Marie "Anne" Frank (June 12, 1929 – March 1945) was
a German Jewish girl who wrote a diary while in hiding with her family
and four friends in Amsterdam during the German occupation of the Netherlands
during World War II.
had moved to the Netherlands after the Nazis gained power in their home
country Germany. The Netherlands was occupied by Nazi forces in May,
1940, and due to the increasing persecution of Jews, the family went
into hiding in July, 1942 on the third floor of Otto Frank's office
building. After two years in hiding, the group was betrayed, along with
the Van Pels family and a dentist, Fritz Pfeiffer, who had been hiding
with them. They were transported to concentration camps where Anne died
of typhus in Bergen-Belsen within days of her sister, Margot, in March,
1945. At the end of the war her father, Otto, who survived, returned
to Amsterdam to find that Anne's diary had been saved by Miep Gies,
their beloved friend who had helped provide them food and other necessities
while in hiding. Convinced that the diary was a unique record he took
action to have it published.
The diary was given
to Anne for her thirteenth birthday and chronicles the events of her
life from June 12, 1942 until its final entry of August 1, 1944. It
was eventually translated from its original Dutch into many languages
and became one of the world's most widely read books. There have also
been many theatrical productions, and an opera, based on the diary.
Described as the work of a mature and insightful mind, it provides an
intimate examination of daily life under Nazi occupation; through her
writing, Anne Frank has become one of the most renowned and discussed
of the Holocaust victims.
The apartment block on the Merwedeplein where the Frank family lived
from 1934 until 1942Anne Frank was born on June 12, 1929 in Frankfurt
am Main, Germany, the second daughter of Otto Heinrich Frank (May 12,
1889–August 19, 1980) and Edith Holländer (January 16, 1900–January
6, 1945). Margot Betti Frank (February 16, 1926–March 1945) was
The family lived
in an assimilated community of Jewish and non-Jewish citizens, and the
children grew up with Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish friends. The
Franks were Reform Jews, observing many of the traditions of Judaism.
Edith Frank was the more devout parent, while Otto Frank was interested
in scholarly pursuits and had an extensive library; both parents encouraged
the children to read.
On March 13, 1933,
elections were held in Frankfurt for the municipal council, and Adolf
Hitler's Nazi Party won. Anti-Semitic demonstrations occurred almost
immediately, and the Franks began to fear what would happen to them
if they remained in Germany. Later in the year, Edith and the children
went to Aachen, where they stayed with Edith's mother, Rosa Holländer.
Otto Frank remained in Frankfurt, but after receiving an offer to start
a company in Amsterdam, he moved there to organise the business and
to arrange accommodation for his family.
Otto Frank began
working at the Opekta Works, a company which sold the fruit extract
pectin, and found an apartment on the Merwedeplein (Merwede Square)
in an Amsterdam suburb. By February 1934, Edith and the children had
arrived in Amsterdam, and the two girls were enrolled in the Montessori
school. Margot demonstrated ability in arithmetic, and Anne showed aptitude
for reading and writing. They were also recognised as highly distinct
personalities, Margot being well mannered, reserved, and studious, while
Anne was outspoken, energetic, and extroverted.
In 1938, Otto Frank
started a second company in partnership with Hermann van Pels, a butcher,
who had fled Osnabrück in Germany with his family. In 1939 Edith's
mother came to live with the Franks, and remained with them until her
death in January 1942. In May 1940, Germany invaded the Netherlands,
and the occupation government began to persecute Jews by the implementation
of restrictive and discriminatory laws, and the mandatory registration
and segregation of Jews soon followed. Margot and Anne were excelling
in their studies and had a large number of friends, but with the introduction
of a decree that Jewish children could only attend Jewish schools, they
were enrolled at the Jewish Lyceum.
The period chronicled
in the diary
Before going into hiding
Yellow stars of the type that all Jews were required to wear during
the Nazi occupation.For her thirteenth birthday on June 12, 1942, Anne
received a small notebook which she had pointed out to her father in
a shop window a few days earlier. Although it was an autograph book,
bound with red-and-green checkered cloth and with a small lock on the
front, Anne had already decided she would use it as a diary. She began
writing in it almost immediately, and described herself and her family
and her daily life at home and at school, prefacing her entries with
the salutation "Dear Kitty". She wrote about her school grades,
her friends, boys she flirted with and the places she liked to visit
in her neighbourhood. While these early entries demonstrate that in
many ways her life was that of a typical schoolgirl, she also refers
to changes that had taken place since the German occupation. Some references
are seemingly casual and not emphasised, however in some entries she
provides more detail of the oppression that was steadily increasing.
She wrote about the yellow star all Jews were forced to wear in public,
and she listed some of the restrictions and persecutions that had encroached
into the lives of Amsterdam's Jewish population.
In July 1942, Margot
Frank received a call-up notice ordering her to report for relocation
to a work camp. Anne was then told of a plan that Otto had formulated
with his most trusted employees, and which Edith and Margot had been
aware of for a short time. The family was to go into hiding in rooms
above and behind the company's premises on the Prinsengracht, a street
along one of Amsterdam's canals.
Life in the achterhuis
Otto Frank's offices were in the front of the building, with the achterhuis
in the rear.On July 5, 1942, the family moved into the hiding place.
Their apartment was left in a state of disarray to create the impression
that they had left suddenly, and Otto Frank left a note that hinted
they were going to Switzerland. As Jews were not allowed to use public
transport they walked several kilometres from their home, with each
of them wearing several layers of clothing as they did not dare to be
seen carrying luggage. The achterhuis (a Dutch word denoting the rear
part of a house) was a three-story space at the rear of the building
that was entered from a landing above the Opekta offices. Two small
rooms, with an adjoining bathroom and toilet, were on the first level,
and above that a large open room, with a small room beside it. From
this smaller room, a ladder led to the attic. The door to the achterhuis
was later covered by a bookcase to ensure it remained undiscovered.
Anne would later refer to it in her diary as the "Secret Annexe".
The main building, situated a block from the Westerkerk, was nondescript,
old and typical of buildings in the western quarters of Amsterdam.
Victor Kugler, Johannes
Kleiman, Miep Gies and Bep Voskuijl were the only employees who knew
of the people in hiding, and with Gies' husband Jan Gies and Voskuijl's
father Johannes Hendrik Voskuijl, were their "helpers" for
the duration of their confinement. They provided the only contact between
the outside world and the occupants of the house, and they kept them
informed of war news and political developments. They catered for all
of their needs, ensured their safety and supplied them with food, a
task that grew more difficult with the passage of time. Anne wrote of
their dedication and of their efforts to boost morale within the household
during the most dangerous of times. All were aware that if caught they
could face the death penalty for sheltering Jews.
In late July, they
were joined by the van Pels family: Hermann, Auguste, and 16-year-old
Peter, and then in November by Fritz Pfeffer, a dentist and friend of
the family. Anne wrote of her pleasure at having new people to talk
to, but tensions quickly developed within the group forced to live in
such confined conditions. After sharing her room with Pfeffer she found
him to be insufferable, and she clashed with Auguste van Pels, whom
she regarded as foolish. Her relationship with her mother became strained
and Anne wrote that they had little in common as her mother was too
remote. Although she sometimes argued with Margot, she wrote of an unexpected
bond that had developed between them, but she remained closest emotionally
to her father. Some time later, after first dismissing the shy and awkward
Peter van Pels, she recognised a kinship with him and the two entered
Anne spent most
of her time reading and studying, while continuing to write and edit
her diary. In addition to providing a narrative of events as they occurred,
she also wrote about her feelings, beliefs and ambitions, subjects she
felt she could not discuss with anyone. As her confidence in her writing
grew, and as she began to mature, she wrote of more abstract subjects
such as her belief in God, and how she defined human nature. She continued
writing regularly until her final entry of August 1, 1944.
Arrest and concentration
On the morning of August 4, 1944, the achterhuis was stormed by the
Grüne Polizei following a tip-off from an informer who was never
identified . Led by Schutzstaffel Sergeant Karl Silberbauer of the
Sicherheitsdienst, the group included at least three members of the
Security Police. The occupants were loaded into trucks and taken for
interrogation. Victor Kugler and Johannes Kleiman were taken away and
subsequently jailed, but Miep Gies and Bep Voskuijl were allowed to
go. They later returned to the achterhuis, where they found Anne's papers
strewn on the floor. They collected them, as well as several family
photograph albums, and Gies resolved to return them to Anne after the
The members of the
household were taken to the camp at Westerbork. Ostensibly a transit
camp, by this time more than 100,000 Jews had passed through it, and
on September 2, the group was deported on what would be the last transport
from Westerbork to the Auschwitz concentration camp. They arrived after
a three days' journey, and were separated by gender, with the men and
women never to see each other again. Of the 1019 passengers, 549 people
– including all children under the age of 15 years – were
selected and sent directly to the gas chambers where they were killed.
Anne had turned 15 three months earlier and was spared, and although
everyone from the achterhuis survived this selection, Anne believed
her father had been killed.
With the other
females not selected for immediate death, Anne was forced to strip naked
to be disinfected, had her head shaved and was tattooed with an identifying
number on her arm. By day the women were used as slave labour, and by
night were crowded into freezing barracks. Disease was rampant and before
long Anne's skin became badly infected by scabies.
On October 28, selections
began for women to be relocated to Bergen-Belsen. More than 8,000 women,
including Anne and Margot Frank and Auguste van Pels, were transported,
but Edith Frank was left behind. Tents were erected to accommodate the
influx of prisoners, Anne and Margot among them, and as the population
rose, the death toll due to disease increased rapidly. Anne was briefly
reunited with two friends, Hanneli Goslar (named "Lies" in
the diary) and Nanette Blitz, who both survived the war. They said that
Anne, naked but for a piece of blanket, explained she was infested with
lice and had thrown her clothes away. They described her as bald, emaciated
and shivering but although ill herself, she told them that she was more
concerned about Margot, whose illness seemed to be more severe. Goslar
and Blitz did not see Margot who remained in her bunk, too weak to walk.
Anne said they were alone as both of their parents were dead.
In March 1945, a
typhus epidemic spread through the camp killing an estimated 17,000
prisoners. Witnesses later testified that Margot fell from her bunk
in her weakened state and was killed by the shock, and that a few days
later Anne also died. They estimated that this occurred a few weeks
before the camp was liberated by British troops on April 15, 1945, and
although the exact dates were not recorded, it is generally accepted
to have been between the end of February and the middle of March.
After the war, it
was estimated that of the 110,000 Jews deported from the Netherlands
during the Nazi occupation, only 5,000 survived.
The individual fates
of the other occupants of the achterhuis, their helpers, and other people
associated with Anne Frank, are discussed further. See article: People
associated with Anne Frank.
Anne Frank received
a blank diary on her 13th birthday, just weeks before she and her family
went into hiding in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam. Her marvelously detailed,
engagingly personal entries chronicle 25 trying months of claustrophobic,
quarrelsome intimacy with her parents, sister, a second family, and
a middle-aged dentist who has little tolerance for Anne's vivacity.
The diary's universal appeal stems from its riveting blend of the grubby
particulars of life during wartime and candid discussion of emotions
familiar to every adolescent.
The story of the
Frank family began in Germany in the 1920's when Otto and Edith Frank
led a happy life, highlighted by the births of their daughters Margot
and Anne. She and her older sister Margot, frequently spent their summer
in Aachen, Germany, with their grandmother. In 1933, in response to
Hitler's anti-Jewish decrees, Otto Frank opened a branch of his company,
Opteka, in Amsterdam and began planning to bring his family there.
The Frank family
finally moved into a house on Medwedplein in southern Amsterdam in 1933
and Anne began to attend the nearby Montessori school, where she excelled.
Anne made many friends and was an exceptional student.
The family's feelings
of security collapsed, however, when in 1940, Adolf Hitler and his troops
conquered Holland and the freedom of the Jews began to be severely restricted.
Dictates on where Jews could shop, swim or go to school became a part
of everyday life.
Aware of where those
restrictions might ultimately lead, Otto Frank spent the year preparing
and stocking an annex behind his business office at Prinsengracht 263
into a hiding place.
On her 13th birthday
in 1942 Anne received as a gift from her parents, a diary. She immediately
took to writing her intimate thoughts and musings. A few short weeks
later, however, Margot received a notice from the Nazi SS to report
for work detail at a labor camp. On July 5th, 1942, Anne and the Frank
family moved to the "Secret Annex" adjacent to Otto Frank's
former office on Prinsengracht.
When the thirteen-year-old
and her family went into hiding from the Nazis, who were victimizing
and arresting Jews, the diary went with her. She called it “Kitty,”
and for the two years she spent in hiding, the diary was her solace,
her confidant, her friend. What she recorded there were, in many ways,
the ordinary thoughts and feelings of a teenage girl. But she was a
teenage girl living under extraordinary circumstances in ominous times.
Eight people eventually
came to live in the secret annex. There were the four members of the
Frank family, Otto Frank, Edith Frank, Margot and Anne, three from the
Van Pels family, Herman and Auguste Van Pels and their son Peter, and
an elderly dentist named Pfeffer.
Life in the annex
settled down to a monotonous routine. They woke at 06:45a.m. and by
08:30 they all had to be quiet as work began in the warehouse beneath
them. Breakfast at 09:00 and after breakfast all movement was kept to
an absolute minimum until 12:30 when the warehouse closed for lunch.
At this time, the
inhabitants of the annex had lunch and listened to the BBC. At 14:00
the warehouse reponed and there was silence once again. Between 14:00pm
and 17:30 time was spent resting or reading. When the warehouse closed
at 17:30 everyone could move around again. At 21:00 preperations were
made to go to bed. At weekends the routine varied, with no welcomed
visitors from downstairs and even more need to keep quiet to avoid attracting
the slightest attention to what supposed to be an empty building.
in the closed quarters began running high. The van Pels family tried
unsuccessfully to discipline Anne, and, according to Miep Gies, Mrs.
Frank became very depressed. Shortly before they were arrested by the
Gestapo, Anne experienced the first flush of love with Peter Van Pels,
a shy boy also reaching out for love and understanding.
But the pressures
of confinement soon crushed their romance - as always, there was the
ever-present threat of discovery ...
By the way - Anne
used some fictitious names when she wrote in her diary. The van Daans
were Hermann, Auguste, and Peter van Pels. Mr. Dussel was Fritz Pfeffer.
In addition, four
people acted as helpers for the people in the annex, and brought them
food, supplies and news of the world outside the darkened windows. These
protectors had placed themselves at great personal risk because they
could have been arrested and jailed for helping Jews. All of these people
worked at the business that had belonged to Otto Frank.
Anne's famous diary
captured two years of hiding in the attic above the store, but it ended
on August 4, 1944, when their hiding place was betrayed. It was an anonymous
phone call which led the Nazis to the secret annex. For almost 60 years,
the identity of that informant, whose call had such tragic consequences,
has remained a mystery to historians. One theory alleged the betrayer
was Anton Ahlers, a business associate of Otto Frank and a committed
Nazi. A book by British author Carol Ann Lee, published 2002 in Dutch
and English, claimed Ahlers not only turned in the inhabitants, but
may have blackmailed Otto Frank for years after the war, receiving payment
for his silence about Frank's business with Nazi Germany at the beginning
of the Second World War.
The second theory
pointed to a Dutch woman Lena Hartog-van Bladeren, one of the cleaning
women working in the office in front of the annex. No evidence against
her was uncovered, but a 1998 biography by Melissa Mueller revived the
charges, largely based on contradictions she found in Hartog's statements
to the police.
As the Gestapo men
searched the annex for valuables such as money, the briefcase in which
Anne kept her writings was opened and the papers were scattered on the
floor. Little did these men realize the eventual value of these materials.
However, the two women, Miep Gies and Bep Voskuijl , had known of Anne's
intense feelings about these papers and gathered them up for safe keeping.
diary was among the many personal effects left behind by the family.
Anne, and the seven others who shared the cramped Secret Annex with
her, were all deported to Westerbork camp.
A few weeks later,
as the Allies began retaking Holland, the inhabitants of the camp were
moved to Auschwitz and later to other camps. At the gates of Auschwitz,
Otto Frank was separated from his family for the last time. In January,
1945, the German guards left the camp to the advancing Russian army.
Most of the prisoners, including Peter Van Pels, were herded along with
the troops, but Otto Frank was in the camp infirmary and was left behind.
Otto Frank tried to convince Peter to hide in the infirmary, but he
was afraid. Peter was never heard from again.
Otto Frank, barely
alive, was discovered by the Russian army that liberated Auschwitz.
Upon recovering, he began to search for his family, as shown in the
letters that have only recently been discovered and have never before
been seen or heard by the public. En route home to Amsterdam, he learned
of his wife's death, but it was not until some time after returning
home that he discovered the facts of Margot and Anne's death.
Otto Frank was the
only one of the original 8 residents of the secret annex to survive.
Van Pels died in the Auschwitz gas chambers and Pfeffer died at the
Neuengamme camp in Germany.
ended up in the 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, Anne's sister, developed typhus
and died. A few days later, Anne herself, in April, 1945, succumbed
to the disease a few weeks before the camp was liberated by the British.
She was 15 years old ...
A childhood friend
of Anne Frank, Hannah Elisabeth Pick-Goslar, ended up in Bergen-Belsen
with Anne and Margot. Hannah later recalled:"Anne came to the barbed-wired
fence. I couldn't see her. The fence and the straw were between us.
There wasn't much light. Maybe I saw her shadow. It wasn't the same
Anne. She was a broken girl, I probably was too, but it was so terrible.
She immediately began to cry, and she told me, 'I don't have any parents
anymore.' I always think, if Anne had known that her father was still
alive, she might have had more strength to survive, because she died
very shortly before the end, only a few days before (liberation) .."
In Newsweek Magazine,
July 21, 1997 another holocaust survivor, Irma Sonnenberg Menkel, tells
the story of Anne Frank and her death in Bergen-Belsen "I saw Anne
"One of the
children in my barracks toward the end of the war was Anne Frank, whose
diary became famous after her death. Typhus was a terrible problem especially
for the children. Of 500 in my barracks, maybe 100 got it, and most
of them died. Many others starved to death. When Anne Frank got sick
with typhus, I remember telling her she could stay in the barracks.I
have a dim memory of Anne Frank speaking about her father. She was a
nice, fine person .. There was so little to eat. In my early days there,
we were each given one roll of bread for eight days, and we tore it
up, piece by piece. One cup of black coffee a day and one cup of soup.
And water. That was all. Later there was even less. When I asked the
commandant for a little bit of gruel for the children's diet, he would
sometimes give me some extra cereal. Anne Frank was among those who
asked for cereal, but how could I find cereal for her? It was only for
the little children, and only a little bit.
The children died
anyway ... In the evening, we tried to help the sickest. In the morning,
it was part of my job to tell the soldiers how many had died the night
before. Then they would throw the bodies on the fire ...
Anne Frank would
say to me, "Irma, I am very sick." I said, "No, you are
not sick." She wanted to be reassured that she wasn't. When she
slipped into a coma, I took her in my arms. She didn't know that she
was dying. She didn't know that she was so sick. You never know. At
Bergen-Belsen, you did not have feelings anymore ..."
In Willy Lindwer`s
book The Last Seven Months of Anne Frank Rachel van Ameronger-Frankfoorder
tells about the death of Anne Frank and her sister in Bergen-Belsen:
was on one of those trips to the latrine that I walked past the bodies
of the Frank sisters, one or both - I don't know. At the time, I assumed
that the bodies of the Frank girls had also been put down in front of
the barracks. And then the heaps would be cleared away. A huge hole
would be dug and they were thrown into it ..."
Bodies buried at
Bergen-Belsen, April, 1945.
After the war, when
it was clear Anne had not survived, the diary was returned to Otto Frank,
and he was persuaded to publish it. Fifty years later, it is still an
international bestseller. Millions of copies have been sold, and Anne
Frank’s name is known around the world. The narrow canal side
house where she hid is a museum that is visited by more than 600,000
people a year.
With the profits
from the sale of the diaries, Otto Frank set up a charitable foundation,
which helped pay for the medical expenses of Christians who had helped
Jews during the war. As long as he was alive, Otto Frank ran the foundation,
and sought to control his daughters’ image.
Otto Frank, in his
last will, gave the original diary to the state of Holland to the War
Documentation Center in Amsterdam. They keep it there in a big safe,
and they turn the pages every three months to preserve it there ...
A few years ago
a Dutch newspaper Het Parool published newfound excerpts of Anne Frank's
diary that include bitter observations about her parents' near-loveless
marriage. In a front-page article, the Amsterdam daily printed the text
from three of the five missing pages which have stirred up controversy
in the Netherlands.
Though she never
lived to see her 16th birthday, Anne Frank's innermost thoughts scribbled
on scraps of paper challenge us, and shame us, a full fifty years after
her death. Her life serves as eulogy to the millions of children who
perished in World War II.
She did not leave
her legacy as an ode to the past - but as a beacon of hope to the future