repairs and restoration.

What can visitors see in the Anne Frank Museum?

Visitors can explore the preserved Secret Annex, the exhibition on the life and times of Anne Frank, her diary, and various historical documents and objects related to her life and the Holocaust.

Why is it important to visit the Anne Frank Museum?

Visiting the Anne Frank Museum offers a poignant, tangible connection to Anne Frank’s life and the events of the Holocaust. It serves as a powerful reminder of the consequences of discrimination and the importance of human rights, freedom, and tolerance.

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