She was born Anneliese Marie Frank on June 12, 1929 in Frankfurt, Germany. She would soon be known to the entire world simply as Anne. She was the second daughter of Otto Heinrich and Edith Frank, who were both raised by very well respected German-Jewish families. Otto Frank's family dates to the Seventeenth Century in Frankfurt, and Edith's was a well-to-do Aachen family. Aachen is a city of North Rhine, Westphalia, Germany, and was the capital of Charlemagne's empire.
The Frank's raised both their children, Anne and her older sister Margot, in an environment of tolerance, having many friends of many nationalities and faiths. During the early 1930s, in the light of Hitler's Nazi Germany, the Frank's situation and lives were altered. Otto, having the foresight to leave Germany, moved his family to Amsterdam, Holland in the summer of 1933. Here they moved into a newly built apartment building on the Merweideplein, apartment number 37. To work, Otto set up a branch of his brother's business in Amsterdam, called the Dutch Opekta Company, located at 263 Prinsengracht; a Seventeenth-Century building located on a tree-lined canal. This company sold pectin, the powder made from fruit extract and used to make jelly.
Within a short time, the Frank family's routine was once again normal. Anne and her sister attended school, and the family took vacations at the beach. Each day, their circle of friends grew, both Jewish and non-Jewish. As Anne became more and more settled in the nice neighborhood in which they lived, and made more friends, she began to forget her German past, becoming more Dutch every day. Although her sister Margot, being three years older was considered prettier and smarter, it was Anne, with her wit and charm who became more popular, and certainly more outspoken. Anne was not unlike many girls of her age in that she loved movies, Hollywood, and boys, but also loved to read and write, having a strong interest in history and Greek mythology. In 1938, her father expanded his business, going into a partnership with another merchant named Hermann van Pels, who also was a Jewish refugee who escaped Nazi Germany.
Otto Frank's logic in moving his family to Amsterdam when he did was probably sound, believing he would be free from Nazism. However, this soon changed in May 1940 when Hitler's armies invaded the Netherlands, and once again, the Franks, and all other Jewish families, were forced to exist under Nazi rule. By March 1941, the police began the roundup of the Jews, and by September, Anne and Margot were forced to transfer to an all Jewish school. In April 1942, all Jews were required by the Nazis to sew a yellow star onto their clothing, to be worn at all times. The freedom, once enjoyed, was now quite restricted. In addition to having to wear the yellow stars, all Jews were required to turn in their bicycles, were forbidden to use streetcars, forbidden to ride in cars, even their own, required to shop only between the hours of 3:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m., could only go to Jewish owned barbershops and beauty parlors, and could not be on the public streets between 8:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. If these alone weren't bad enough, the Nazis imposed further restrictions. Jews were forbidden to attend movies, theaters, and any form of entertainment, could not use swimming pools, tennis courts, hockey fields, or any other athletic field, could not go rowing or take part in any athletic event in public, could not sit in their own gardens or gardens of friends after 8:00 p.m., and were forbidden to visit with Christians in their homes.
That June 1942, for Anne's thirteenth birthday, her parents gave her a diary, with a red and white plaid cover. Anne's first entry begins this day, where she wrote, "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."
Knowing that even a worse fate was coming, Otto Frank had been making preparations to take his family into hiding. He began taking household necessities, furniture and canned food up to the unused offices at 263 Prinsengracht, known as the secret annex. Otto had four trusted employees in whom he confided his plan. They were Johannes Kleiman, Victor Kugler, Miep Gies, and Bep Voskuijl. With the help of friends, a bookcase was constructed over the entrance to the stairs leading to the secret annex. This bookcase was hinged, so that it acted as a door. It could be secured from the inside. When looking at this bookcase, it was impossible to know that behind it were stairs that led up to this hiding place.
On July 5, 1942, Anne wrote in her diary: "A few days ago, as we were taking a stroll around our neighborhood square, Father began to talk about going into hiding. He sounded so serious that I felt scared. "Don't you worry," he said, "We'll take care of everything. Just enjoy your carefree life while you can." Anne continued, "That was it. Oh, may these somber words not come true for as long as possible!"
Within a few hours of Anne's conversation with her father this day, Margot received a notice that she was to be deported to a Nazi work camp. Realizing they had no time, and although the annex was not yet ready, Otto Frank moved his family into hiding on July 6, 1942.
When Anne first wrote in her diary, the name of "kitty" does not appear until June 20. Anne chooses to write her diary as a series of letters, to kitty, rather than just write events. She wrote in her diary just about every day, telling of her life with the seven others hiding with her, as well as recording her innermost feelings. During the months Anne was in hiding, her diary became her best friend.
As Anne loved to write, she filled up her original diary, so two of the ladies who helped those in hiding with food and supplies, Miep Gies and Bep Voskuijl, brought Anne ledgers and loose sheets of paper for her to continue her diary. In 1944, Anne heard a radio broadcast from the Dutch government, (that had been in exile in London for most of the German occupation) saying that people should save their wartime diaries. Anne wanting to someday write books with the hope of being published, rewrote her diary with this intention.
Throughout their hiding, their helpers would bring them lots of books from the library. On May 11, 1944, Anne wrote, Well then, before tomorrow I have to finish reading the first volume of a biography of Galileo Galilei, since it has to be returned to the library. I started reading it yesterday and have gotten up to page 220 out of 320 pages, so I'll manage it. Next week I have to read Palestine at the Crossroads and the second volume of Galilei. Besides that, I finished the first volume of a biography of Emperor Charles V yesterday, and I still have to work out the many genealogical charts I've collected and the notes I've taken. Next I have three pages of foreign words from my various books, all of which have to be written down, memorized and read aloud. Number four: my movie stars are in a terrible disarray, and are dying to be straightened out, but since it'll take several days to do that and Professor Anne is, as she's already said, up to her ears in work, they'll have to put up with the chaos a while longer." Anne then mentioned numerous other things she had to do and learn, and continued, writing: "You can see, can't you Kitty, that I'm full to bursting? And now something else. You've known for a long time that my greatest wish is to be a journalist, and later on, a famous writer. We'll have to wait and see if these grand illusions (or delusions!) will ever come true, but up to now I've had no lack of topics. In any case, after the war I'd like to publish a book called The Secret Annex. It remains to be seen whether I'll succeed, but my diary can serve as a basis."
Actually, when Anne wrote of a title, she called it Het Achterhuis in Dutch, which translated means, "The House Behind," but often is translated as the Secret Annex.
Living in hiding was dreadfully difficult. All cautions had to be taken regarding cooking, garbage disposal, and the use of a single toilet. When they moved about, they did so in stocking feet, for fear that the warehouse workmen below, who knew nothing of their presence, might hear them. The four trusted faithful employees would visit the annex after all the workers had left for the day. They continued to bring them necessities such as soap, toothpaste, aspirin and food whenever possible. They also supplied them with books, magazines and newspapers, bringing to them as well, news of the war.
With each passing day, Anne and the others held out in hope of and allied invasion. On June 6, 1944, they heard the news. The invasion of Normandy by the United States, Britain and many other counties had begun. D-day was here, and with it the hope that they would soon be able to enjoy the air and the trees and the joys of freedom. Anne wondered if she would be free in time to start the new term at school. Six days later, she celebrated her fifteen birthday.
On August 1, 1944, Anne wrote in her diary, what would become her last entry. She ends this day by saying, . . . "and keep trying to find a way to become what I'd like to be and what I could be if . . . if only there were no other people in the world."
Then on August 4, 1944, Anne, along with her father Otto and the others, entered into a fate they long feared. Between 10:00 a.m. and 10:30 a.m., they heard a car pull up in front of 263 Prinsengracht. Several men emerged from the car. First was a SS Sergeant, Karl Josef Silberbauer, in his Nazi uniform, and three others members of the Dutch Security Police, in plain clothes, but armed. They pounded on the front door, eventually breaking it in. Holding Kugler at gunpoint, they forced him to lead them up the stairs to the bookcase. Using axes, they broke the bookcase apart, giving way to the stairs to the secret annex. Meanwhile, Otto and the others gathered up what belongings they could carry. The SS Sergeant, arriving at the annex, arrested the eight people found there. Each person was allowed to bring one case of belongings, only. Anne had stored all the pages of her diary in her father's briefcase. Following their arrest, the authorities emptied the briefcase on the floor, scattering Anne's papers. They did this, as they used this briefcase to carry all the money, jewelry and other valuables they found. In leaving, they also arrested two of the helpers, Victor Kugler and Johannes Kleiman. The two ladies, Miep Gies and Elisabeth (Bep) Voskuijl was spared arrest.
It is believed that those in hiding were betrayed by one of the new warehousemen, who perhaps was curious about the upper floors in the house. As the Nazis paid a bounty for each Jew turned in, this was probably the case. However, later, although this man was investigated, he was never charged with any crime.
Following the arrests, Miep and Bep went to the secret annex, and salvaged all the property that they could. Among the items was Anne's diary that Miep found and kept for safekeeping, awaiting Anne's return.
Miep Gies is the only one out of the helpers and those in hiding that survives today. After the war she kept in close contact with Otto Frank until his death. To further an awareness of the Holocaust, Miep has written books and has spoken on lecture circuits. Today, at the age of ninety, she continues her educational awareness and still resides in Amsterdam.
What did happen to Anne and those other members of her family and the others in hiding with her? Both of the helpers, Kugler and Kleiman were taken to a prison in Amsterdam. On September 11, 1944, they were transferred, without trial, to a camp in Amersfoort, Holland. Kleiman, in poor health, was released on September 18, 1944. He returned to Amsterdam and lived there until his death in 1959. Kugler escaped prison on March 28, 1945, along with other fellow prisoners while being transferred to Germany to be used as forced laborers. He eventually went to Canada, and died in Toronto in 1989.
Anne and the seven others arrested were first taken to a prison in Amsterdam, then transferred to Westerbork, a transit camp for Jews in northern Holland. On September 3, 1944, they were placed on the last transport train to leave Westerbork, arriving three days later at Auschwitz, Poland. Auschwitz was a concentration and extermination camp. It is located in upper Silesia, Poland, thirty-seven miles west of Krakow, Poland. It was established in 1942 and consisted of three major camps. Auschwitz I was the main camp; Auschwitz II, known as Birkenau, was the extermination camp, and Auschwitz III was the labor camp, also called Buna. Additionally, Auschwitz had other sub-camps.
Hermann van Pels was gassed to death at Auschwitz in November 1944; his wife, Auguste van Pels was taken from Auschwitz to Bergen-Belsen, and from there to Theresienstadt on April 9, 1945. From here it appeared as though she was sent to another concentration camp, and it is certain that she did not survive, although the date is unknown; Peter van Pels (their son) was forced to take part in a "death march," from Auschwitz to Mauthausen, Austria, where he died on May 5, 1945, three days before the camp was liberated; Fritz Pfeffer (whom Anne referred to as Albert Dussel) died on December 20, 1944 in the Neuengamme concentration camp. Edith Frank died on January 6, 1945 at Auschwitz_Birkenau from hunger and exhaustion.
Anne and her sister Margot were transported from Auschwitz to Bergen-Belsen in October 1944. During the winter of 1944_45, Anne and Margot were just two of the three thousand six-hundred fifty-nine women transported this date, in a cattle car. Upon arriving at Bergen-Belsen, the conditions were merciless. This camp was a barren tract of mud. During the cold, wet fall and winter that followed, Anne and Margot, and the others, suffered through the cold nights on wet, usually flooded straw in overcrowded tents, surrounded by latrine ditches. During the winter, most of the tents were destroyed by a terrible hailstorm, leaving little if any shelter. Weakened by the brutality of the Nazis, combined with hunger and exposure, as well as insufficiently clothed, and tormented by lice, as well as the typhus epidemic that befell the camp, more than fifty-thousand men and women died. Margot Frank died in late February 1945, at age nineteen, and Anne, age fifteen, died a few days later in early March, one month before the camp was liberated, both falling victim to typhus. Of the eight, only Otto Frank survived. Following the liberation of Auschwitz by Russian troops, he was repatriated to Amsterdam by way Odessa and Marseille. Upon Otto's return to Amsterdam, he was given Anne's diary by Miep Gies, that she had hidden for almost a year. He arrived back home in Amsterdam on June 3, 1945, and stayed there until 1953, when he moved to Basel, Switzerland, where his sister and her family, and later on his brother lived. He remarried a lady originally from Vienna named Elfriede Geiringer, who also survived Auschwitz. Otto Frank died on August 19, 1980. Until that time, he devoted his life to sharing his daughter's diary with the world.
Anne Frank's only crime was that she happened to be born Jewish. She and millions of other Jews were extinguished by the Nazis in a program calculated to assure the cruelest human degradation. Anne and others, endured the most ruthless and devised by design treatment, from indexing them by tattoo, to medical experiments, to starvation, and finally, efficiently planned murder. To the mind set of Hitler and the Nazis who carried out his insanity, Anne Frank was designated by virtue of being Jewish to be erased from the world, without so much as a grave, sign or any other evidence that she once was a living breathing, wonderful little girl. She by Nazi standards had no right to exist; not as a member of the Jewish people, nor as an inferior breed or even as a slave. In Hitler's mind, there was no place for them but death. Hitler, in this cruel, inhuman treatment, rid himself of their existence, much the same way as one would get rid of insects, using an organized method utilizing a lethal fumigant, Zyklon B, which actually was designed to kill roaches. Fortunately, both Anne and her sister Margot escaped the dreadful death by gassing.
Anne Frank did get her wish. Since her diary was first published in 1947 it has been translated into fifty-five languages, selling millions of copies, and is still available in print today.
The Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank, is a book that everyone, young and old should read. It is an inspiration and enlightening account of a young girl, faced with the everyday problems of adolescence, during troubled times, in a terrible situation. Descriptive words do not lend justice to the book; but in reading it, you understand.
Additional information can be obtained through the Anne Frank-Fonds Foundation, centered in Basel, Switzerland, with branches worldwide. Information may be obtained through the Anne Frank Center USA at 584 Broadway, Suite 408, New York, NY 10012 or through the Anne Frank House and Museum; P.O. Box 730, 1000 AS Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Copyright 1990-2005 © John T. Marck. All Rights Reserved. This article and their accompanying pictures, photographs, and line art, may not be resold, reprinted, or redistributed for compensation of any kind without prior written permission from the author.