The Annex of History
Our culture has developed a penchant for historical sites and buildings. Underneath each stone and structure lies a story filled with the days of another place and era. As the past becomes our present, we are faced with the whispering echoes of what once was that has led us to the world we know today. Prinsengracht 263 appears to be an average building that has weathered the years. You can see the updated efforts to preserve its original integrity while inside lies a tragic essence that touched time itself.
The presence of Prinsengracht 263 began hundreds of years ago. In the late 1500s, Amsterdam was a small and humble city. With nearly 50,000 approximated residents, the city was not a central focus of trade or freight which were the primary breadwinners of that period. Assets were built and the community grew over four times in population within a few short decades. This identified the need to expand their resources and housing capabilities. Canals were formed around the center of the city leading to an upsurge of merchant activity. The warehouses that lined the waterfront were used by businesses for mercantile sales, production and storage. Adding additional living spaces to the narrow-lined buildings was an efficient way to produce more room for families. Annexes were commonly used with connecting corridors and stairways. Behind the buildings were backyards that helped to separate the rows. Prinsengracht 263 was built adjacent to two warehouses in 1635.
The Prinsengracht Annex
Many iconic buildings boast luxurious materials or magnificent architecture that made its place in history. Famous kings or figures that are associated with the premises assist in driving thousands of visitors who want to bask in history. The Prinsengracht Annex does not possess any signs of grandeur in its build. It is a quaint building that sees the arrival of over 1.2 million visitors every year. What the annex possesses is not measured in monetary value. Instead it holds the heart of the world as its treasure. Prinsengracht 263 is well over three hundred years old. It was not until the mid-summer month of July in 1942 that the building would begin its journey.
Known as the business place of Frank Otto, the layout had its originating maze of halls and floors. One way this was remedied was a doorway hidden by a bookcase that was set on hinges. Behind the bookcase was an annex or secret room that only few knew about. During the war, Mr. Otto brought his family to the annex to hide from captivity. Other community members joined them making a small space even smaller. It was here they hid for two years from the torturous conditions of the war. A young teen girl, Anne Frank, was full of hope for the future. She recounted the days of hiding in her journal for both years until the dismal day they were discovered. The Frank family and the others were brought to separate concentration camps where they endured horrific conditions. Frank Otto never saw his daughters Anne and Margot or his wife ever again after that moment. As the lone survivor, he returned to the Annex in grief. Among the disarray from the last minute they were there, he found
Anne’s diary. Her words inspired many generations and nations becoming a beacon for all those who read it. Prinsengracht 263 is now known as the Anne Frank House where the bookcase that concealed them still stands. Her pictures and the items left behind from that fateful day continue to remind us of her message to us all… “where there is hope… there is life”.