Visit Holland - The Netherlands
Anne Marie Frank was one of the most discussed Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Her diary has been the basis for several plays and films.
Born in the city of Frankfurt am Main in Weimar Germany, she lived most of her life in or near Amsterdam, in the Netherlands. Born a German national, Frank lost her citizenship in 1941 when Nazi Germany passed the anti-Semitic Nuremberg Laws. She gained international fame posthumously after her diary was published. It documents her experiences hiding during the German occupation of the Netherlands in World War II.
The Frank family moved from Germany to Amsterdam in 1933, the year the Nazis gained control over Germany. By the beginning of 1940, they were trapped in Amsterdam by the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. As persecutions of the Jewish population increased in July 1942, the family went into hiding in the hidden rooms of Anne's father, Otto Frank's, office building. After two years, the group was betrayed and transported to concentration camps. Anne Frank and her sister, Margot, were eventually transferred to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where they both died of typhus in March 1945.
Otto Frank, the only survivor of the family, returned to Amsterdam after the war to find that Anne's diary had been saved, and his efforts led to its publication in 1947. It was translated from its original Dutch and first published in English in 1952 as The Diary of a Young Girl. It has since been translated into many languages. The diary, which was given to Anne on her 13th birthday, chronicles her life from 12 June 1942 until 1 August 1944.
Anne Frank was born on 12 June 1929 in Frankfurt, Germany, the second daughter of Otto Frank (1889–1980) and Edith Frank-Holländer (1900–45). Margot Frank (1926–45) was her elder sister. The Franks were liberal Jews, did not observe all of the customs and traditions of Judaism, and lived in an assimilated community of Jewish and non-Jewish citizens of various religions. Edith Frank was the more devout parent, while Otto Frank was interested in scholarly pursuits and had an extensive library; both parents encouraged the children to read.
Memorial stone in front of the Aachen house where Anne stayed with her grandmother
A four story, brick apartment block showing the building's facade, with several windows and an internal staircase leading into the block.
The apartment block on the Merwedeplein where the Frank family lived from 1934 until 1942
On 13 March 1933, elections were held in Frankfurt for the municipal council, and Adolf Hitler's Nazi Party won. Antisemitic demonstrations occurred almost immediately, and the Franks began to fear what would happen to them if they remained in Germany. Later that year, Edith and the children went to Aachen, where they stayed with Edith's mother, Rosa Holländer. Otto Frank remained in Frankfurt, but after receiving an offer to start a company in Amsterdam, he moved there to organise the business and to arrange accommodations for his family. The Franks were among 300,000 Jews who fled Germany between 1933 and 1939.
Otto Frank began working at the Opekta Works, a company that sold fruit extract pectin, and found an apartment on the Merwedeplein (Merwede Square) in Amsterdam. By February 1934, Edith and the children had arrived in Amsterdam, and the two girls were enrolled in school—Margot in public school and Anne in a Montessori school. Margot demonstrated ability in arithmetic, and Anne showed aptitude for reading and writing. Her friend Hanneli Goslar later recalled that from early childhood, Frank frequently wrote, although she shielded her work with her hands and refused to discuss the content of her writing. The Frank sisters had highly distinct personalities, Margot being well-mannered, reserved, and studious, while Anne was outspoken, energetic, and extroverted.
In 1938 Otto Frank started a second company, Pectacon, which was a wholesaler of herbs, pickling salts, and mixed spices, used in the production of sausages. Hermann van Pels was employed by Pectacon as an advisor about spices. A Jewish butcher, he had fled Osnabrück in Germany with his family. In 1939 Edith's mother came to live with the Franks, and remained with them until her death in January 1942.
In May 1940, Germany invaded the Netherlands, and the occupation government began to persecute Jews by the implementation of restrictive and discriminatory laws; mandatory registration and segregation soon followed. The Frank sisters were excelling in their studies and had many friends, but with the introduction of a decree that Jewish children could attend only Jewish schools, they were enrolled at the Jewish Lyceum. Anne became a friend of Jacqueline van Maarsen in the Lyceum. In April 1941 Otto Frank took action to prevent Pectacon from being confiscated as a Jewish-owned business. He transferred his shares in Pectacon to Johannes Kleiman and resigned as director. The company was liquidated and all assets transferred to Gies and Company, headed by Jan Gies. In December 1941 Frank followed a similar process to save Opekta. The businesses continued with little obvious change and their survival allowed Frank to earn a minimal income, but sufficient to provide for his family.
Time period chronicled in the diary
Before going into hiding
For her 13th birthday on 12 June 1942, Anne Frank received a book she had shown her father in a shop window a few days earlier. Although it was an autograph book, bound with red-and-white checkered cloth and with a small lock on the front, Frank decided she would use it as a diary, and began writing in it almost immediately. While many of her early entries relate the mundane aspects of her life, she also discusses some of the changes that had taken place in the Netherlands since the German occupation. In her entry dated 20 June 1942, she lists many of the restrictions that had been placed upon the lives of the Dutch Jewish population, and also notes her sorrow at the death of her grandmother earlier in the year. Frank dreamed about becoming an actress. She loved watching movies, but the Dutch Jews were forbidden access to movie theaters from 8 January 1941 onwards.
In July 1942, Margot Frank received a call-up notice from the Zentralstelle für jüdische Auswanderung (Central Office for Jewish Emigration) ordering her to report for relocation to a work camp. Otto Frank told his family that they would go into hiding in rooms above and behind Opekta's premises on the Prinsengracht, a street along one of Amsterdam's canals, where some of his most trusted employees would help them. The call-up notice forced them to relocate several weeks earlier than had been anticipated.
Life in the Achterhuis
A three shelf timber bookcase, filled with books, stands at an angle in front of a doorway to the Secret Annexe
Reconstruction of the bookcase that covered the entrance to the Secret Annex, in the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam
On the morning of Monday, 6 July 1942, the family moved into their hiding place, a secret annex. Their apartment was left in a state of disarray to create the impression that they had left suddenly, and Otto Frank left a note that hinted they were going to Switzerland. The need for secrecy forced them to leave behind Anne's cat, Moortje. As Jews were not allowed to use public transport, they walked several kilometers from their home, with each of them wearing several layers of clothing as they did not dare be seen carrying luggage. The Achterhuis (a Dutch word denoting the rear part of a house, translated as the "Secret Annexe" in English editions of the diary) was a three-story space entered from a landing above the Opekta offices. Two small rooms, with an adjoining bathroom and toilet, were on the first level, and above that a larger open room, with a small room beside it. From this smaller room, a ladder led to the attic. The door to the Achterhuis was later covered by a bookcase to ensure it remained undiscovered. The main building, situated a block from the Westerkerk, was nondescript, old, and typical of buildings in the western quarters of Amsterdam.
Victor Kugler, Johannes Kleiman, Miep Gies, and Bep Voskuijl were the only employees who knew of the people in hiding. Along with Gies' husband Jan Gies and Voskuijl's father Johannes Hendrik Voskuijl, they were the "helpers" for the duration of their confinement. The only connection between the outside world and the occupants of the house, they kept the occupants informed of war news and political developments. They catered to all of their needs, ensured their safety, and supplied them with food, a task that grew more difficult with the passage of time. Frank wrote of their dedication and of their efforts to boost morale within the household during the most dangerous of times. All were aware that, if caught, they could face the death penalty for sheltering Jews.
On 13 July 1942, the Franks were joined by the van Pels family: Hermann, Auguste, and 16-year-old Peter, and then in November by Fritz Pfeffer, a dentist and friend of the family. Frank wrote of her pleasure at having new people to talk to, but tensions quickly developed within the group forced to live in such confined conditions. After sharing her room with Pfeffer, she found him to be insufferable and resented his intrusion, and she clashed with Auguste van Pels, whom she regarded as foolish. She regarded Hermann van Pels and Fritz Pfeffer as selfish, particularly in regard to the amount of food they consumed. Some time later, after first dismissing the shy and awkward Peter van Pels, she recognised a kinship with him and the two entered a romance. She received her first kiss from him, but her infatuation with him began to wane as she questioned whether her feelings for him were genuine, or resulted from their shared confinement. Anne Frank formed a close bond with each of the helpers, and Otto Frank later recalled that she had anticipated their daily visits with impatient enthusiasm. He observed that Anne's closest friendship was with Bep Voskuijl, "the young typist ... the two of them often stood whispering in the corner."
In her writing, Frank examined her relationships with the members of her family, and the strong differences in each of their personalities. She considered herself to be closest emotionally to her father, who later commented, "I got on better with Anne than with Margot, who was more attached to her mother. The reason for that may have been that Margot rarely showed her feelings and didn't need as much support because she didn't suffer from mood swings as much as Anne did." The Frank sisters formed a closer relationship than had existed before they went into hiding, although Anne sometimes expressed jealousy towards Margot, particularly when members of the household criticised Anne for lacking Margot's gentle and placid nature. As Anne began to mature, the sisters were able to confide in each other. In her entry of 12 January 1944, Frank wrote, "Margot's much nicer ... She's not nearly so catty these days and is becoming a real friend. She no longer thinks of me as a little baby who doesn't count."
Taken from the top of the Westerkerk church, this image shows the Prinsengracht canal and the rooftops of the buildings in the neighborhood
The Secret Annexe with its light-coloured walls and orange roof (bottom) and the Anne Frank tree in the garden behind the house (bottom right), seen from the Westerkerk in 2004
Frank frequently wrote of her difficult relationship with her mother, and of her ambivalence towards her. On 7 November 1942 she described her "contempt" for her mother and her inability to "confront her with her carelessness, her sarcasm and her hard-heartedness," before concluding, "She's not a mother to me." Later, as she revised her diary, Frank felt ashamed of her harsh attitude, writing: "Anne, is it really you who mentioned hate, oh Anne, how could you?" She came to understand that their differences resulted from misunderstandings that were as much her fault as her mother's, and saw that she had added unnecessarily to her mother's suffering. With this realization, Frank began to treat her mother with a degree of tolerance and respect.
The Frank sisters each hoped to return to school as soon as they were able, and continued with their studies while in hiding. Margot took a shorthand course by correspondence in Bep Voskuijl's name and received high marks. Most of Anne's time was spent reading and studying, and she regularly wrote and edited her diary entries. In addition to providing a narrative of events as they occurred, she wrote about her feelings, beliefs, and ambitions, subjects she felt she could not discuss with anyone. As her confidence in her writing grew, and as she began to mature, she wrote of more abstract subjects such as her belief in God, and how she defined human nature.
Frank aspired to become a journalist, writing in her diary on Wednesday, 5 April 1944:
* I finally realized that I must do my schoolwork to keep from being ignorant, to get on in life, to become a journalist, because that's what I want! I know I can write ..., but it remains to be seen whether I really have talent ...
* And if I don't have the talent to write books or newspaper articles, I can always write for myself. But I want to achieve more than that. I can't imagine living like Mother, Mrs. van Daan and all the women who go about their work and are then forgotten. I need to have something besides a husband and children to devote myself to! ...
* I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I've never met. I want to go on living even after my death! And that's why I'm so grateful to God for having given me this gift, which I can use to develop myself and to express all that's inside me!
* When I write I can shake off all my cares. My sorrow disappears, my spirits are revived! But, and that's a big question, will I ever be able to write something great, will I ever become a journalist or a writer?
* — Anne Frank
She continued writing regularly until her last entry of 1 August 1944.