Everyone knows about Anne Frank and her life hidden in the Secret Annex—but what about the boy who was trapped there with her? In this powerful and gripping novel, Sharon Dogar explores what this might have been like from Peter’s point of view. What was it like to be forced into hiding with Anne Frank, first to hate her and then to find yourself falling in love with her? To know you’re being written about in Anne’s diary, day after day? What’s it like to start questioning your religion, wondering why simply being Jewish inspires such hatred and persecution? Or to just sit and wait and watch while others die, and wish you were fighting? Anne’s diary ends on August 4, 1944, but Peter’s story takes us on, beyond their betrayal and into the Nazi death camps. He details with accuracy, clarity, and compassion the reality of day-to-day survival in Auschwitz—and ultimately the horrific fates of the Annex’s occupants.
1. If you’ve read Annexed, then chances are you’ve also read The Diary of Anne Frank. Does reading the story from Peter’s point of view shed any new understanding on Anne’s diary or help you to see it in a new way?
2. Why do you think the author decided to open with a Preface? How do you feel about this being a fictional story based on real events? Do you think it would be more difficult to write a story about real events, or to conjure up an entirely imagined story?
3. In the Prologue, Peter says, “. . . each day a piece of us dies. And we let it die. We have to—to survive.” What does he mean by this? Discuss how Peter and other characters in the novel allow a piece of themselves to die in order to survive.
4. Throughout the book, Peter is haunted by his friend, Liese, whom he watches the Nazis abduct. Why do you think this image stays seared in his mind? Does it represent a bigger fear or feeling?
5. Upon entering the Annex, Peter finds it hard to believe that the sun is still shining outside. How does this thought help set the mood and tone of the Annex, the setting for most of the novel?
6. On page 56, Mr. Frank advises Peter, “You mustn’t let their hate become your hate.” But Peter finds it difficult not to hate the people putting them through this. If you were in this situation, how would you feel? Do you agree with Mr. Frank or with Peter?
7. Peter experiences many feelings while he is cramped together with his family and the Franks in the Annex. At one point he says, “I know that sometimes love is as hard to bear as hate, that it can hurt as much” (page 69). Why does Peter feel this way?
8. More than once in the novel, Peter questions a God who can select a “chosen people,” just as the Nazis have. Consider the validity of this parallel. In what other ways does Peter question his faith? How do the others in the Annex respond?
9. On page 114, Peter ponders his own father’s longing for the past. “Well, at least you’ve had a past,” Peter thinks. “I haven’t, or not much of one!” Which do you think would be more difficult: to be stripped of everything and have a vivid memory of a happy past, or to be so young that you have few happy memories to fall back on? Do you think Peter would be having the same feelings if he were twenty years older?
10. Peter asks Anne not to write about him in her diary or in any of her stories. He says, “It feels like being stolen” (page 225). What does he mean by that? How does Anne’s writing affect everyone in the Annex? How would you feel if someone you had an intimate relationship with wrote about you in his or her diary?
11. Anne comes to a point where she realizes she loves her writing more than anything—more than Peter, even more than her own family. “I can’t think about anything else,” Anne tells Peter on page 248. “Except that it’s ending and that we have the chance to tell.” How does this make Peter feel? Discuss how the importance to bear witness was acknowledged by the Jewish people, and how that has affected our understanding of the Holocaust all these years later.
12. In Part 2 of the novel, Peter is no longer in the Annex. He is in Mauthausen sick bay, and he remembers their voyage from the Annex by train to Auschwitz. How do the final passages differ from the rest of the novel? Do you think Peter’s story, which goes beyond Anne’s diary, beyond Anne’s death, adds a new dimension to Anne’s own story? To the story of the Holocaust?
13. On page 291, Peter imagines Anne encouraging him to tell his story: “Because it is words that make man free — not work.” Do you think Peter, who used to want to fight, has come to agree with Anne and Mr. Frank? How can words set a person free?
14. When Peter is liberated, two men help him out of the sick bay where he is dying. They ask him if he can make it outside. He whispers, “Is it still all there? The outside?” (page 313). Why does he ask this? What significance does “the outside” have throughout this novel? Why is it significant that Peter is liberated, even though he doesn’t get to enjoy his freedom for very long?
15. In the end, Peter wonders, “Can I ever be free of the pictures inside me?” Do you think anyone could be free of such intense memories as those in the Annex and in the camp? Do you think being “free of the pictures” means to forget them, to find a way to live beyond them, or something else? How does Annexed begin to offer an answer to the question of how humans deal with such intense trauma?