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Virtual Reality Film Will Simulate Anne Frank’s Hiding Place

‘Anne’ will give audiences a sense of what it was like to be in the “Secret Annex”

The diarist's hiding place will soon come to life in Anne, a virtual reality film. (Public Domain)
smithsonian.com

In 1942, Anne Frank and her family went into hiding from the Nazis in an office building in the heart of Amsterdam. There, she kept a diary that brought her world as a teenage girl to vivid life. Though Anne didn’t survive the Holocaust, her words immortalized her experience—and now, reports Entertainment Weekly’s Derek Lawrence, her story will become even more immersive thanks to a virtual reality movie.

The film, Anne, will be created by producer Jonah Hirsch and filmmaker Danny Abrahms, writes Lawrence, and it will give audiences a sense of what it was like to hide in what Anne called her “Secret Annex.” 

Hirsch is already known in virtual reality circles as the producer of First, a VR film which recreated the first flight of Wilbur and Orville Wright. The movie, produced with the help of Smithsonian Wright Brothers experts, included infinitesimal details about the brothers’ historic flight in a bid to transport viewers into history.

Anne will attempt to do the same— but this time, the filmmakers will engage with a much grimmer subject matter. In a release, Abrahms said that he can’t think of a better way to explore one of history’s more significant events than with a chance to virtually “witness” the hiding place and the lives of the Frank family, together with their friends the Van Pels family and Fritz Pfeffer. 

The film's focus is sure to draw conversation. As the Hollywood Reporter's Seth Abramovitch notes, "The sensitive nature of the Anne plot — and the intensity of the Frank family's situation — will invariably leave the project open to criticism and debate over its ethical implications." 

The reality for Anne and the seven she went into hiding with was cramped, uncomfortable and fraught with danger. Because they were housed in the back part of an office building, the Frank family, the Van Pels family and Fritz Pfeffer had to remain silent throughout the day and only move about at night. Their caretakers had to smuggle illegally purchased food, clothing and household goods to them during a time when rations were paltry and the streets patrolled by the Netherlands’ Nazi occupiers.

Though the family did their best to maintain a normal life in hiding, they were eventually betrayed, arrested and deported to Auschwitz and other concentration camps. Of the eight that went into hiding, only Anne’s father, Otto, survived the war.

Anne was just 15 years old when she died of typhus at Bergen-Belsen and was buried in a mass grave. But her legacy lived far beyond those 15 years—69 years after her father published her diary that she penned in hiding, her story has been read by tens of millions and published in 70 languages.

Today, her hiding place is one of Amsterdam’s most heavily trafficked tourist destinations. According to the Anne Frank House’s website, more than 31 million visitors have gone through its doors so far. Though no date has been set yet for the film's release, Anne will allow even more to virtually witness what it was like in her "Secret Annex."

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