On this day: December 1943

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6 December 1943

Anne, the Frank family, the Van Pels family, and Fritz Pfeffer have been hiding in “het achterhuis – the Secret Annex” at 263 Prisengracht in Amsterdam for over a year.  

Today is the feast of Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas), a traditional Dutch holiday in which all are invited to participate, regardless of religious affiliation or beliefs. 

Yesterday, the holiday season officially began in the Netherlands with 'sinterklaasavond' (Sinterklaas evening) – the night when Sinterklaas leaves a sack of presents on the doorstep before heading back to Spain. Each gift is accompanied by a poem written especially for the recipient. After Sinterklaas has left, Dutch families unwrap their presents and read aloud their poems.

Anne writes in her diary how “it would be terrible to skip a celebration this year” so she and her father, Otto, write “a verse for each person.”

So, despite being in hiding, the inhabitants of the Annex joined in their own secret celebration of sinterklaasavond. Anne writes about it in her diary:

[Last] evening at about a quarter to eight we trooped upstairs carrying the big laundry basket, which had been decorated with cutouts and bows made of pink and blue carbon paper. On top was a large piece of brown wrapping paper with a note attached. Everyone was rather amazed at the sheer size of the gift. I removed the note and read it aloud:

Once again St. Nicholas Day
Has even come to our hideaway;
It won't be quite as fun, I fear,
As the happy day we had last year.
Then we were hopeful, no reason to doubt
That optimism would win the bout,
And by the time this year came round,
We'd be free, and safe and sound.
Still, let's not forget it's St. Nicholas Day,
Though we've nothing left to give away.
We'll have to find something else to do:
So everyone please look in their shoe!

As each person took their own shoe out of the basket, there was a roar of laughter. Inside each shoe was a little paper package addressed to its owner.

22 December 1943

Anne has not written in her diary since December 6th but today she finally manages an update in which she informs “Kitty” that she has had a bad case of the flu and was thereby unable to write. “Being sick here is dreadful,” she explains, “With every cough, I had to duck under the blanket – once, twice, three times – and try to keep from coughing anymore.” Since they are hiding in secret, in the event of an illness such as this, they are not able to leave or bring in a doctor.

However, Anne’s spirits seem to lift briefly as she goes on to describe that for Christmas they will be receiving extra cooking oil, candy, and molasses. She also lists some of the gifts her fellow inhabitants of the Annex received and/or gave in honor of Hanukkah. “Margot and I received a brooch made out of a penny, all bright and shiny. I can’t really describe it, but it’s lovely.”

Mr. Kleiman, Miep Gies, and Bep Voskuijl (non-Jewish employees and friends of Anne’s father, Otto, who are helping to hide them in the Annex) receive sugar that Anne has saved up. 

She ends the entry with “The war is at an impasse, spirits are low.” 

27 December 1943

Anne writes in her diary:

Friday evening, for the first time in my life, I received a Christmas present. Mr. Kleiman, Mr. Kugler and the girls (Miep and Bep) had prepared a wonderful surprise for us. Miep made a delicious Christmas cake with “Peace 1944” written on top, and Bep provided a batch of cookies that was up to prewar standards.

There was a jar of yogurt for Peter, Margot, and me, and a bottle of beer for each of the adults. And once again everything was wrapped so nicely, with pretty pictures glued to the packages. For the rest, the holiday passed by quickly for us. 

Sources and Related Links

Frank, Anne, Otto Frank, Mirjam Pressler, and Susan Massotty. 1197. The diary of a young girl: the definitive edition. New York: Doubleday.

In hiding

The Secret Annex Online

The Helpers

Anne Frank Timeline