Biography of Anne Frank, Writer of Powerful Wartime Diary

Anne Frank Center USA

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Anne Frank (born Annelies Marie Frank; June 12, 1929–March 1945) was a Jewish teenager who spent two years hiding in a Secret Annex in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam during World War II. While she died in the Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp at age 15, her father survived and found and published Anne's diary. Her diary has since been read by millions of people and has turned Anne Frank into a symbol of the children murdered during the Holocaust.

Fast Facts: Anne Frank

  • Known For: Jewish teenager whose diary chronicled hiding in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam
  • Also Known As: Annelies Marie Frank
  • Born: June 12, 1929 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany
  • Parents: Otto and Edith Frank
  • Died: March 1945 in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp near Bergen, Germany
  • Education: Montessori school, Jewish Lyceum
  • Published WorksDiary of Anne Frank (also known as Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl)
  • Notable Quote: "It's a wonder I haven't abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart." 

Early Childhood

Anne Frank was born in Frankfurt am Main, Germany as the second child of Otto and Edith Frank. Anne's sister Margot Betti Frank was three years older.

The Franks were a middle-class, liberal Jewish family whose ancestors had lived in Germany for centuries. The Franks considered Germany their home, so it was a very difficult decision for them to leave Germany in 1933 and start a new life in the Netherlands, away from the anti-Semitism of the newly empowered Nazis.

The Move to Amsterdam

After moving his family in with Edith's mother in Aachen, Germany, Otto Frank moved to Amsterdam, Netherlands in the summer of 1933 so that he could establish a Dutch firm of Opekta, a company that made and sold pectin (a product used to make jelly). The other members of the Frank family followed a bit later, with Anne being the last to arrive in Amsterdam in February 1934.

The Franks quickly settled into life in Amsterdam. While Otto Frank focused on building up his business, Anne and Margot started at their new schools and made a large circle of Jewish and non-Jewish friends. In 1939, Anne's maternal grandmother also fled Germany and lived with the Franks until her death in January 1942.

The Nazis Arrive in Amsterdam

On May 10, 1940, Germany attacked the Netherlands. Five days later, the country officially surrendered.

Now in control of the Netherlands, the Nazis quickly began issuing anti-Jewish laws and edicts. In addition to no longer being able to sit on park benches, go to public swimming pools, or take public transportation, Anne could no longer go to a school with non-Jews.

Persecution Increases

In September 1941, Anne had to leave her Montessori school to attend the Jewish Lyceum. In May 1942, a new edict forced all Jews over the age of 6 to wear a yellow Star of David on their clothes.

Since the persecution of Jews in the Netherlands was extremely similar to the early persecution of Jews in Germany, the Franks could foresee that life was only going to get worse for them. The Franks realized they needed to find a way to escape.

Unable to leave the Netherlands because the borders were closed, the Franks decided the only way to escape the Nazis was to go into hiding. Nearly a year before Anne received her diary, the Franks had begun organizing a hiding place.

Going Into Hiding

For Anne's 13th birthday (June 12, 1942), she received a red-and-white-checkered autograph album that she decided to use as a diary. Until she went into hiding, Anne wrote in her diary about everyday life such as her friends, the grades she received at school, and even playing ping pong.

The Franks had planned on moving to their hiding place on July 16, 1942, but their plans changed when Margot received a call-up notice on July 5, 1942, summoning her to a labor camp in Germany. After packing their final items, the Franks left their apartment at 37 Merwedeplein the following day.

Their hiding place, which Anne called the "Secret Annex," was located in the upper-rear portion of Otto Frank's business at 263 Prinsengracht. Miep Gies, her husband Jan, and three other employees of Opetka all helped feed and protect the hiding families.

Life in the Annex

On July 13, 1942 (seven days after the Franks arrived in the Annex), the van Pels family (called the van Daans in Anne's published diary) arrived at the Secret Annex to live. The van Pels family included Auguste van Pels (Petronella van Daan), Hermann van Pels (Herman van Daan), and their son Peter van Pels (Peter van Daan). The eighth person to hide in the Secret Annex was the dentist Friedrich "Fritz" Pfeffer (called Albert Dussel in the diary), who joined them on November 16, 1942.

Anne continued writing her diary from her 13th birthday on June 12, 1942, until August 1, 1944. Much of the diary is about the cramped and stifling living conditions as well as the personality conflicts between the eight that lived together in hiding.

Anne also wrote about her struggles with becoming a teenager. During the two years and one month that Anne lived in the Secret Annex, she wrote regularly about her fears, hopes, and character. She felt misunderstood by those around her and was constantly trying to better herself.

Discovered and Arrested

Anne was 13 years old when she went into hiding and was 15 when she was arrested. On the morning of August 4, 1944, an SS officer and several Dutch Security Police members pulled up to 263 Prinsengracht around 10 or 10:30 a.m. They went directly to the bookcase that hid the door to the Secret Annex and pried it open.

All eight people living in the Secret Annex were arrested and taken to Westerbork camp in the Netherlands. Anne's diary lay on the ground and was collected and safely stored by Miep Gies later that day.

On September 3, 1944, Anne and everyone who had been hiding were put on the very last train leaving Westerbork for Auschwitz. At Auschwitz, the group was separated and several were soon transported to other camps.

Death

Anne and Margot were transported to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp at the end of October 1944. In late February or early March of the following year, Margot died of typhus, followed just a few days later by Anne, also from typhus. Bergen-Belsen was liberated on April 12, 1945.

Legacy

Miep Gies saved Anne's diary after the families were arrested and returned it to Otto Frank when he came back to Amsterdam following the war. "This is the legacy of your daughter Anne," she said as she gave him the documents.

Otto recognized the literary strength and the importance of the diary as a document that bore witness to the first-hand experience of Nazi persecution. The book was published in 1947 and has been translated into 70 languages and is considered to be a world classic. Successful stage and film adaptations have been made of the book.

"The Diary of Anne Frank" (also known as "Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl") is understood by historians to be especially important because it shows the horrors of the Nazi occupation through the eyes of a young girl. The Anne Frank House museum in Amsterdam is a major tourist spot that brings global visitors closer to understanding this period of history.

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