The heartbreaking story of Anne Frank lives through the diary she kept for two years while hiding from the Nazis.
Anne Frank was born in Frankfurt, Germany to an upper-class Jewish family. For the first four years of her life, she lived an ordinary, happy childhood. When Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany in 1933, anti-Semitism encouraged by Nazi policies affected Jewish families such as Anne's. Anne's father, Otto Frank, moved to Amsterdam to escape persecution, and later started a business named the Dutch Opekta Company; his family joined him a year later.
Anne and her older sister Margo were able to attend a local school in Amsterdam for several years. Anne was described by her teachers as an extroverted child and expressed a talent for writing.
In 1940, after the Netherlands was invaded by Germany, Anne was forced to leave her beloved school and attend a Jewish school. Realizing they were in danger of being sent to concentration camps, Anne's father prepared a hiding place above his business building as a residence for the family.
When Anne turned thirteen, she was given a small book which later became the well-known diary. She referred to her diary as “Kitty” and wrote as if writing to a friend. The early entries were mostly about her school days. There were also references to the Star of David that she was forced to wear as a Jew and to the daily harassment she and her family had to endure.
In one passage Anne wrote: “Our many Jewish friends and acquaintances are being taken away in droves. The Gestapo [German police] is treating them very roughly and transporting them in cattle cars to Westerbork, the big camp in Drenthe to which they're sending all the Jews. …If it's that bad in Holland, what must it be like in those faraway and uncivilized places where the Germans are sending them? We assume that most of them are being murdered. The English radio says they're being gassed.”
The family went into hiding three weeks after Anne's 13th birthday.
Anne and her family spent a little over two years in what Anne called the secret annex. While the Franks were living in the cramped annex they were later joined by the family of Hermann Van Pel and an elderly dentist. She was a teenager and had to live with seven other people.
According to Anne, life in the annex was boring and limiting. They had to stay quiet during the day because the smallest noise could give them away to the workers at the business below.
On August 4, 1945, the annex was raided by the Nazis. The friends hiding the Franks had been betrayed. The Franks and those living with them were then arrested and were deported to a concentration camp in Auschwitz, Germany. Anne and her sister were moved to Bergen-Belsen, a different concentration camp, where they both passed away from contracting typhoid fever.
When Miep Gies, a friend who helped the family, was released, she decided to return to the annex. There she found Anne's diary and stored it for safekeeping.
After the war, Otto Frank returned to Amsterdam and searched restlessly for his family. He learned from survivors of Bergen-Belsen that his wife and daughters were dead. When Miep Gies learned of the Frank family deaths, she gave Otto Anne's diary. Otto could barely recognize his daughter from what she had written. His experience with reading Anne's diary was so painful that he had debated whether or not to publish her diary. He later realized that it was very clear that Anne had meant to do so. The first version of the diary,
The Secret Annexe
, was published in 1947 in The Netherlands. It was later translated to English and adapted as a play.
Today, the cramped series of rooms Anne called the secret annex has been renamed the Anne Frank House. The museum and international research center have been providing documentation about the Holocaust and educational resources. According to her diary, toward the end of Anne’s life, she slowly became numb to everything that was going on around her. Her story is important because it shows how much people can grow even under the cruelest circumstances. Although Anne passed away long ago, her story still lives on.
Women Who Changed the World