Anne Frank (1929-1945) achieved world fame after her death from typhus in March 1945 in the Nazi concentration camp Bergen-Belsen through the publication of her diary in which she described the lives of eight Jews in hiding in the city of Amsterdam between June 1942 and August 1944.
Anne Frank was born on June 12, 1929, in Frankfurt, Germany. Her father, Otto, was the son of wealthy parents. He attended the classical gymnasium and served as a lieutenant of the German army in World War I. Following the loss of his parent's fortune during the 1920s' inflation in Germany, he was able to establish himself as a businessman in Frankfurt specializing in banking and in the promotion of name brands. Anne's mother also came from a well-to-do family. Anne had a close and warm relationship with her father and a more distant one with her mother. Anne's sister Margot, a pretty and feminine girl, was born in 1926 and also died in Bergen-Belsen.
Following the Nazi takeover of Germany in January 1933, the Frank's emigrated to Amsterdam, Holland, where Otto Frank became the managing director of a food company with a warehouse and office on the Prinsengracht, one of the city's canal/streets. Anne attended the Montessori school in Amsterdam. When the Nazis occupied Holland in May 1940 they began to institute anti-Jewish regulations which forced Anne to leave her school and to attend a Jewish secondary school. Jews were forced to wear the yellow Jewish star of David, and deportation of Jews from Holland to the Auschwitz extermination camp commenced. Margot received an order to report for deportation in early July 1942. Otto Frank, who had prepared for this eventuality by setting up a hiding place for his family, decided that the time had come. He moved his family into the hidden rear portion of the warehouse where he had prepared two apartments. He was joined there by Mr. van Daan, a co-worker, with his wife and 16-year-old son Peter. Eventually an eighth person joined them, an elderly Jewish dentist named Dussel.
The friends of the hidden Jews who worked in the office of the firm, Mr. Koophuis, Victor Kraler, Miep (de Jong) van Santen, Henk van Santen, and Elli Vossen, supplied them with food, black market ration cards, and other necessities. They were quiet during the day when the normal business of the firm was conducted downstairs. Life for the hidden began in the late day and evening hours.
Following a denunciation, probably by another member of the firm or by a night-time burglar, the police discovered the hidden persons and arrested them and their helpers. The helpers were held by the Gestapo for a period and some were sentenced to forced labor. The Franks, van Daans, and Dussel were transported to the Dutch transit camp Wersterbork and from there to the extermination camp Auschwitz. It was the last major transport of Jews from Holland. When the Russians threatened to conquer the camp, Margot and Anne Frank were sent to Bergen Belsen where they perished. Of the eight Jews who were in hiding, only Otto Frank survived. (He died in 1980.)
Although Anne wrote a few short stories and started on a novel during her period in hiding, her most important literary achievement was a diary of the events taking place in Prinsengracht. When the German police raided the hiding place they scattered the pages of the diary on the floor. They were collected by Elli Vossen and Miep van Santen and handed to Otto Frank upon his return to Amsterdam.
The diary was forcefully written and tells the story of the living together of the eight persons in the Achterhuis, or the hidden back part of the house, in Prinsengracht. This was often done in a humorous way, displaying considerable talent of observation, originality, and description. Anne was well able to convey to the reader the fears about discovery and the hopes about an end to the war. She described the quarrels between the older van Daans and of the van Daans and the dentist, which often ended in the latter's refusal to further communicate with the van Daans for a week.
Anne's diary, originally published as Het Achterhuis, will be valuable to many readers for various reasons. Not the least of these is the story of a young girl growing up under the confining conditions on the Prinsengracht. She described the generation gap between the adults and their silly quarrels and how they tended to combine their forces in castigating her for all sorts of shortcomings. She told about her somewhat distant relationship with her mother and the close one with her father.
Her special attention was given to a budding puppy love with Peter van Daan. The harmless affair ended soon because it was difficult to maintain in the confined space of the hiding place and because she had a talk with her father who suggested ending the affair. But mainly it was because she was intellectually and emotionally the superior of Peter, a nice but rather colorless boy.
A good part of the chronologically-arranged diary entries, all addressed to a Kitty, are concerned with food, its preparation, hygiene, birthday parties and presents, and educating children in such adverse conditions. The cheerfulness of Anne's writing in such dangerous circumstances, as well as her sensitivity and talent to describe difficult circumstances and the tragedy of her short life, made her diary an instant success. The book was translated into over 30 languages, and a pocket book edition in Germany alone sold 900,000 copies, while several million copies of a United States publication of the diary were sold.
Today the house in Prinsengracht is an international youth center known as the Anne Frank House. There are Anne Frank centers devoted to her memory in several places, including Philadelphia and New York City.
Essential reading is the Doubleday edition of Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl (1967) with its useful "Reader's Supplement." Also important is Ernst Schnabel, Anne Frank (1958), which presents important information relating to the Franks obtained by interviewing the survivors of the tragedy. Of interest also is the Broadway play The Diary of Anne Frank by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett. Hollywood made a motion picture of the diary of Anne Frank in 1959 which was adapted for television eight years later. The Dutch War Documentation Institute in Amsterdam published in 1986 a definitive, 714-page volume of the diaries complete with scientific endorsement of their authenticity. □
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