We occupied the ground floor of the three-story apartment building. Nearby us, at Merwedeplein 37, lived a German family by the name of Frank—Otto, Edith, Margot and Anne. The Franks were from Frankfurt am Main. Like many other exiles in Amsterdam, they had seen the writing on the wall—literally and figuratively—in the form of anti-Semitic slogans and anti-Jewish laws imposed by Hitler and the Nazis. They had decided to get out of Germany while they could, arriving a few months after Ruth and I had moved into the neighborhood. Like us, they believed that they would be safe from the Nazis in Holland. Like us, they were waiting for conditions to return to normal. No one could foresee the tragedy that would befall them or that Anne’s name would become known throughout the world.
Since the Franks and our family had many things in common, we soon became friendly, spending time at each other’s apartments, socializing, playing bridge, and drinking coffee . Otto was an energetic businessman who had to start over from scratch, like me. Extroverted and energetic, he seemed to thrive on the challenge. If he was ever worried, he never let it show in public. I can’t say I liked him—he was opinionated and always had to be right—but I respected his dedication to his family and his optimism in the face of difficulties. His wife Edith had a hard time adjusting to the new conditions. She found learning Dutch difficult and often talked with longing about her former life in Germany. Anxious and unhappy, she struck me as being depressed. Ruth, however, liked her, and she and Edith became good friends. Anne was seven years older than Pieter. Unlike her older sister, Margot, who was studious and quiet, Anne was a vivacious, outgoing girl who adored children. She had an infectious laugh and was well-liked by everyone. Our apartment had a small garden in the back where she played with Pieter when he was a baby. Later, when he was older, Anne often came to babysit for him. During the hot summer months, they would use a garden hose to fill a big tin washtub with water and “go swimming” in the backyard. Anne was very creative, playing board games, reading books with Pieter, and patiently answering his endless questions. When she had had enough, she would say, “Stop, or you’ll ask a hole in my stomach,” which would send him into peals of laughter. She was one of those girls on the verge of becoming a teenager, who could act like a grown-up one moment and play tag with the younger children in the neighborhood the next.