Anne Frank

Anne Frank, full name Annelies Marie Frank, is one of the most well-known and talked about individual victims of the Holocaust. She was born in June 1929, and died in March 1945 at the age of 15.  She kept a comprehensive and emotive diary throughout her time in hiding, trying to evade detection by occupying Nazi forces, which has been the basis for several movies and plays and many discussions. Most of her life was lived in the Amsterdam area of Holland.

A Jewish family, albeit conservative in practices, the Franks moved from Germany to Holland in the same year that the Nazis obtained control of Germany. The father initially operated a business when arriving in Amsterdam. They became trapped in Amsterdam, eventually going into hiding. The family remained in hiding for two long years, before they were betrayed and captured. They were then moved to concentration camps, and both Anne and her sister Margot perished from typhoid in the camps. The only member of the family to survive was the father, Otto. He found Anne’s diary, which documented her life between June 1942 and August 1944, and through great efforts was able to get the diary published, allowing the world into the private thoughts and daily life of his deceased daughter. It was originally published in the Dutch language, and then translated into English and many other languages.

Perhaps almost poignantly, the diary begins chronicling the everyday mundane and routine activities of a young girl and her hopes and aspirations for the future. There are passing references to the changes that occurred in Holland following Nazi occupation. Life quickly changed for Anne and her family, however, when Anne’s older sister was called-up to go to a work camp. The family quickly went into hiding. 

To get to what would be their place of both confinement and expected safety for the foreseeable future, the family piled on many layers of clothes and walked several kilometers across town. Most possessions were left behind in their abandoned apartment. They then entered the Achterhuis. This was a hidden and concealed area, accessed from a landing above Otto’s former offices. The Achterhuis was quite spacious, with three levels; the first level had two small rooms and a bathroom and toilet, the second level had one large room and one small room, and the third level was the attic. To prevent detection, the door to the Acherhuis was covered with a bookcase.

Another Jewish family of three joined the Franks, followed by a family friend. The initial excitement of having different people to talk with quickly wore off. Living areas suddenly seemed smaller, and with so many people permanently locked up together, tensions often flared. Anne clearly recorded her feelings about the other occupants, as well as her relationships with and thoughts about her own family. Anne’s relationship with her mother was especially fraught at times, though understanding and improvement did occur in the house.

Anne wrote about how six people helped the Frank family, providing food, information, and safety. She formed a close bond with each, and looked forward to their visits. She also had a romance with the son of the second family whilst in confinement.  Both Frank sisters continued with their studies, and were keen to return to education. Sadly, Anne wrote about her dream to become a journalist in the future, and her desire to continue living after her death through her words.  She was unaware of how her diary would keep her memory alive for years, and serve as a reminder about the sufferings of Jews and other people at the hands of the brutal Nazi regime. 

Anne’s writings also evolved into thoughtful and philosophical musings, as well as factual accounts of her life and her feelings.  She wrote in her diary throughout the period in hiding.

In August 1944, the Achterhuis was raided by German officers, and all occupants were removed for questioning and put into a crowded prison.  They were subsequently moved to a transit camp, where they were sent to the area of hard labour as punishment for having gone into hiding.  Some of the helpers were imprisoned. Anne’s writing stopped after she was removed from the house, and all her papers were left behind.

Anne, her sister and mother were separated from Anne’s father on being moved to the notorious Auschwitz Camp. Anne narrowly avoided the gas chamber on arrival, unlike so many other unfortunate occupants of the same transportation vehicle.  She worked as slave labour whilst in the camp, before falling ill. She and her sister were moved to Bergen-Belsen; her mother was left behind and starved.  Both Anne and her sister died only a few weeks before the camps were liberated by British Forces.  The exact final resting site of both sisters remains unknown, as they were both buried in mass graves.

Upon release, Anne’s father, Otto went back to Amsterdam and stayed with his previous kind helpers, whilst trying to find his family. He learnt about their deaths, and set about trying to find out about friends. Upon obtaining her diary and notes, Otto went through the painful process of reading her writing, and made the decision to try and have it published.

The house where Anne and her family hid, and the place where most of her entries were written, is now a popular and moving museum in Amsterdam which continues to see many tourists every year.