The Secret Annex: What Was a Typical Day Like?

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Diary of a Young Girl" by Anne Frank. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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How long did the Franks and other residents live in the Secret Annex? What did they do on a day-to-day basis?

In total, the residents of the Secret Annex spent 761 days on the premises. Although each day was different from the last, the Secret Annex residents followed more or less the same routine day in and day out.

Read about a typical day in the Secret Annex, as reconstructed from Anne’s diary entries.

A Typical Day in the Secret Annex

At 6:45 AM, an alarm clock would ring through the Annex. The residents would quickly bathe and use the restroom before the office staff arrived. They could use the water before anyone had shown up for work. However, once the first employee had arrived, they’d have to wait until a number of people had started, as the noise of the running water would arouse suspicion if there were only one or two employees in the warehouse. From 8:30 AM to 9:00 AM, the residents would sit silently and read or study. At 9:00 AM, breakfast was served. After breakfast, the residents would get to the task of peeling potatoes as a group in preparation for the rest of the meals for the day. After this, they’d return to their separate corners until lunch.

At 12:30 PM, employees would leave for lunch. At this time, the residents would get to work doing louder tasks such as vacuuming. At 12:45 PM, the residents would be joined by some of their helpers, and they would all listen to the BBC broadcast for the mid-day news. At 1:15 PM, food was served, and the residents and helpers would eat until 1:45 PM. After lunch, the residents would return to silence until about 5:30 PM.

At 5:30 PM, Bep would come into the Secret Annex to let the residents know that the workers had gone home for the evening. At this time, the residents (Mrs. van Daan, in particular) would begin to ask Bep to bring them a variety of things from the outside world. At 5:45 PM, Bep would leave, and the residents would venture down to the offices. Mr. van Daan would comb through the mail, Peter would play with the warehouse cat, Otto would take the typewriter from the office, and Margot would look for a quiet place to work.

At 9:00 PM, the residents would begin preparing for bed by pulling out beds and adjusting the furniture. Once the beds were set, Anne would bathe in the bathroom and go through her nightly hygiene routine. At 10:00 PM, Anne would set up the blackout curtains and lie down for bed. At 11:30 PM, Dussel would come to bed after finishing up his nightly studies. At around 3 AM, Anne would often get up to use the restroom using the can under her bed. 

The Secret Annex: What Was a Typical Day Like?

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  • What Nazi occupation looked like from the perspective of a young Jewish girl
  • How Anne Frank had some normal teenage experiences while in hiding
  • How the hidden residents coped with the stress

Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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