DUS IZ NIES !! Rare View...: 75 years ago, the Gestapo finally came for Anne Frank - now a leading historian has pieced together a nerve-shredding account of that fateful day

Monday, August 5, 2019

75 years ago, the Gestapo finally came for Anne Frank - now a leading historian has pieced together a nerve-shredding account of that fateful day

On August 4, 1944, Anne Frank and her family were betrayed, arrested by the Gestapo, taken from the Amsterdam annexe where they had hidden for two years and despatched to concentration camps. 
Anne’s poignant diaries stopped that day. 
Now, Jonathan Mayo relates the tragic events, minute by minute, that Anne was unable to record herself. 

The background

Otto and Edith Frank and their daughters Margot and Anne fled Nazi Germany in 1933 and settled in the Netherlands. 
But by the summer of 1942 life for Dutch Jews was increasingly harsh. They were forced to wear yellow stars, and forbidden to run a business, travel on trams, sit on a park bench or even ride a bicycle.
So that July, after 16-year-old Margot received a call-up to work in a German labour camp, the family went into hiding in the upper storeys of Otto Frank’s Amsterdam business premises.
They were joined by another family, Auguste and Hermann van Pels with their son Peter, and a dentist named Fritz Pfeffer.
For more than two years they endured a clandestine life in the cramped quarters. But by August 1944 they were daring to hope that the city would soon be liberated by the Allies.
‘I have the feeling that friends are approaching,’ Anne wrote in her diary.
But the families were far from safe: there was a bounty for turning in Jews, and Amsterdam was full of informers and Nazi officials; almost 100,000 Jews in the Netherlands had already been sent to extermination camps.
It is a misty morning in Amsterdam. On the second floor of the secret annexe at 263 Prinsengracht, 15-year-old Anne is asleep in a bed so small there are chairs at the end to make it longer for her. It is her 761st day in hiding

Friday, August 4, 1944, 6.45am

It is a misty morning in Amsterdam. On the second floor of the secret annexe at 263 Prinsengracht, 15-year-old Anne is asleep in a bed so small there are chairs at the end to make it longer for her. It is her 761st day in hiding.
On the walls of the bedroom are pictures she’s cut out from magazines of the British Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret Rose and film stars Greta Garbo and Ginger Rogers. Anne shares the room with 55-year-old Fritz Pfeffer, who is also fast asleep.
In the room above them, Auguste Van Pels’ loud alarm clock goes off and Anne waits for the creak of a floorboard as Auguste’s husband, Hermann, makes his way downstairs to the bathroom. There is a strict daily timetable for washing and dressing.
ext door to Anne in a briefcase in her parents’ bedroom is her most precious possession — her diary, which she started just a few weeks before they went into hiding.
The first diary was a red-and-white checked cloth-covered book which soon filled up, so now Anne uses school exercise books.
Almost every day, holding a fountain pen in her distinctive way between her index and middle fingers, Anne writes about ‘things that lie buried deep in my heart’, like her hopes and fears for the future, the frustrations of living cooped up with seven other people — and her love for 17-year-old Peter van Pels.


A short distance away, the church clock strikes the hour. Its quarterly chimes, day and night, regulate life in the annexe, but the only person who likes the bells is Anne. She thinks the clock is a ‘faithful friend
Peter van Pels goes downstairs as usual to check that the ground- floor warehouse is secure, as it has been recently robbed twice.
Otto Frank had a business selling herbs, spices and pectin (a gelling agent for making jam), but it is now run by his friends Victor Kugler and Johannes Kleiman.
The goods stored in the warehouse are of great interest to thieves — they are worth good money on the city’s thriving black market.
In the spring of 1942, Kugler and Kleiman had built the secret annexe after office hours — including all the plumbing and carpentry — in anticipation of the increasing risks to Jews in the Netherlands.
Kugler said: ‘These were my friends, I could not let them be butchered by the Germans.’ Anne has seen with her own eyes the pressure Kugler has been under for the past two years and in May had written: ‘He can hardly talk from pent-up nerves and strain.’


The bathroom door creaks open as Mr van Pels exits and Fritz Pfeffer gets out of bed to take his turn.
Anne removes the blackout cardboard from the window, relishing time in the room without him. 
In her diary she calls Pfeffer ‘Nitwit’, and she can do an accurate impersonation of his slow way of speaking.
Pfeffer is divorced and spends some of his time learning Spanish as he hopes to start a new life in South America once the war is over with his son Walter who, six years ago, he put on the Kindertransport to the United Kingdom.


The inhabitants of the annexe are well-informed about the course of the war, thanks to a small illegal radio in the van Pels’ room that picks up the BBC.
Eight o’clock is usually their first opportunity to listen to a bulletin. On July 21, news of the attempt on Hitler’s life prompted Anne to write: ‘Now at last I am getting really hopeful, now things are going well at last. Yes, really they’re going well. Super news!’
Today, the news is the French city of Rennes has fallen to U.S. troops advancing through Brittany.


There are three taps on the floor of the van Pels’ bedroom above, which doubles up as a kitchen, signalling to Anne that her porridge is ready.
She dashes up, grabs her bowl and brings it downstairs. Anne has only a few minutes to eat it and tidy her room before the warehousemen, who have no idea there are people hiding in the building, start to arrive downstairs.
Everyone in the secret annexe now has to be as quiet as possible — they can’t even use the toilet as the pipe runs through the warehouse. 
They have been especially scared of discovery since the arrest of their greengrocer and his wife, who were caught hiding Jews.


At Gestapo HQ in Amsterdam the phone rings in the office of SS officer Julius Dettmann of Department IV B4, the unit assigned to arresting Jews in the city.
A reliable informant tells him there are Jews hiding in an office building at 263 Prinsengracht.
The secret annexe is now silent as the warehousemen arrive. The Frank family are immersed in books; Otto loves Charles Dickens and has a dictionary to help improve his English. 
The library books are brought by the small team of helpers who keep them supplied with food and drink.
SS officer Julius Dettmann is pictured above. He worked in the office of Department IV B4, the unit assigned to arresting Jews in the city


The office staff have arrived in the first-floor offices and the sound of their typewriters and telephones masks any noise from upstairs. But everyone in the annexe still walks around in socks just in case.
One of the office staff, 35-year-old Miep Gies, comes up to the annexe to ask for their shopping list. 
For the past two years it has been her responsibility to supply them with groceries and milk.
Anne is desperate to chat and Miep promises they’ll have a proper conversation when she returns in the afternoon with the shopping.
A great deal of food has to be found to feed eight people — Anne once described Miep as being so laden with bags she looked like a pack mule. 
At home, Miep and her husband Jan are hiding a student who has refused to make a declaration of loyalty to the Nazis.


In Peter van Pel’s small room on the top floor, Otto is giving dictation to help him improve his English. Encouraged by the Frank sisters, Peter is expanding his knowledge by learning languages, maths and woodworking.
Hanging on the wall is his bike that he hopes one day he will be free to ride again.


A car pulls up outside 263 Prinsengracht and a uniformed Austrian Gestapo officer named Karl Josef Silberbauer gets out. 
He is followed by four Dutch civilians employed by the Gestapo. All of them are armed.
Silberbauer, 33, has blond, short-cropped hair and narrow eyes. Having assisted in the round-up of Jews in Vienna in 1943, he was transferred to Amsterdam to carry on his awful task.
The men enter the building and Silberbauer speaks to Willem van Maaren, the warehouse foreman.
Van Maaren suspects people are hiding in the building after he saw a cat bowl had been mysteriously refilled with water.
More than once he has put flour on the floor to get footprints. (Van Maaren is later one of the people suspected of having betrayed the Franks and the others.) He points towards the staircase.
One Gestapo man stays in the warehouse while the others go to the first-floor offices.
The timings are approximate from here . . .
Karl Josef Silberbauer was finally identified in 1958, but the Austrian authorities never charged him. He died in 1972. 


Miep Gies looks up to see a man holding a gun. ‘Stay put,’ he says. Kugler opens his door and comes face to face with Silberbauer. ‘Who owns this building?’ he yells.
‘We just rent it,’ Kugler replies. ‘Stop playing games with me! Who’s the boss here?’
‘I am,’ Kugler says calmly. Miep hides her illegal ration cards and money she used to buy groceries.


Kugler is opening filing cabinets for Silberbauer. He finds nothing incriminating, but asks to see the other rooms in the building.
Kugler takes him on a tour of the first floor, including the lavatory and kitchen. ‘Outwardly I showed great calm, but inwardly I was terrified,’ he later recalled.
Upstairs in the annexe, Otto Frank hears a noise, but thinks nothing of it. He carries on with Peter’s English lesson.


Silberbauer demands to be taken to the second floor. With a gun inches from his back, Kugler leads him up the staircase and into the first of three storerooms.
The three Dutch henchmen wait outside. Silberbauer paces up and down, his heavy boots loud on the wooden floor. 
He wants to know if there are hidden weapons and orders Kugler to open the crates, sacks and barrels.
Downstairs Miep hears her husband Jan arriving to collect his packed lunch as usual. She leaps up and grabs him by the arm before he can come into the office.
‘Jan, it’s wrong here,’ she says, handing him his lunch, the illegal ration cards and money. Miep gives him a little push. 
‘Jan understood me completely and disappeared,’ she said years later.


The storerooms have revealed nothing but Silberbauer wants to see the rear of the building and the two men walk onto a landing. 
In front of them is a bookcase with shelves holding grey box files. The bookcase conceals the door to the annexe — Kugler’s idea.
‘My heart was in my mouth. We had come to the crucial place,’ he later said.
To his dismay, the Gestapo men start trying to move it. He now realises they have been betrayed. ‘The moment I had been dreading for two years had arrived.’
The Gestapo find the hook to unfasten the bookcase and it swings open, revealing a grey door.
‘No one would ever guess that there could be so many rooms hidden behind that plain grey door,’ Anne had written.
Kugler hesitates, but is pushed through the door from behind. He walks up a narrow set of stairs and into the Franks’ room. Its walls are covered in old peeling yellow wallpaper and sitting motionless at a table is Anne’s mother, Edith.
Kugler’s mouth is so dry, all he can whisper is: ‘Gestapo!’ Edith doesn’t move even when a man with a pistol appears from behind him.
‘Hands up!’ the man shouts. Edith had dreamed of emigrating to the United States, just like her two brothers did before the war. That dream is over.
Another Gestapo agent brings in Anne and Margot, who walk over to stand next to their mother with their hands over their heads.
Above them in Peter’s room, Otto is checking the results of his pupil’s dictation and saying: ‘In English “double” is spelled with only one “b”!’ when suddenly they hear the sound of running feet.
Otto stands indignantly — none of them should be making such a loud noise at this time of day. The door opens; an armed man stands there. 
Peter and Otto put their hands up and the man orders them to walk downstairs.
‘When the Gestapo came in with their guns, that was the end of everything,’ Otto later said.


Victor Kugler and all the inhabitants of the secret annexe are gathered in the Franks’ bedroom with their hands in the air. Margot is crying quietly.
Standing in the middle of the room is Silberbauer, studying their faces. ‘Where is your money?’ he snaps. 
‘Where are your valuables? Come on, come on, we don’t have all day!’
Otto points towards a cupboard and Silberbauer walks over and drags out the Franks’ wooden chest. He spots Otto’s briefcase that contains Anne’s diaries and tips them on the floor, putting the chest’s contents into the briefcase.
Anne looks on, not saying a word. ‘Perhaps she had a premonition all was lost now,’ said her father.
Silberbauer is irritated by how calm they all are. ‘Get ready! Everyone must be back here in five minutes!’


The eight have backpacks full of clothes already packed in case of an emergency.
Anne calls hers ‘my escape bag’, and during night-time Allied air raids she would hug it for comfort; she goes next door to her bedroom to collect it. Victor Kugler can see fear on their faces.
As Otto takes his backpack from a hook on the bedroom wall, Silberbauer notices a large grey trunk on the floor by the window with ‘Reserve Lieutenant, Otto Frank’ stencilled on the lid.
‘Where did you get this?’ he demands. ‘It belongs to me. I was a reserve officer in the First World War,’ Otto replies.
Silberbauer, outranked by his prisoner, blushes. ‘But why didn’t you register as a veteran? They certainly would have taken that into consideration, man! You would have been sent to Theresienstadt.’
Silberbauer believes the Nazi propaganda that Theresienstadt is a refuge for Jewish veterans and the elderly, when in reality it is a concentration camp.
Otto remains silent and Silberbauer quickly changes the subject. ‘How long have you been hiding here?’ he asks.
‘Two years and one month,’ Otto replies.
The Gestapo officer shakes his head in disbelief, so Otto points to the pencil marks on the wallpaper that show how far Margot and Anne have grown since July 1942.
Convinced, Silberbauer says: ‘All right. Get your things together. Take your time.’


One of the Gestapo men is in Miep Gies’ office phoning for a truck. Silberbauer walks in and stands over Miep.
‘Now it’s your turn,’ he says threateningly. Miep stands to face him. ‘You’re Viennese. I’m from Vienna, too,’ she says.
Silberbauer is taken aback for a moment, then demands to see her ID card, which she hands over.
In a rage he throws it back. ‘Aren’t you ashamed that you’re helping Jewish garbage?’
He calls her a traitor and threatens terrible punishments. Miep stands as tall as she can. Silberbauer calms down and says she can stay put, but if she runs away they will arrest her husband Jan.
Miep can’t stop herself saying: ‘You keep your hands off my husband! This is my business. He doesn’t know anything about it.’
Silberbauer says he knows Jan is involved, but lets Miep go. ‘She was such a nice girl,’ he said later.


The truck pulls up close to the doorway of 263 Prinsengracht.


Fritz Pfeffer, the Franks and van Pels are brought down one by one. Silberbauer tells Kugler and Kleiman they, too, are under arrest. 
As Kugler walks past foreman Willem van Maaren, he wonders if he is the one who betrayed them. A small crowd has gathered. 
Clutching her backpack, Anne steps into the sunlight for the first time in over two years. She knows her fate. Jews are sent to camps and murdered.
‘The English radio speaks of their being gassed,’ she wrote. ‘Perhaps that it is the quickest way to die.’
The door of the truck is slammed shut behind her.


The truck and a police car carrying the prisoners arrive at Gestapo HQ — a former school. On the journey, none of them said a word. They are locked in a room.
Otto apologises to Kleiman, who interrupts him, saying: ‘Don’t give it another thought. I wouldn’t have done it any differently.’


Miep and husband Jan stand in the annexe. All the rooms have been turned upside down.
On the floor of Otto and Edith’s room, Miep spots Anne’s precious red-and-white checked diary and exercise books and scoops them up.
Jan has found some library books that need returning, plus Pfeffer’s Spanish books. As they pass the bathroom Miep sees Anne’s beige shawl and brings it with her.
Miep locks the door and takes Anne’s belongings to her office and puts them in her desk bottom drawer. She hopes one day Anne will return to retrieve them.


Three days later at Centraal Station, two sisters named Lin and Janny Brilleslijper, members of the Dutch resistance about to be taken to a transit camp, spotted the Frank family on the platform.
‘A very worried father and a nervous mother and two children wearing sports-type clothes and backpacks . . . all these people had a sort of silent melancholy about them,’ she remembered.
All four men from the annexe ended up in the same barracks in Auschwitz; Peter looked after the older men as best he could. Only Otto survived.
His wife Edith died in Auschwitz in January 1945 and it is thought Auguste van Pels perished on a transport the following month.
Peter was moved to a labour camp, where he fell ill. Five days after the camp was liberated by the Americans, he died. He was 18.
In March 1945, Anne and Margot contracted typhus at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp and never recovered. It was Lin and Janny who carried their emaciated bodies to a mass grave in the camp. A few weeks later, Bergen-Belsen was liberated by the British.
On the day Otto learned his daughters’ fate, Miep gave him Anne’s diary with the words: ‘Here is your daughter Anne’s legacy to you.’
The grieving Otto left them unread for some time, but was eventually persuaded they were important testimony to the persecution so many suffered at the hands of the Nazis. He agreed to publish them.
The Diary Of Anne Frank has since been translated into more than 70 languages and has sold more than 30 million copies.
The building at 263 Prinsengracht was later saved from demolition by Otto, with the Anne Frank Foundation and funded by public donations. It opened as a museum in 1960 and still attracts more than one million visitors a year.
SS officer Julius Dettmann committed suicide in July 1945 while awaiting trial in Amsterdam. 
The Simon Wiesenthal Center identified Karl Josef Silberbauer in 1958, but the Austrian authorities never charged him. He died in 1972. The identity of the Dutch informant has never been discovered.

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