Annelies Marie Frank (Anne Frank) was born on June 12, 1929, in Frankfurt, Germany. Her mother was Edith Frank Holländer, and her father, Otto Frank, was a lieutenant in the German army during World War I, later becoming a businessman in Germany and the Netherlands. Anne had an elder sister named Margot (born on February 16, 1926).
The Franks were a typical upper middle-class German-Jewish family living in a quiet, religiously diverse neighborhood near the outskirts of Frankfurt. However, Anne was born on the eve of dramatic changes in German society that would soon disrupt her family's happy, tranquil life as well as the lives of all other German Jews.
Due in large part to the harsh sanctions imposed on Germany by the 1919 Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I, the German economy struggled terribly in the 1920s. During the late 1920s and early 1930s, the virulently anti-Semitic National German Socialist Workers Party (Nazi Party) led by Adolph Hitler became Germany's leading political force, winning control of the government in 1933.
"I can remember that as early as 1932, groups of Storm Troopers came marching by, singing, 'When Jewish blood splatters from the knife,'" Otto Frank later recalled. When Hitler became chancellor of Germany on January 20, 1933, the Frank family immediately realized that it was time to flee. Otto later said, "Though this did hurt me deeply, I realized that Germany was not the world, and I left my country forever."
The Franks moved to Amsterdam, Netherlands, in the fall of 1933. Anne Frank described the circumstances of her family's emigration years later in her diary: "Because we're Jewish, my father immigrated to Holland in 1933, where he became the managing director of the Dutch Opekta Company, which manufactures products used in making jam." They find a place to live on the Merwedeplein. The Franks feel safe and free again. The children go to school, Otto works hard on his business and Edith takes care of the household. After years of enduring anti-Semitism in Germany, the Frank family were relieved to once again enjoy freedom in their new hometown of Amsterdam. "In those days, it was possible for us to start over and to feel free," Otto recalled.
Anne Frank began attending Amsterdam's Sixth Montessori School in 1934, and throughout the rest of the 1930s, she lived a relatively happy and normal childhood. Anne had many friends, Dutch and German, Jewish and Christian, and she was a bright and inquisitive student.
But that would all change on September 1, 1939, when Nazi Germany invaded Poland, igniting a global conflict that would grow to become World War II. On May 10, 1940, the German army invaded the Netherlands, defeating overmatched Dutch forces after just a few days of fighting. The Dutch surrendered on May 15, 1940, marking the beginning of the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. As Anne later wrote in her diary, "After May 1940, the good times were few and far between; first there was the war, then the capitulation and then the arrival of the Germans, which is when the trouble started for the Jews."
Beginning in October 1940, the Nazi occupiers imposed anti-Jewish measures on the Netherlands. Jews were required to wear a yellow Star of David at all times and observe a strict curfew; they were also forbidden from owning businesses. Anne and Margot were forced to transfer to a segregated Jewish school. Otto 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, for her thirteenth birthday, Anne Frank received a book she had shown her father in a shop window a few days earlier. Although it was an autograph book, bound with red-and-white checkered cloth and with a small lock on the front, Anne decided she would use it as a diary. She wrote her first entry 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, 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, in Prinsengracht 263, which they referred to as the “Secret Annex” (it was a three-story space 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 larger open room, with a small room beside it. From this smaller room, a ladder led to the attic. The door to the “Secret Annex” was later covered by a bookcase to ensure it remained undiscovered). 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 first thing Anne packed was her diary.
The families spent two years in hiding, never once stepping outside the dark, damp, sequestered portion of the building. To pass the time, Anne wrote extensive daily entries in her diary.
Anne decides to think of her diary as a friend, whom she names Kitty. It makes the writing easier. Besides, she doesn’t really have a real friend, “…and that’s how the whole idea of keeping a diary started”, she admits. “All I think about when I‘m with friends is having a good time. I can’t bring myself to talk about anything but ordinary everyday things. We don’t seem to be able to get any closer, and that’s the problem. Maybe it’s my fault that we don’t confide in each other. In any case, that’s just how things are, and unfortunately they’re not liable to change. This is why I’ve started the diary.”
The life she leads now is totally different to her previous carefree existence. Anne has a lust for life and it's hard for her to be confined indoors, and forced to be quiet. Her diary helps her.
“The nicest part is being able to write down all my thoughts and feelings, otherwise I‘d absolutely suffocate.” Anne wrote.
Anne finds writing an increasingly enjoyable pursuit. In the summer of 1943 she starts writing her own short stories. Sometimes she reads them aloud to others in the Secret Annex. She also starts a ‘book of beautiful sentences’, a collection of her favourite sentences copied from the works of other writers.
On March 28, 1944, minister Bolkestein of the Dutch government in exile makes a broadcast on Radio Orange, calling on people to save their diaries. Anne, listening with the others in the Secret Annex, needs no further encouragement. She starts to seriously rework her diary and calls it "The Secret Annex". Anne feels increasingly certain that once the war is over, she wants to make use of her talent for writing. She dreams of becoming a journalist, and then a famous writer. And if it turns out that she lacks the talent to write books or newspaper articles, she can always just write for her own pleasure, she tells herself. On Wednesday, April 5, 1944, she writes:
“I finally realized that I must do my schoolwork to keep from being ignorant, to get on in life, to become a journalist, because that's what I want! I know I can write ..., but it remains to be seen whether I really have talent ...
And if I don't have the talent to write books or newspaper articles, I can always write for myself. But I want to achieve more than that. I can't imagine living like Mother, Mrs. van Daan and all the women who go about their work and are then forgotten. I need to have something besides a husband and children to devote myself to! ...
I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I've never met. I want to go on living even after my death! And that's why I'm so grateful to God for having given me this gift, which I can use to develop myself and to express all that's inside me!
When I write I can shake off all my cares. My sorrow disappears, my spirits are revived! But, and that's a big question, will I ever be able to write something great, will I ever become a journalist or a writer?”
Her writing reveal a teenage girl with creativity, wisdom, depth of emotion and rhetorical power far beyond her years.
On August 4, 1944, a German secret police officer accompanied by four Dutch Nazis stormed into the “Secret Annex”, arresting everyone that was hiding there. They had been betrayed by an anonymous tip, and the identity of their betrayer remains unknown to this day. The residents of the “Secret Annex” were shipped off to Camp Westerbork, a transit 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.
The two helpers are sent to the Amersfoort camp. Johannes Kleiman is released shortly after his arrest and six months later Victor Kugler escapes. Immediately after the arrest Miep Gies and Bep Voskuijl rescue Anne's diary and papers that have been left behind in the secret annex. Despite intensive investigations it has never been clear how the hiding place was discovered.
The prisioners at Auschwitz are the ones responsible for getting people off the train. There are German soldiers, from the SS, marching up and down the platform with dogs. They have whips in their hands. Harsh spotlights glare down on the platform. The men must line up on one side, the women on the other side. This is the last time that Otto Frank sees his wife and daughters. SS-doctors evaluate the prisoners. Children, the elderly and sick are sent to the gas chambers, the rest to the barracks. The eight people in hiding from the "Secret Annex" are sent to the barracks.
After several months, Anne and Margot were again transferred during the winter to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany. Edith was not allowed to go with them, and she fell ill and died at Auschwitz shortly thereafter, on January 6, 1945.
After an awful train journey lasting three days, Margot and Anne arrive at Bergen-Belsen. At Bergen-Belsen, food was scarce, sanitation was awful and disease ran rampant. More and more prisoners are being sent to Bergen-Belsen from the other concentration camps. The camp is already much too full when their transport gets there, so the new women are placed in tents. A few days later the tents are destroyed in a heavy storm. These prisoners must then find a space in one of the already overcrowded barracks.
In the winter of 1944 - 1945, the situation at Bergen - Belsen deteriorates. There is little or no food and the sanitary conditions are dreadful. Many of the prisoners become ill. Margot and Anne come down with typhus. They both die 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.
During his long journey back to The Netherlands Otto Frank learns that his wife, Edith, has died. He knows nothing about his daughters and still hopes to see them again. He arrives back in Amsterdam at the beginning of July. He goes straight to Miep and Jan Gies and remains with them for another seven years.
Otto Frank tries to find his daughters but in July receives news that they have both died of disease and deprivation in Bergen-Belsen. Miep Gies then gives him Anne's diary and papers. Otto reads the diary and discovers a completely different Anne. He is very touched by her writing. "There was revealed a completely different Anne to the child that I had lost," Otto wrote in a letter to his mother. "I had no idea of the depths of her thoughts and feelings."
“How could I have known how much it meant for her to see a patch of blue sky, to observe the flying seagulls, or how important that chestnut tree was to her, when she had never shown an interest in nature before. But once she felt like a caged bird, how she longed for it. Even just the thought of the open air gave her comfort, but she kept all these feelings to herself.”
In her diary, Otto reads about the plan Anne had to publish a book after the war about the time she spent in the "Secret Annex". She had even edited and rewritten a large portion of her original diary. Initially, Otto Frank feels uncertain about the idea but he finally decides to fulfill his daughter's wish.
Otto 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. "If she had been here, Anne would have been so proud," he said. The Diary of a Young Girl, as it's typically called in English, has since been published in 67 languages. Countless editions, as well as screen and stage adaptations, of the work have been created around the world. The Diary of a Young Girl 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 due to her extraordinary gifts as a storyteller and her indefatigable spirit through even the most horrific of circumstances. For all its passages of despair, Frank's diary is essentially a story of faith, hope and love in the face of hate. "It's utterly impossible for me to build my life on a foundation of chaos, suffering and death," she wrote on July 15, 1944. "I see the world being slowly transformed into a wilderness; I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too. I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty too shall end, that peace and tranquility will return once more."