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Otto Frank, the last survivor of a family of German and Dutch Jews, returns to a secret hiding place in which he and his family have lived during the first part of the Holocaust in Amsterdam. His friend and former secretary, Miep Gies, has saved a diary that his daughter Anne kept during that time. Otto begins reading the diary entries aloud, and the play follows Anne's thoughts and actions, as well as those of the other Jews hiding in the Secret Annex.
The Frank family (Anne, Margot, Edith and Otto) and another Jewish family, the Van Daans, try to co-exist peacefully in a small apartment of rooms, hidden behind a bookcase in Otto Frank's office in Amsterdam. They must hide from the Nazis who are exterminating Jewish citizens during the Holocaust.
The family members may not make noise or leave the hiding place for fear of being discovered. Only Miep Gies and business associate Mr. Kraler are allowed to know of their existence. They help the families by bringing them necessary items and food. Tensions run high between the Frank family and the Van Daan family, especially Mr. and Mrs. Van Daan, and everyone’s just barely keeping it together.
Anne keeps a diary and records the trials and tribulations experienced by the families, as well as her own coming of age in a tiny room surrounded by frustration, selfishness and a heaping dose of fear. She battles low spirits, teenage issues and loneliness. The family learns of the Nazis’ terrifying death camps from a man named Mr. Dussel. Then, on Hanukkah, a thief burglarizes the building, ratcheting up tensions even further.
Things almost seem like they might be turning around when the families learn of the Allied invasion of the Netherlands, and Anne begins to see the potential of a blossoming romance with young Peter Van Daan. Tragically, however, her family’s hiding place is discovered and both families are arrested by the Nazis.
Otto Frank completes a reading of the diary and is beyond words at what he has just read. Anne's attitude and outlook on her time spent in the Secret Annex has clearly affected him. He relates to Miep that, after their discovery, the Annex residents were deported out of Holland to concentration camps.
Anne, her older sister Margot Frank and Mrs. Frank all died in Bergen-Belsen, one of the most notorious Holocaust death camps. Peter Van Daan and Mr. and Mrs. Van Daan died in other concentration camps. Otto Frank, who lives to see the Allies defeat Germany in World War II and is rescued by Allied forces, is the only survivor of the annex crew of eight.
The last scene in the play reconnects with the very first. Anne’s father tells Miep Gies that he's going to go away. Miep begs him to stay, but we can't help but empathize with Mr. Frank and the massive sadness he has to endure now that his whole family has been taken from him. In the end, all he can do is reflect sadly upon Anne's passing.