Anne Frank is the most famous victim of Hitler’s Jewish Holocaust during the Second World War. She and her family spent two years, secreted in a small set of rooms in Amsterdam, hiding from the Nazis. Non-Jewish friends protected them.
Annelies Frank was born on 12 June 1929 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. Her Jewish parents Otto Frank and Edith Frank-Hollander called their daughter Anne. In reaction to Hitler’s anti-Jewish decrees, Otto Frank opened a branch of his company, Opteka, in Amsterdam in 1933, and started preparations to bring his family there. Frank and her older sister Margot frequently spent their summer days with their grandmother in Aachen, Germany.
The Frank family fled and moved into a house on Medwedplein in the southern part of Amsterdam in 1933. Frank began to attend the nearby Montessori school, where she excelled and made many friends. She was an exceptional student. Seven years later the Nazis invaded the Netherlands and in five days, Holland capitulated to the invading German forces. This happened in 1940, when the Netherlands was occupied and the protection that Holland provided came to an end.
Frank’s father had already begun to convert the annex of his company cum house at Prinsengracht 263 into a hiding place. Under Nazi law, Anne Frank was forced to leave the Montessori school and to attend the Jewish Secondary School in Amsterdam. On her 13th birthday, in 1942, she received a diary as a gift from her parents. She immediately took to writing her intimate thoughts and musings. The rest contained a description of daily life in the back annexe, the isolation and the fear of discovery. A few short weeks later, Margot, the older sister, received notice from the Nazi SS to report for work detail at a labour camp. On 5 July 1942, the Frank family decided to move to the secret annexe adjacent to Otto Frank’s former office on the Prinsengracht. Later on they were joined by the Van Pels family and Fritz Pfeffer. For more than two years these eight people live in the secret annexe cut off from the outside world.
When Otto Frank asked his secretary, Miep Gies, In 1942 if she would help him and his colleague Van Pels go into hiding with their families in their businesss building, she retortes with a spontaneous yes. Each day, along with Bep, Miep tried as unobtrusively as possible to purchase food for the eight in hiding. This was not an easy task due to the food scarcities and distribution system set-up. Frank’s famed diary recounted two years of hiding in the attic above the store, and it ended on 4 August 1944, when their hiding place was betrayed by a Dutch collaborator to the Gestapo. SS Officer Karl Joseph Silberbauer arrested the Frank and the Van Pels families.
Frank and the seven others, who shared the overcrowded annexe with her, were all deported to Westerbork camp. A few weeks later as the Allied Forces started re-occupying Holland, and the inhabitants of the camp were then transferred to Auschwitz and later to other camps. The precious diary was among the many personal effects left behind by the Frank family.
Anne and Margot Frank ultimately ended up in Bergen-Belsen camp in Germany, after being evacuated from Auschwitz in October 1944 as starvation, cold, and disease swept through the camp’s population. Margot and Anne died in March and April 1945 respectively in a typhus epidemic at the camp at Bergen-Belsen only a few weeks before this concentration camp was liberated. Frank was 15 years old. Otto Frank, the only member of the group to survive, returned home after the war.
Frank’s diary survived the war. After the betrayal Miep Gies, one of the helpers, found it. When it was confirmed that Frank would not be returning, Miep gave the manuscripts to Otto Frank. Her diary was published in 1947 in the Netherlands under the title Het Achterhuis (in English – The Annex). The diary was later translated into more than 60 languages and millions of copies were sold. It remained in print into the 21st century. It first translation into English was made in 1952 and it was published under the title The Diary of a Young Girl.
Frank’s diary begins just before the family retreated into their secret annexe. She recorded mostly her hopes, frustrations, and clashes with her parents, and observation of her companions. She who removed certain family references and some of her highly intimate confessions edited its first version.
The diary leaves one with a touching image of the awakening of the soul of a child amidst war and other forms of danger. The original of the diary is on display as part of the Anne Frank House’s permanent exhibition. Two more items from her appeared in print:
- Weet je nog?
- Verhalen en sprookjes (1949)