Her life, her diary, her legacy
By Anne Frank House
Anne Frank is one of the millions of victims of the persecution of the Jews during World War II. For two years, Anne and her family were in hiding in the annex of her father’s business. There, she wrote her diary. Anne Frank died in a concentration camp when she was fifteen. Her diary survived the war. It has been translated into more than seventy languages, and it has made Anne famous all over the world. The original diary is on display in the Anne Frank House.
Childhood in Germany Anne Frank is born on 12 June 1929 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. She is the second and youngest daughter of Otto Frank and Edith Frank-Holländer. Margot, Anne’s sister, is three years older. The Frank family is Jewish.
Otto Frank works for the family bank. Because of the severe economic crisis in Germany, business is not going well. Otto and Edith Frank are very worried about their future. Antisemitism is increasing. More and more people support Adolf Hitler’s antisemitic NSDAP party and in 1933, Hitler takes over as leader of the German government.
Otto has the chance to set up a local branch of Opekta in Amsterdam. Opekta is a business that sells pectin, a gelling agent for making jam. Otto and his wife decide to move to The Netherlands.
Safe in Amsterdam In 1933, Anne Frank and her family move to an apartment on the Merwedeplein in Amsterdam-Zuid, a neighborhood where many Jewish refugees find a home.
Anne and Margot learn Dutch quickly and soon feel at home in Holland. Anne is a bubbly, curious girl who likes to be the center of attention. Margot is more quiet and serious. She always gets good grades in school.
Otto Frank sets up his business in the center of Amsterdam. Because he works hard, he is often away from home. Edith Frank has a hard time getting used to her new life in The Netherlands. She is homesick and very worried about her family in Germany.
The situation in Germany is becoming increasingly threatening for Jews. In November 1938, a large pogrom, ‘Kristallnacht’, takes place. In March of 1939, Edith’s mother leaves Germany and moves in with the Frank family.
In 1939 Germany invades Poland, causing England and France to declare war on Germany. Warsaw is bombed. The persecution of Jews starts almost immediately.
The German invasion of Holland In May 1940 Germany invades Holland, and after the bombing of Rotterdam the Dutch government capitulates. The German occupation has begun.
General Winkelman arriving at German Army headquarters to sign the Dutch surrender, May 15, 1940.
Anti-Jewish regulations Soon after the invasion in 1940, the Nazis start introducing anti-Jewish regulations. They make life increasingly difficult for Jews. Jewish civil servants are fired. Jews are no longer allowed to visit parks, cinemas and swimming pools and Jewish children are forced to go to separate Jewish schools.
Anne’s diary On 12 June 1942 Anne Frank turns thirteen. One of her birthday gifts is a red and white checkered diary. She immediately starts to write in it. The diary is her most cherished possession, and Anne takes it with her when the Frank family goes into hiding three weeks later.
Persecution of the Jews As the German occupation continues, the situation becomes more and more dangerous for Jews in Holland. From May 1942, all Jews have to wear a yellow star on their clothing. Starting in July of that year, Jews are called up to report for work duty. Allegedly they are sent to labor camps in Germany. In reality they are transported to concentration camps to be killed.
To avoid deportation, Otto and Edith Frank have been preparing a secret hiding place in the back of the annex to Otto’s business. Margot Frank is one of the first to receive a summons to report for a labor camp on 5 July 1942. The next day, the Frank family leaves for the hiding place on the Prinsengracht.
The Franks share their hiding place with Otto’s business partner Hermann van Pels, his wife Auguste and their son Peter. Otto’s employees Bep Voskuijl, Victor Kugler, Johannes Kleiman and Miep Gies and her husband Jan supply them with food.
During the day, the people in hiding have to keep very quiet. The people working in the warehouse below must not find out that there are eight Jews hiding in the secret annex. Only at night and during the weekends can they speak without whispering and flush the toilet.
After a few months, on 16 November 1942, an eighth person comes to live in the secret annex: Fritz Pfeffer. He is Miep Gies’ dentist. To make room for him, Margot moves to her parents’ room, and Anne shares her room with Fritz Pfeffer.
‘Our many Jewish friends and acquaintances are being taken away in droves. The Gestapo is treating them very roughly (…) If it's that bad in Holland, what must it be like in those faraway and uncivilized places where the Germans are sending them? We assume that most of them are being murdered. The English radio says they're being gassed. Perhaps that's the quickest way to die.’ Anne Frank, 9 October 1942
‘You've known for a long time that my greatest wish is to be a journalist, and later on, a famous writer.’ Anne Frank, 11 May 1944
‘Is this really the beginning of the long-awaited liberation? (...) Oh Kitty, the best part about the invasion is that I have the feeling that friends are on the way.’ Anne Frank, 6 June 1944
The people in hiding follow the news about the Normandy invasion with enthusiasm and hope. Otto Frank marks the allied army advances with pins on the map on the wall of the Frank family room in the secret annex.
Anne’s death On 4 August 1944 the people in hiding are arrested: they have been betrayed. They are sent to the Westerbork transit camp in the Netherlands. On 3 September they are deported to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in German-occupied Poland. There, the men and women are separated. Anne sees her father for the last time. She is assigned to a women’s barracks with Margot and Edith.
At the end of October Anne and Margot are transported to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany. Their mother Edith remains in Auschwitz-Birkenau and dies there on 6 January 1945.
After an awful train journey lasting three days, Anne and Margot arrive at Bergen-Belsen in Germany. The camp is overpopulated and they have to live in tents. When the tents are destroyed during a heavy storm, the prisoners are moved to the already overcrowded barracks.
Bergen-Belsen is terrible. There is little or no food and the sanitary conditions are dreadful. Many prisoners become ill and die. Margot and Anne Frank contract typhus. They die in March 1945, just a few weeks before the camp is liberated.
Hanneli Goslar and Anne Frank have known each other since kindergarten. They haven't met since 1942, when Anne went into hiding. In Bergen-Belsen Hanneli looks back to the last time she talked to Anne.
After the Russians liberate Auschwitz on 27 January 1945, Otto Frank is free. He is the only one of the eight people in hiding who survives the war.
7 May 1945, surrender of the German army in Western Europe in Reims, France.
Otto returns After a long and chaotic journey, Otto returns to Amsterdam in June 1945. He moves in with Miep and Jan Gies. He already knows that his wife Edith is dead, but he knows nothing of the fate of his daughters. A few weeks later he hears that Anne and Margot are both dead. Only then does Miep give him Anne’s diary. She has kept it safe since the family’s arrest.
The diary is published After much deliberation, Otto Frank decides to have Anne’s diary published. At first, it is difficult to find a publisher. Otto shows the diary to several people. One of them is historian Jan Romein. He writes an article about it for the national newspaper 'Het Parool' of 3 April 1946. The article attracts the attention of the publishing company Contact. It decides to publish the diary. 'Het Achterhuis' is published on 25 June 1947. Anne’s dream of becoming a writer comes true after her death.
The publication of the English edition 'Anne Frank: The diary of a young girl' in 1952 makes Anne’s diary famous. It is adapted for the theater by two American dramatists in 1955. The play becomes a huge success on Broadway. In 1959 the play is made into a film with Milly Perkins playing Anne Frank.
From hiding place to museum The success of the diary creates an interest in Anne Frank’s hiding place. Soon, people come by wanting to see the secret annex and they are shown around by the Opekta employees. In 1955 the company moves. Because the building is in a dilapidated state, there are plans for demolition but thanks to the efforts of prominent Amsterdam citizens, it is saved. Together with Otto Frank they establish the Anne Frank House and the museum is opened to the public on 3 May 1960.
In 1953 Otto Frank marries Fritzi Markovits and they move to Switzerland. His daughter’s diary continues to play an important role in his life. He receives thousands of letters from readers from all over the world. Fritzi and Otto reply to them. Otto dies in 1980.
Ever since the opening in 1960 the Anne Frank House has attracted large numbers of visitors. During the mid-nineties, a new building is constructed on the corner of Prinsengracht and Westermarkt in order to cope with the ever-growing public interest. Nowadays, the museum welcomes over one million visitors a year. Below are the last moving images of Miep Gies in the museum: she is arranging some personal documents right before the opening of the new museum route in 1999.
For those who are unable to visit the museum in Amsterdam, the Anne Frank House has created the Secret Annex Online, a 3D version of the wartime hiding place.
The Anne Frank House is an independent organization entrusted with the care of the Secret Annex. It brings her life story to the attention of people all over the world to encourage them to reflect on the dangers of antisemitism, racism and discrimination and the importance of freedom, equal rights and democracy.
The background to this exhibit shows a wall in Anne Frank's room in the secret annex on which she pasted many different pictures.
Contributor: This exhibit has been created by the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam.—For more information, visit http://www.annefrank.org.
Contributor: Diary quotes Anne Frank:—
Contributor: Anne Frank: The diary of a young girl : the definitive edition. Ed. by Otto H. Frank and Mirjam Pressler; transl. by Susan Massotty.—Copyright © The Anne Frank - Fonds, Basle, Switzerland, 1991, 2001
Contributor: English translation of the diary—Copyright © Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc. 1995, 2001