The Secret Annex in German-occupied Amsterdam, Holland during World War II
Anne's descriptions of her life before she went into hiding provide a bit of background on the setting of Amsterdam, Holland. We learn that "things got bad for the Jews" during the German occupation: "You could not do this and you could not do that." One of Anne and Peter's most hated rules were the yellow Stars of David Jews were made to wear on their clothing. Upon going into hiding, Peter burns his, saying that the stars were "Something they branded you with… That they made you wear so they could spit on you" (1.2). This brief view of Amsterdam helps us understand the forces that caused the Franks to enter into hiding.
The play's events take place in the small rooms of the "Secret Annex," a portion of Mr. Frank's office hidden behind a bookcase. The living situation is cramped and confining for the eight inhabitants. Anne gets emotional about not being able to go outside, ride a bike, or do other kid stuff. We see her youthfulness and creativity become stifled because of the close quarters. Another difficult part of living in the Secret Annex is that, since their hiding space is a portion of an office with many workers unaware of the Jews in hiding, the Secret Annex inhabitants have to be very quiet, especially during business hours.
The cramped quarters, and the fear of Nazi discovery (which could mean death for them and their protectors), take a toll on the residents. They become increasingly peevish, selfish, and irrational. The dull monotony of their lives and the 24-7 "togetherness" makes (and breaks) their relationships.