Anne’s diary was first published in 1947, two years after her death at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. The thoughts and hopes of this inspirational 13-year-old girl continue to inspire millions of people. But why? Who was she and why is her diary so important?
“Who would ever think that so much can go on in the soul of a young girl?” Anne Frank 12 January 1944
Anne Frank’s life
Anne Frank was born in Frankfurt on 12 June 1929, the second daughter of Otto and Edith Frank. Her sister, Margot, was born three years earlier. The Frank family were German Jews, who had lived in the city for many generations.
Following Hitler's election in 1933, the family moved to Amsterdam to escape the growing anti-Semitism of Nazi Germany and lived peacefully until the Nazi invasion of the Netherlands in 1940. Once again, they were subject to Hitler’s increasing measures against the Jews.
“After May 1940…the trouble started for the Jews. Our freedom was severely restricted by a series of anti-Jewish decrees: Jews were required to wear a yellow star; Jews were required to turn in their bicycles; Jews were forbidden to ride trams or in cars, even their own…Jews were forbidden to go to theatres, cinemas or any other forms of entertainment; Jews were forbidden to use swimming pools, tennis courts, hockey fields or any other athletic fields…You couldn’t do this and you couldn’t do that, but life went on…” Anne Frank 20 June 1942
On 12 June 1942, Anne’s parents gave her a red checked notebook for her 13th birthday. She used it as her personal diary, calling it Kitty.
“I hope I will be able to confide everything to you, as I have never been able to confide in anyone, and I hope you will be a great source of comfort and support.” Anne Frank 12 June 1942
By 1942, Anne and her family had endured the increasingly restrictive laws of the Nazi party for two years. On 5 July 1942, Anne’s sister, Margot, received a call-up letter for work in Germany, meaning deportation and almost certain death. Anne’s father, Otto, had prepared for this and on the very next day the Frank family went into hiding to escape probable death at the hands of the Nazis.
“I was stunned. A call-up: everyone knows what that means. Visions of concentration camps and lonely cells raced throughout my head.” Anne Frank 8 July 1942
Their new home was in a secret annexe at the back of Otto Frank's office building at 263 Prinsengracht in Amsterdam. The family was soon sharing the rooms with Hermann and Auguste Van Pels, and their son, Peter. In November 1942, they were joined by Fritz Pfeffer, a dentist who asked Miep Gies, Otto’s office manager, for help in finding somewhere to hide.
‘Just as we thought, Mr Dussel (Fritz Pfeffer) is a very nice man. I’m not exactly delighted at having a stranger use my things, but you have to make sacrifices for a good cause, and I’m glad I can make this small one. ‘If we can save even one of our friends, the rest doesn’t matter’, said Father, and he’s absolutely right.’ Anne Frank 19 November 1942
Together with her husband, Jan, and fellow employees, Victor Kugler, Johannes Kleimann and Bep Voskuijl, Miep helped the hiders throughout their time in the annexe, particularly in supplying food and other items.
“You can see we’re never far from Miep’s thoughts, since she promptly noted their names and addresses in case anything should happen and we needed contacts with good old Dutch people.” Anne Frank 8 May 1944
For two years, the group remained hidden, unable to venture outside or make any noise. In the summer of 1944, they were betrayed by an unknown person, and on the 4 August, arrested by Dutch police and deported to concentration camps in Eastern Europe.
Along with six million other victims, Anne, Margot and their mother, Edith, died in the camps. Their father, Otto, was the only resident of the secret annexe to survive.
Fulfilling his daughter’s wish to become a writer, Otto decided to publish Anne’s diary, so that people would remember his daughter and the millions of other men, women and children lost their lives in the Holocaust.
“After the war I’d like to publish a book called The Secret Annexe. It remains to be seen whether I’ll succeed, but my diary can serve as a basis.” Anne Frank 11 May 1944
The diary and its legacy
To this day, Anne’s diary remains a hugely important piece of work. Teachers use her words to discuss emotions, growing up and family relationships, all of which Anne wrote about in her diary.
Anne knew what was happening to her Jewish friends and neighbours, and was trapped herself, but she never stopped believing in the goodness of people. Her words and ideals continue to resonate and remind us of the need to respect each other and accept other ways of life.
“Of all the multitude who throughout history have spoken for human dignity in times of suffering and loss, no voice is more compelling that that of Anne Frank.” President John F Kennedy
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