Anne Frank, born on 12 June, 1929 (died in March 1944) was a wonderfully articulate teenager trapped in a situation not of her making, whose diary is a reminder of the human cost of the Nazi concentration camps.
The diary tells a significant story that is as powerful as it is tragic about a member of an oppressed people. A young person having to grow up in confinement and hiding because the hatred of her race meant it was the only way they could survive.
Her tale of day to day life in hiding, of living with such normal teenage emotional conflicts and family squabbles, while also trying to cope with what was happening in the outside world, is a taste of a life that had barely begun.
The World Before the Annex
1933 - the Start of Hitler's Reign
On 30 January, 1933, Adolf Hitler becomes Chancellor of Germany1, this marks the start of the Holocaust. He managed to quickly turn a coalition government into a dictatorship.
On 22 March, 1933, the first concentration camp opens, named Dachau. This is followed by a boycott of Jewish businesses; Jewish people being unable to serve in the civil service, universities, and state positions, and then to cap it off the burning of all Jewish literature. Also, in this year, the Gestapo was established and East European Jewish immigrants were stripped of German citizenship. The Franks could see which way the wind was blowing and decided to leave Germany to the safety of neutral Holland.
1933 to 1940 - the Continuing Plight of the Jewish People
Back in Germany further laws are passed to persecute the Jewish people, they are barred from the armed forces, practising medicine, flying the German flag, marrying Aryans, and they are stripped of German citizenship.
When Germany incorporates Austria into the Reich, all the anti-Jewish laws are enforced there; this is a sign of things to come.
News filters out of Germany about the rising hatred and anti-Jewish laws, but they are treated as frightening tales around the campfire. Although Jewish people start to worry - what if the Germans invade? What is to stop it spreading to them?
Some said not to be so silly, 'The world won't let it happen'.
Meanwhile Anne is growing up in relatively normal surroundings. She now considers Amsterdam her home as she has little memory of the time before that in Germany. She attends the Montessori Nursery school before moving on to elementary.
Eager to avoid another war, the major European governments try to avoid conflict, even agreeing to Germany taking over Sudetenland, the western Czechoslovakia.
There are increasing moves to control the movement of Jewish people, including creating the office of Jewish Immigration, and, at the request of the Swiss authorities, all Jewish passports being marked with a large J to prevent them immigrating to Switzerland.
In 1939, after Hitler makes the Reichstag speech, saying if there was a war it would mean the extermination of the European Jews, the Blitz Krieg ('lightning war') starts with the invasion of Poland, prompting the UK to declare war. Hitler also starts to force Jewish people to wear the yellow star arm band.
In 1940, Germany invades Denmark, southern Norway, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, and of course Holland, this is also the year Auschwitz concentration camp is established.
Going into Hiding
The Jewish people in Holland are trapped, as all the surrounding territories are occupied and hostile.
The Jewish people are gradually isolated from the rest of society until in 1942 the Nazis started sending out call-ups for 'work' camps. The only option left was to go into hiding, as all the neighbouring countries were occupied. The Franks made arrangements to set up a hiding place at Otto Frank's place of work. They fled into hiding earlier than expected after Anne's sister Margot received her call-up on 5 July, 1942.
The Secret Annex at 263 Prinsengracht
Hidden behind a bookcase in an upstairs office of Otto Franks Business, Anne Frank's family, the Van Daan's, and Albert Dussel would spend the next couple of years in hiding. They were constantly fearful of discovery and having to cope with almost complete isolation from the outside world, to the point where even leaving a window open was considered excessively risky.
There eight residents in the Annex:
- Anne Frank
- Otto Frank (Father)
- Edith Frank (Mother)
- Margot Frank
- Mr Hermann Van Daan
- Mrs Petronella Van Daan
- Peter Van Daan
- Mr Albert Dussel
And the four main helpers:
- Victor Kugler
- Johannes Kleiman
- Miep Gies
- Elisabeth (Bep) Voskuijl
Between the 6 July, 1942, and the raiding of the annex on the 4 August, 1944, the eight occupants had to cope with bombs falling, bad news, no news, repeated break-ins, the constant fear of discovery, as well as all the problems that come with constant confinement with the same people.
All the trials, and feelings that Anne Frank faced in this time were recorded in her diary, which she called 'Kitty', that she had received as a birthday present shortly before going into hiding. It forms a very human tale of a life, of a teenager growing up in difficult circumstances, of coping with boredom and isolation from the world.
At one point she even discusses the diary being published after the war and how she wants to live on after her death. She succeeded.
Living in Hiding
The Franks and Van Daans went into hiding at the start of an awful time; earlier in the year in the Wannsee conference in Berlin they outlined the mass murder of the Jewish people in Europe. They are as good as their word, more camps begin extermination, and in the summer the Deportations to killing centres begin.
In the Annex, the people squabbled about china, sheets and food, and they were amused by tales of the gossip surrounding their disappearance, how people were swearing blind they had seen them ride off on bikes or bundled into military vehicles.
Surprisingly, the famous bookcase wasn't installed until August, after houses started being searched for hidden bicycles.
Life settled down into a routine - and routine bickering. Listening to the radio on an evening and asking the helpers for news became their only tenuous link with the outside world. Unfortunately little of the news they heard was good:
Today I have nothing but dismal and depressing news to report. Our many Jewish friends and acquaintances are being taken away in droves. The Gestapo is treating them very roughly and transporting them in cattle-trucks to Westerbork, the big camp in Drenthe to which they're sending all the Jews. Miep told us about someone who'd managed to escape from there. It must be terrible in Westerbork. The people get almost nothing to eat, much less to drink, as water is available only one hour a day, there's only one lavatory and sink for several thousand people. Men and women sleep in the same room, women and children often have their heads shaved. Escape is almost impossible; many people look Jewish, and they are branded by their shaven heads..
- From the Diary, 9 October, 1942.
But life was oddly normal in the annex, complaining about the clothes they could get and putting off school work as long as possible.
During their time in hiding, the residents of the Annex had to survive scraping by on what supplies could be obtained through the black market or using ration books bought on the black market. In a time of increasing hardship and shortages, things become ever more stretched.
Meanwhile the news came through via the wireless on 8 November, 1942, (Peter Van Daan's 16th birthday) of English landings in Tunis, Algiers, Casablanca, and Oran. This set everyone saying it was the beginning of the end, but then on the BBC, Winston Churchill spelled out the reality:
This is not the end, this is not even the beginning of the end. But it is perhaps the end of the beginning.
It was rare events like these, the odd bit of news that brought hope, such as the Nazis not having yet taken Stalingrad, or the British pushing back the Nazis in some far foreign land. The news bulletins on the BBC and others were essential features of the days in the Annex; meals may be movable or non-existent but the news was essential, to know someone was coming, and the Nazis were losing, that the propaganda was wrong.
But not all the news was good. When Albert Dussel arrived he brought news that the helpers had shied away from telling, as it always reduced people to tears.
Here is how Anne saw what was happening outside:
At any time of night and day, poor helpless people are being dragged out of their homes. They're allowed to take only a rucksack and a little cash with them, and even then, they are robbed of these possessions on the way. Families are torn apart; men, women, and children are separated. Children come home from school to find their parents have disappeared. Women return from shopping to find their houses sealed and their families gone. The Christians in Holland are also living in fear because their sons are being sent to Germany. Everyone is scared.
- From the Diary, 13 January, 1943.
This became a theme for thought in the house; the strains of isolation and confinement, the fear of discovery, the constant fear of being bombed, and the guilt that others that were less fortunate, who were at the mercy of the merciless Nazis.
Anne herself had nightmares about those outside, about friends or classmates from before they went into hiding. She also began to increasingly miss company of people close to her own age, and so she actively sought out Peter Van Daan's company. They became friends, then more.
Things also became increasingly risky, they were warned that people working next door noticed an open window when the place was shut and other little lapses, but nothing ever came of them. But it was yet another strain on the nerves of the occupants of the Annex. Some of their most dangerous situations came through break-ins as crime had run out of control as shortages increased. Even pets were disappearing, while interesting forms of meat arrived on other people's dinner plates. There were three break-ins in the building that housed the Annex, the most dangerous was when Peter was checking the building and found they were being broken into. By a lucky chance they avoided discovery, but luck and time had almost run out.
Ironically, anti-Semitism only started rising in Holland close to the end of the war, when people who had been caught hiding had been forced to tell the Nazis the names of those that had helped them. Maybe it is this that caused some unknown person to betray them.
The Raid and Beyond
4 August 1944, Morning
SS sergeant Karl Josef Silberbauer along with at least three Dutch security Police, probably acting on a tip-off, raided the Annex and arrested all the occupants and two of the helpers. This is what happened to them:
The Annex Occupants
Anne and Margot Frank were transported to Bergen-Belsen at the end of October 1944, and during the typhus epidemic of winter 1944-5 caused by the camps horrendous conditions, they died within a few days of each other, in late February-early March 1945. The camp was liberated 12 April, 1945.
Otto Frank was the only one to survive, he edited the first release of the diary and remarried, dying on 19 August, 1980.
Edith Frank died of hunger and exhaustion on 6 January, 1945.
Auguste Van Pels (Petronella Van Daan) was transported from Auschwitz to Bergen-Belsen, to Buchenwald, then to Theresienstadt on 9 April, 1945. She was then transported to another concentration camp after that; it is certain she did not survive.
Hermann Van Pels (Van Daan), according to Otto Frank, was gassed in Auschwitz in October or November, 1944.
- Fritz Pfeffer (Albert Dussel) died on 20 December, 1944, in Neuengamme concentration camp, after transferring from either Buchenwald or Sachsenhausen.
Both the arrested helpers survived prison, they were transferred without trial to Amersfoort camp, Holland.
Johannes Kleiman was released on grounds of poor health on 18 September, 1944. He remained in Amsterdam until his death in 1959.
Victor Kugler escaped on 28 March, 1945, while in transit to become a forced labourer. He emigrated to Canada 1955, and died in Toronto in 1989.
Those Not Arrested
Miep Gies is still living in Amsterdam (as far as is known), her husband Jan died in 1993.
Elisabeth (Bep) Voskuijl died in Amsterdam in 1983.
What Happened to the Diary after the Raid?
After the raid, Miep Gies and Bep Voskuijl, while looking around the Annex, found the diary strewn all over the floor. They collected the diary together and Miep Gies put it away in a desk drawer for safe keeping.
After the war, when it became clear Anne was dead, Miep gave the unread diary to Otto Frank. After reading the diary, and after long contemplation, Otto decided to go through with Anne's wish and published the diary.
Versions of the Diary
There have been three versions of the diary to date. Version A is the unedited diary; Version B came about in 1944 when Gerrit Bolkestein (a member of the Dutch Government in exile) broadcasting from London, said how he wanted to collect eye witness accounts of the suffering of the Dutch people during the German occupation, mentioning letters and diaries. So Anne decided to edit her diary for publication after the war, re-writing, deleting and adding from memory to the book she was going to call The Secret Annex. She also added the pseudonyms for the occupants of the Annex, even herself. She toyed with the name Anne Aulis, and then Anne Robin, but Otto Frank opted to keep their own family names.
After the war when it became clear that Anne had died, Otto Frank, having been given Anne's diary, re-edited it into the C version; omitting passages on Anne's sexuality, uncomplimentary passages about other members of the Annex residents, and cutting it down to a more manageable size. This led to accusations of tampering, and even doubts about its authenticity. But a full investigation proved it genuine and was published in the critical edition in its entirety, the A, B, and C versions, along with detailed background on the Frank family, the circumstances of their arrest, analysis of Anne's handwriting, the documentation, and the materials used.
The Book and Website
The diary is published under the title The Diary of a Young Girl: Anne Frank (ISBN 0-14-026473-6). For online information, check out the Official Anne Frank Website.