Anne Frank, made famous for the diary she wrote while hiding with her family and friends in Amsterdam during the German occupation of the Netherlands in World War II, was born Anneliese Marie Frank on June 12, 1929. Although not originally from Amsterdam, Anne and her family moved there from Germany after the Nazis rose to power. In Germany Anne and her family, consisting of her mother and father and sister Margot, lived in a community made up of both Jewish and non-Jewish populations. During World War I Anne’s father had served in the German army and was decorated for his service.
After the Frank family relocated to Amsterdam in 1933, Otto Frank set up a business there and the girls were enrolled in school. The German invasion of the Netherlands began in 1940 and the Frank family discovered they were trapped, even though they had moved to the Netherlands in order to avoid the Nazis. Persecutions of Jewish populations continued to increase, with more and more laws passed to discriminate against Jewish populations. Soon Margot and Anne could attend only Jewish schools and they were removed from the schools where they were performing well and enrolled at a local Jewish school.
Anne celebrated her thirteenth birthday on June 12, 1942, and received a notebook from her father as a birthday present; which she would later use as a diary. The early entries of her diary were comprised mainly of descriptions of herself, family and friends as well as her life at school and in her neighborhood. Many of her early entries demonstrate the restrictions and persecutions that were already taking place in the lives of the Jewish population living in Amsterdam during this time.
In July of 1942, Anne’s older sister Margot received a call-up notice for a work camp and the family decided to go into hiding in secret rooms directly above and behind Otto Frank’s business facility. The family deliberately made it look as though they had perhaps left the country when in reality they moved into two small rooms wearing only the several layers of clothing they could wear on their bodies during the walk from their home to the office building.
The only people to know about their secret living quarters were trusted employees of Otto and two helpers, related to two of the employees. From these individuals, the Frank family learned of the events going on in the outside world, including war news and also obtained food. The danger their helpers faced in aiding them was not lost on young Anne, who documented it in her diary.
A few weeks after they began living in hiding the van Pels family joined them and then several months later, a Fritz Pfeffer, a family friend, also joined the group. During this time period, Anne chronicles the difficulties of living with so many people in such a small space. Her diary entries span a time period of just over two years, providing a glimpse of Anne’s views of the world and the people with whom she made her home. Her last diary entry was recorded on August 1, 1944.
Three days later the entire group was discovered after officers received information from a non-identified informer. They were relocated to Gestapo headquarters and later transferred to Auschwitz concentration camp. Separated according to gender, some of the family members would never see one another again. The women were sent to work as slave laborers. Within just a few short weeks Anne became quite ill due to the deplorable conditions of the camp. By fall, Anne and her sister were transferred to Bergen-Belsen. Here they were reunited with friends, who found both girls were to be extremely ill. Already suffering from emaciation and other diseases, the girls succumbed to a typhus epidemic in March 1945. Only a few short weeks later the camp was liberated by British troops.
Although it was reported by survivors that Anne believed her father to have died upon transfer to the first concentration camp, Otto Frank survived and returned to Amsterdam after the war ended. When he returned to his former home, the friends and employees who had hidden him and his family for two years returned Anne’s diary and several personal effects they had found after the group was arrested.
After reading the diary and recalling his daughter’s wish to become an author, Otto began a pursuit to have the diary published. At first he was met with failure; however, the diary was finally published in 1947.