Anne Frank

“Anne Frank’s diary has become one of the most powerful memoirs of the Holocaust. Its message of courage and hope in the face of adversity has reached millions. The diary has been translated into 67 languages with over 30 million copies sold. Anne Frank’s story is especially meaningful to young people today. For many she is their first, if not their only exposure to the history of the Holocaust.” [The Anne Frank Center USA]

Anne Frank was born on June 12, 1929, in Frankfurt, Germany. Because of growing anti-semitism in Germany, her family moved to  Amsterdam, the Netherlands, in the fall of 1933. On May 10, 1940, the German army invaded the Netherlands.  Anne Frank and her sister were forced to transfer to a segregated Jewish school. Her father Otto Frank managed to keep control of his company by officially signing ownership over to two of his Christian associates, Jo Kleiman and Victor Kugler, while continuing to run the company from behind the scenes.

On June 12, 1942, Frank’s parents gave her a red checkered diary for her 13th birthday. She wrote her first entry, addressed to an imaginary friend named Kitty, that same day: “I hope I will be able to confide everything to you, as I have never been able to confide in anyone, and I hope you will be a great source of comfort and support.”

Weeks later, on July 5, 1942, her sister Margot received an official summons to report to a Nazi work camp in Germany. The very next day, the family went into hiding in makeshift quarters in an empty space at the back of Otto Frank’s company building, which they referred to as the Secret Annex. They were accompanied in hiding by Otto’s business partner Hermann van Pels as well as his wife, Auguste, and son, Peter.

Otto’s employees Kleiman and Kugler, as well as Jan and Miep Gies and Bep Voskuijl, provided food and information about the outside world. The families spent two years in hiding without ever once stepping outside the dark, damp, sequestered portion of the building. To pass the time, Frank wrote extensive daily entries in her diary.

On August 4, 1944, a German secret police officer accompanied by four Dutch Nazis stormed into the Secret Annex and arrested everyone hiding there. They had been betrayed by an anonymous tip; the identity of their betrayer remains unknown to this day.

The residents of the Secret Annex were shipped off to Camp Westerbork, a concentration camp in the northeastern Netherlands, and arrived by passenger train on August 8, 1944. They were transferred to the Auschwitz death camp in Poland in the middle of the night on September 3, 1944.

Upon arrival at Auschwitz, the men and women were separated. After several months of hard labor hauling heavy stones and grass mats, Anne and Margot were again transferred during the winter to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany. Their mother was not allowed to go with them, she fell ill and died at Auschwitz shortly thereafter.

On January 6, 1945. At Bergen-Belsen, food was short, sanitation was awful and disease ran rampant. Anne Frank and her sister came down with typhus in the early spring and died within a day of each other sometime in early March, only a few weeks before Russian soldiers liberated the camp. Anne Frank was just 15 years old at the time of her death, one of more than 1 million Jewish children who died in the Holocaust.

Otto Frank was the only member of his immediate family to survive. At the end of the war, he returned home to Amsterdam, searching desperately for news of his family. On July 18, 1945, he met two sisters who had been with Anne and Margot at Bergen-Belsen and passed on the tragic news of their deaths.

Nevertheless, what Otto did find upon his return to Amsterdam was Anne Frank’s diary, which had been saved by Miep Gries. He eventually gathered the strength to read it and was awestruck by what he discovered. “There was revealed a completely different Anne to the child that I had lost,” wrote Otto in a letter to his mother. “I had no idea of the depths of her thoughts and feelings. He sought to have selections from his daughter’s diary published as a book, and The Secret Annex: Diary Letters from June 14, 1942 to August 1, 1944 was published on June 25, 1947. 

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, as it is typically called in English, has since been published in countless languages and editions. The diary has also been adapted for the stage and screen many times over all across the world. It remains one of the most moving and widely read firsthand accounts of the Jewish experience during the Holocaust. Anne Frank’s diary endures not only because of the remarkable events she described, but also because of her extraordinary gifts as a storyteller and her indefatigable spirit through even the most horrific of circumstances. []

Anna Frank’s Quotes:

  • In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery and death.
  • How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.