Biography of Anne Frank, a young girl who only maneged to write a short “Diary”, which has been published in 70 languages.
It is a sample button of what this young woman could have transmitted to us, if totalitarian barbarism had not cruelly killed her life when she was still a child.
Childhood and family of Anne Frank
Anne Frank was born in Germany on June 12, 1929.
She was the second of two daughters Otto Frank and Edith Hollander had, a German Jewish couple living in Frankfurt am Main, Hesse, Germany.
Otto Frank, born in 1889, had fought as an Infantry Lieutenant during the First World War.
Since 1933 hatred of Jews had reached appalling levels in Germany.
Otto and Edith Frank decided to escape Nazi persecution, fleeing with their family to the Netherlands in 1934.
There, in the city of Amsterdam, the Frank couple with their two daughters: Margot (born February 16, 1926) and Anne, lived relatively calmly.
For 6 years they lived in an apartment block of the Merwedeplein.
Her life during the invasion of the Nazi troops
Unfortunately, on May 10, 1940, German stormtroopers and paratroopers invaded the Netherlands.
Five days later, the heroic but futile resistance of the Dutch army totally collapsed.
And after the Rotterdam bombing and the Nazi threat to do the same with Amsterdam and Utrecht, Queen Wilhelmina’s government had no choice but to surrender.
At the beginning of the occupation, the Dutch were resigned and calm; but, with the arrival of the SS and the Gestapo in 1942, a fierce persecution of the Jews began.
The deportation of thousands of Jews led to a general railroad strike and heavy disturbances in the streets.
Many Dutch citizens gave their lives to safeguard that of the Jewish population; and they hid them in attics and cellars.
Holland was the only country that protested in an organized and repeated way against the deportation of Jews.
However, peaceful and not-so-peaceful marches could not prevent the death of more than 100,000 Jews living in the Netherlands.
Of the 110,000 Jews living in that country, only 5,000 survived after the war.
Beginning of the book of the life of Anne Frank
In June of that year 1942, Anne turned 13 and her parents gave her a small notebook that she had pointed out to her father in a showcase a few days earlier.
It was an autograph book, covered in cloth, in red and black squares, with a small lock on the front.
Anne had already decided that she would use it as a journal of her life. She began her journal expressing the intention of not allowing others to read it.
In it, she simply describes her life, her family, her companions and her situation.
Anne Frank wrote in her diary as if she were sending letters to a friend, whom she decided to call “Kitty” in reference to one of her schoolmates.
She would tell her what was going on in class, impressions of the boys she liked and the places she liked to visit in her neighborhood.
In these first writings in her diary, she describes the typical life of a schoolgirl, but references to the changes that are being perceived in the neighborhood with the increasing oppression of the invaders already appear.
She especially wrote about the stars that all Jews were required to wear in public.
She listed some of the restrictions imposed on everyday life by Amsterdam’s Jewish population.
Threat of being captured by the Nazis
In the month of June 1942, the Frank family found itself in an increasingly dramatic situation.
The threat of being caught and sent to concentration camps was imminent.
Otto Frank worked at a company called Opekta, with offices in an old building.
This type of construction was typical of the western neighborhoods of Amsterdam,
Opekta was on Prinsengracht Street, on the edge of one of the city’s cals.
At the back of that building and separated by an interior patio was another 3-story building.
From a small room on the third floor you went up to a small attic. The door leading to the rise was hidden behind a bookshelf.
With much anticipation, Otto Frank had prepared a hideout in this attic with his most trusted employees.
He hoped to be able to take refuge there in case of grave danger.
The only employees who knew of the existence of the cache were four: two men (Victor Kugler, Johannes Kleiman) and two women (Miep Gies and Elisabeth Voskuijl). All of them were completely trustworthy for Otto Frank.
The whole family took refuge in a narrow hiding place
On July 5, 1942, Margot Frank, Anne’s older sister, was ordered to appear before the authority.
Everyone knew that this meant immediate deportation to a labor camp.
There was no longer any hope of salvation; On July 9, 1942, the family moved to the prepared hideout on Prinsengracht Street.
Anne and Margot’s mother made her house in disarray, to make it seem that it had been abruptly abandoned.
Otto Frank left a note from which it could be deduced that they had decided to escape to Switzerland a few days earlier.
The journey from their apartment to the building where the cache was, they had to do discreetly.
They went on foot, without any luggage so as not to attract attention; and each one wearing as many clothing as possible.
Miep Gies’ husband and Elisabeth Voskuijl’s father were the two people who helped the Franks.
Thanks to them, they managed to survive during those long 25 months of confinement.
They were the only contact in the family. They kept them informed of the news of the war and supplied them with food.
All of this was becoming increasingly difficult and risky. Jan and Elisabeth’s father were aware that what they did carried the death penalty. Their generosity was heroic.
The difficult life of family and other refugees
In late July 1942, three acquaintances were added to the hideout.
They also fled from antisemitic barbarism. It was Hermann and Augusta Van Pels, with their 16-year-old son Peter.
In November, Fritz Pfeffer, a dentist and a friend of the family, also came to take refuge in that loft.
These were the 8 people who were confined for two years in this narrow cache.
For all of them that life was very hard. But the alternative of falling prisoners, being shot in the middle of the street, or being deported to concentration camps, left no other option.
The strict rule of the Nazi regime dictated that there was no compassion for the Jews.
Anne wrote about how nice it was to have other people to talk to.
But very soon the tensions caused by the fact of living together confined in such a narrow place appeared.
Anne Frank ended up considering the dentist unbearable. She also quarreled with Augusta Van Pels, whom she believed to be out of her mind.
Anne’s relationship with her mother became difficult. Sometimes she argued with her sister Margot, but wrote that a special bond had developed between them.
The one she felt closest to was her father.
Later, she also began to appreciate the kindness of young Peter Van Pels. Naturally, they both experienced romantic feelings.
Anne Frank began to write everything in her “diary”
In the summer of 1943, Anne Frank listened to a radio broadcast that mentioned the publication of letters and diaries sent to the station.
Thinking of a possible publication, she began to correct her writing, to eliminate sections and to rewrite others.
Above all, she began to invent pseudonyms for the members of the group.
To her original notebook, she added several additional notebooks and a pile of loose sheets.
Anne Frank spent most of her time reading and studying. She also continued writing in her journal.
She narrated the events that had happened and wrote about her feelings, beliefs and ambitions. But, she did not speak with the others, of those personal subjects.
During those years, Anne was describing in her Diary the fear of living hidden day and night for so long.
She expressed in writing her growing feelings for Peter, conflicts with her parents, and her vocation as a writer.
Near her hiding place lived the future great actress Audrey Hepburn. Subsequently, Audrey demonstrated absolutely solidarity with the persecuted Jewish children.
As Anne Frank grew and matured, she felt more secure. She began writing on more abstract subjects, such as her beliefs in God, or how she defined human nature.
She wrote regularly until her final entry, August 1, 1944.
Anne Frank and all the others were arrested
On August 4, 1944, after almost two years of living in hiding in what Anne calls in her Diary as “the secret annex“, all of them were discovered and arrested by the “Dutch Green Police“.
This assault on the site occurred during a search of the entire building, looking for clandestine workers.
The eight refugees were sent to a concentration camp in the northeast of the Netherlands, to Westerbork.
Through this field, more than 100,000 Jews had already passed.
On September 2, 1944, they were transferred to the Auschwitz concentration camp.
This last trip lasted three days of abuse, hunger and thirst. Of the 1,019 newly arrived Jews, 549 children under the age of 15 were sent directly to the gas chambers.
Anne Frank escaped being killed in this way, because three months earlier she had turned 15 years old.
Along with the other women not selected for immediate death, Anne and her companions in misfortune were forced to remain naked while being disinfected.
After shaving her head, an ID number was tattooed on her arm.
During the day, women were forced to do forced labor. At night they were crowded into barracks.
In these incredible circumstances, diseases spread rapidly; In less than a month, Anne Frank was covered with scabs.
On October 28, 1944, the selection of 8,000 women began to be relocated to another field of work.
Anne Frank, Margot Frank and Augusta Van Pels were transferred to Bergen-Belsen.
Edith Frank was imprisoned at Auschwitz.
Anne Frank died in the concentration camp
Two of Anne’s friends were able to survive until they were released by the allied troops.
They said that Anne Frank, bald, emaciated, sick and trembling, told them that she was very worried about Margot, whose health condition seemed more serious.
In March 1945, a typhus epidemic spread throughout the field, killing 17,000 prisoners.
Witnesses later recounted that Margot, weakened as she was, fell from her bunk and died as a result of the blow. A few days later, Anne also died.
The Bergen-Belsen camp was liberated by British troops on April 15, 1945.
Of the eight refugees in the hidden attic, only Otto Frank, Anne’s father, survived. Anne’s mother, Edith Hollander, died on January 6, 1945, in Birkenau.
Johannes Kleiman and Victor Kugler, Otto Frank’s business partners who helped to hide his family, were arrested and sentenced to do work in Germany. Both survived the war.
Otto Frank was able to return to Amsterdam. There he obtained information on the death of his wife and the transfer of his daughters to Bergen-Belsen.
In July 1945, the Red Cross confirmed the deaths of Anne and Margot.
Anne Frank’s “Diary” was rescued by a neighbor
When Miep Gies learned of Anne’s death, she handed Otto Frank the “Diary”. She had picked it up and hidden it, hoping that she could personally return it to Anne Frank.
When Otto read what his daughter had written, he told Jan and Miep Gies that he had not realized that Anne had kept such an accurate and well-written record of the months they had shared in captivity.
Many years later, when asked about his first reaction, he simply replied: “I never knew that my little Anne was so deep“.
In order to fulfill Anne’s wish in the Diario that she wanted to be a writer, Otto Frank decided to try to publish it. He used the original version of the Journal, but removing some passages; especially those in which she referred to his wife in unflattering terms.
He also deleted sections where she spoke of intimate details of her burgeoning sexuality. He restored the true identities of his family, but retained the pseudonyms of the other people.
Anne Frank’s father insisted on publishing the Journal
Otto Frank took the diary to historian Anne Romein, who tried to publish it, without success.
Then her husband Jan Romein wrote an article about the book, with the title “The voice of a girl“.
The article appeared in the Het Parool newspaper (“The Password“) on April 3, 1946.
In that article he said that “the newspaper, with the calm voice of a girl, shows the hatreds of fascism, better than all the evidence of the Nuremberg trials“.
This article attracted the attention of the editors; in 1947, the “Diary” of Anne Frank was published in the Netherlands under the title Het Achterhuis (“The house behind“).
In April 1955, the Editorial Garbo, in Barcelona published the first edition in Spanish with the title “The back rooms“. (Translation by María Isabel Iglesias).
The Anne Frank Diary was growing in popularity.
Over the years, it has been translated into several languages and today it is compulsory high school reading in many countries and in several North American states.
In the introduction to the first edition of the “Diary of Anne Frank” in the United States, Eleanor Roosevelt described it as “one of the wisest and most moving comments I have read on the war and its impact on human beings“.
Literary merits of the Diary of Anne Frank
The Diary of Anne Frank has also been praised for its literary merit. Many accolades from knowledgeable people, are as follows:
- “It maintains the tension of a well-built novel”.
- “It is a unique representation of the mysterious and fundamental process of a child becoming an adult”.
- “She has a precise, confident and economic style, astonishing in her frankness”.
- “Her writing is a study of characters; examine each person in her circle with a cunning, unyielding eye. “
- “Occasionally she is cruel, especially when she writes of her own mother and of the dentist Fritz Pfeffer”.
- “Through her diary, she channeled the normal mood swings in adolescence.”
- “The examination of herself and her surroundings is maintained over a long period. She does it introspectively, analytically, highly self-critically. She relates the battle between the “good Anne” who wishes to be, and the “bad Anne” who believes herself to be ”.