A Storied Structure Opens to the Public

The Anne Frank House

After its near-demolition in the mid-1950s, the residence of the best-known teenaged World War II diarist, Anne Frank (1929-1945), opened to the public on May 3, 1960. Located at Prinsengracht 263 in Amsterdam’s Jewish Quarter, the Berghaus Textile factory purchased the main house at this address in 1954 along with other adjacent properties in the block which it planned to renovate and convert into a manufacturing facility. However, an organization with the same name as today’s museum spearheaded an effort to preserve Prinsengracht 263 for its historical value and for future generations to learn about the particular ordeal of one heroic family during World War II.

Diary Museum Display

Most people know Anne Frank from her writings between the summers of 1942 and 1944. And that she and her sister Margot died in captivity so close to the end of the war made her writings even more poignant. In 1947, this chronicle appeared as a book entitled Het Achterhuis (Dutch, Diary of a Young Girl) and in subsequent years the Diary has been translated into 70 languages, including the first English version published by Doubleday in 1952. The Diary of Anne Frank was even staged as a play in 1989, and is now a widely-assigned text in schools across Europe and the United States.

Ten years after the first appearance of the Diary in 1947, Anne Frank’s father Otto (1889-1980) founded the Anne Frank House organization. In 1957, the Berghaus textile factory donated the main house at 263 to the Anne Frank House organization. The Anne Frank House organization subsequently purchased the property next door the following year through fund-raising efforts and assistance from the University of Amsterdam, and began restoring 263.

A solitary Otto Frank in the Secret Annex on opening day, 1960
(Arnold Newman)

Of the eight who lived at the famed Secret Annex at Prinsengracht 263, Otto Frank was the only one to survive and return at the end of the war. The momentum of the Diary publication allowed Frank to restore the main house at Prinsengracht 263 and give it a sort of public mission; in his words, to serve “as a warning from the past, focused on the future.” Frank believed that the restored House could educate individuals about the suffering caused by the Holocaust; and in this way “fight discrimination, prejudice, and oppression in the world today.” Before restoration was complete, Prinsengracht 263 opened to the public on May 3, 1960.

An important exception to the restoration of Prinsengracht 263 and its adjacent structures was the Secret Annex, which remained in its original condition, and was the focus of much that takes place the Diary narrative.

Anne Frank House capitalized on the extraordinary popularity of the Diary not only in fund-raising but in the instant on-going marketing the book brought to the House itself as far as visitation. It has also allowed the restoration to go farther than the original structure. In one of the neighboring properties purchased by the Anne Frank House organization was the creation of the International Youth Centre which opened in May 1961 which serves as one of several ways the Anne Frank House follows its mission which Otto Frank believed involved “persuading young people of the need to contribute to a better world.” Through periodic conferences, the Centre allows young adults to examine issues such as discrimination, democracy, cross-cultural communication, religion, and international cooperation. “The Anne Frank House,” Frank said, “is a base, but the International Youth Centre will do everything to further the Anne Frank ideals: to help, to work for peace, for tolerance, for understanding. And that is the main thing, which we still have to do.” The Youth Centre extends its reach and message through the Anne Frank Youth Network, which collaborates with about 6,000 young adults annually from more than 50 countries, according to the Anne Frank House’s website.

The number of visitors has grown steadily since opening in 1960s – from the tens of thousands to over 600 thousand by the late 1980s. In response to the museum’s heavy traffic, the museum was expanded, and upgrades were made to many exhibits to offer subtitled videos in as many as five languages; an audio introduction to the museum in eight languages; and an overview of the lives of the Frank family, Van Pels family, and Fritz Pfeffer in two languages. Today, the Anne Frank House attracts over a million visitors annually, with most from the U.S., U.K., Germany, Japan, and Australia; and most are younger people.

The popularity of the the Anne Frank House caused the creation of a “virtual museum” so to give access without risking the preservation of the famous Secret Annex and the museum in general. The Anne Frank House already had digital versions of the museum available as early as 1997 and 1999. However, the most recent version allows visitors to view the museum in a three-dimensional format on the museum’s website.

It is interesting to note that Adolf Eichmann (1906-1962) one of the chief architects of the Jewish Holocaust, was captured by Israeli agents (Mossad) near Buenos Aires one week after the opening of the Anne Frank House in 1960. He was tried in Jerusalem in 1961-62, convicted of crimes against humanity, and hanged in June of 1962.

Karl Silberbauer (1911-1972), the gestapo officer (right) who arrested Anne Frank, Margot, and other occupants of the (attic) Secret Annex at Prinsengracht in 1944 was himself arrested in 1963 in Vienna, and released.  He had reported to Eichmann during the war and was recruited by West German intelligence after the 1945 to infiltrate post-war Nazi organizations. Silberbauer’s admission to his involvement in the Frank House arrests helped authenticate the Diary that some thought was a forgery.

Otto Frank died at age 91 in 1980. Interestingly, he long outlived Hitler with whom he shares a birth year.

To view the Secret Annex Online, please visit https://www.annefrank.org/en/anne-frank/secret-annex/. Other online resources can be accessed here: https://www.annefrank.org/en/museum/web-and-digital/


  • Anne Frank House. n.d. “Anne Frank Youth Network.” Anne Frank House.
  • Anne Frank House. n.d. “How It All Began.” Anne Frank House.
  • Anne Frank House. n.d. “Otto Frank’s Mission.” Anne Frank House.
  • Anne Frank House. n.d. “The Entire Timeline. The Old Hiding Place Becomes a Museum: The Anne Frank House.” Anne Frank House. https://www.annefrank.org/en/anne-frank/the-timeline/entire-timeline/#20
  • Rudi Hartmann, 2013. “The Anne Frank House in Amsterdam: A Museum and Literary Landscape Goes Virtual Reality,” Journalism and Mass Communication 3 (10), 626-642.
  • Ronald Leopold, n.d. “History in the Here and Now.” The Anne Frank House. Accessed October 2020. https://www.annefrank.org/en/about-us/who-we-are/history-here-and-now/.


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