Het Achterhuis, 1947 (The Diary of a Young Girl, 1952)
Verhaaltjes en gebeurtenissen uit het Achterhuis, 1982 (Anne Frank’s Tales from the Secret Annex, 1983)
Anne Frank left a timeless written legacy of hope for the world that transcends the catastrophic circumstances of her untimely death and makes hers one of the most compelling, powerful, and enduring voices of the twentieth century.
Anne Frank’s father, Otto Frank, who had been a German lieutenant in World War I, settled in Frankfurt with his wife Edith in 1926. Their daughter Margot was born that year; Anne followed three years later. After Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in 1933, the Franks moved to 37 Merwedeplein in Amsterdam, where Otto Frank and two business partners ran a company that made pectin for jams and jellies.
Anne enjoyed a normal early childhood. She was educated first at a local Montessori school; later, after 1933, German law required that she attend an all-Jewish lyceum. As a child she was energetic, outgoing, popular, funny, curious, mischievous, and attention-seeking, always keenly and precociously perceptive about her life and feelings. Otto and Edith tried to protect their young daughters from worsening Jewish persecution following the Nazi occupation of Holland in May, 1940. Jews were placed under curfew and barred from public parks, pools, schools, and shops. In June, 1942, while shopping with her father for her thirteenth birthday present, Anne chose a diary, a “friend” to whom she could confide her intimate thoughts.
On July 5, 1942, Margot was ordered by the Nazis to a “labor” camp. To prevent the destruction of his close-knit family, a fate that befell countless other Jews, Otto Frank sought the aid of his secretaries, Miep Gies and Bep Voskuijl, and of his business partners in the Opekta company. For more than a year Otto Frank had been collecting furniture and supplies for a secret hiding place in the top rear two floors and attic of his company building on 263 Prinsengracht. On July 6, 1942, the Frank family went into hiding there.
One week later the Franks were joined by their friends Auguste and Hermann van Pels and their teenage son Peter; four months later the dentist Fritz Pfeffer became the eighth “annex” resident. The eight were not to leave their hiding place for two years. To avoid discovery, they had to observe a strict silence during business hours. Every day Miep, her husband, Jan, and other helpers–who placed themselves in great personal peril for harboring Jews–moved away the bookcase that blocked access to the annex and brought food upstairs along with news of the outside world. Miep volunteered little information about the worsening situation for Jews, but Anne always demanded to know all.
Through her diary, which she addressed as “Dear Kitty,” Anne retreated from the claustrophobic confines and boring routines of annex life. The diary, which started on June 12, 1942, became the repository for her optimistic schoolgirl moods, dreams, and observations. In it she recorded irritation with most of the others in the annex, ambivalence toward her mother, adoration of her father and sister, and a brief infatuation with Peter. Gradually, however, her entries also began to include wise insights about the human potential for good and inhumanity, about the irrationality of prejudice and ethnic hatred, and about her self-perception and dreams of becoming a renowned writer. In March, 1944, planning to try to publish her diary after the war, Anne began to rewrite, edit, and add to her entries.
Anne’s last diary entry was on August 1, 1944. On August 4 the Frank family and their friends, betrayed by an unknown informer, were arrested by the German police, who ransacked and looted the annex. Later Miep gathered up the pages of Anne’s diary scattered on the annex floor, intending to present the diary to her upon her return.
On August 8 all eight were sent by train to the Westerbork transit camp in northern Holland; on September 3, 1,019 Dutch Jews, including the eight from the Opekta annex, were forced onto the last train to the extermination camp Auschwitz, where about 550 were immediately sent to the gas chambers.
Exposed to Auschwitz’s filth and malnutrition, Edith Frank soon died. On October 28, 1944, Anne and Margot were shipped to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where as the winter progressed more than 50,000 died; some resorted to cannibalism in this frigid, filthy, congested hell. Margot contracted typhus, a disease transmitted by lice, and died in March, 1945, and a few days later Anne, too, slowly starved and died of the disease. Her naked body was tossed onto a huge pile of corpses, and she was eventually buried anonymously in a mass grave. Bergen-Belsen was liberated on April 15.
Otto Frank was the only one of the eight in hiding to survive the war. He knew that his wife had died at Auschwitz, but until the war’s end his hope was that his beloved daughters might have survived. After he learned in 1946 that his children, too, had died, Miep gave him Anne’s diary, through which Frank said later that he came to know and understand his daughter for the first time.
After it was published, Anne Frank’s diary was adapted into a successful stage play in 1955 and a feature film in 1959, and it was the source for several television adaptations and countless public performances. It has been translated into more than fifty-five languages. Starting in 1957 neo-Nazis, seeking to deny the reality of the Holocaust, called the Diary a hoax, but extensive forensic testing affirmed the Diary’s complete authenticity. In 1995 the definitive edition of the diary was published, which included one-third more material, including entries about Anne’s emerging womanhood, text that had been withheld from earlier printings. For all generations and times, Anne Frank’s diary is a powerful and enduring testimony both to youthful optimism and courage and to human potential senselessly destroyed.