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Anne Frank

(1929 - 1945)

Anne Frank was a Jewish victim of the Holocaust, most well-known for the diary she kept while in hiding, which has since become one of the world’s most widely read books.

Frank was born on June 12, 1929, in Frankfurt am Main in Germany. In 1933, when the anti-Jewish National Socialist Party led by Adolf Hitler came to power, Frank’s parents - Edith and Otto - realized that there was no future in Germany for the Jewish people. They quickly fled to the Netherlands that same year.

The only existing film of Anne Frank shows her in the window of the second-floor apartment gazing in the direction of the young couple walking down the street.

Until around age eleven, Anne grew up without a care in a relatively safer Amsterdam. In 1940, however, the Netherlands was occupied by Germany, and the protection that Holland was able to provide to its Jewish citizens came to an end.

Beginning in 1942, the first Jews in Holland received call-up notices to report for the so-called “work” camp Westerbork. The majority of Jews obeyed the call-up to report for the “work” camps as fleeing was almost impossible, and refusal to obey could lead to death or shipment to prison camps.

To avoid deportation or exile to the camps, Anne’s parents went into hiding in the annex of the building that housed Otto’s business. In order to protect Anne from the danger that threatened them, Anne’s father tells her only a few days before going into hiding that the family is not going to a camp but is instead going to stay and hide.

On July 6, 1942, the Frank family went into hiding. Even though Anne saw hiding as an exciting adventure, the hiding place quickly became too small for her restless character. For more than two years, Frank described her daily life in hiding through writing.

On August 4, 1944, the secret annex where Frank and her family were hiding was discovered and raided by the Grüne Polizei (Security Police). Anne and her family were arrested and are quickly deported to concentration camps in Holland, Poland, and Germany.

The eight residents of the secret annex were transported to Auschwitz on the last train leaving the transit camp Westerbork. After a month at Auschwitz, Anne and her sister Margot were transported to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where thousands of people died every day from hunger and sickness. Margot and Anne both contracted typhus and died within a short time of each other. For many years it was believed they died in March 1945, only a few weeks before the liberation. The Anne Frank House, however, released new research in 2015 that concluded Frank most likely died sometime in February, though the exact date could not be determined.

Of all those in hiding in the secret annex, only Anne’s father - Otto - survived the camps. He passed away in 1980.

For decades, investigators have tried to learn who betrayed the Frank family to the authorities. Two official investigations, begun in 1947 and 1963, failed to reveal the identity of the informant. In “The Betrayal of Anne Frank” (2022), Rosemary Sullivan reveals that a team of investigators found the most likely culprit was a prosperous Jewish Dutch notary named Arnold van den Bergh, who may have had access to the addresses of Jews in hiding. Vincent Pankoke, a former FBI investigator who was part of the team, told 60 Minutes van den Bergh probably didn’t know the Franks, so he did not intentionally give them up. Pankoke also suggested van den Bergh acted to protect his own family. Van den Bergh died in 1950. Following the publication of the book, other Holocaust scholars expressed skepticism of its conclusions, and the Dutch publisher apologized for not reviewing the book more carefully and ceased printing new copies. The U.S. publisher, HarperCollins, was also being asked by Jewish groups to cease publication of the book.

The Diary

On June 12, 1942, her 13th birthday, Anne received 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, using it as a private expression of her thoughts. She wrote several times that she would never allow anyone to read it. In the diary, Frank examined her relationships with the members of her family and the strong differences in each of their personalities. She also expressed her aspiration to become a journalist. She continued writing regularly until her last entry on August 1, 1944:

As I’ve told you many times, I’m split in two. One side contains my exuberant cheerfulness, my flippancy, my joy in life and, above all, my ability to appreciate the lighter side of things. By that I mean not finding anything wrong with flirtations, a kiss, an embrace, an off-color joke. This side of me is usually lying in wait to ambush the other one, which is much purer, deeper and finer. ….

In March 1944, she heard a radio broadcast by Gerrit Bolkestein—a member of the Dutch government in exile, based in London—who said that when the war ended, he would create a public record of the Dutch people’s oppression under German occupation. He mentioned the publication of letters and diaries, and Frank decided to submit her work when the time came. She began editing her writing, removing some sections and rewriting others, with a view to publication. Her original notebook was supplemented by additional notebooks and loose-leaf sheets of paper. She created pseudonyms for the members of the household and the helpers. The van Pels family became Hermann, Petronella, and Peter van Daan, and Fritz Pfeffer became Albert Düssell. In this edited version, she addressed each entry to “Kitty,” a fictional character in Cissy van Marxveldt’s Joop ter Heul novels that Anne enjoyed reading.

Otto Frank survived his internment in Auschwitz. After the war ended, he returned to Amsterdam in June 1945, where he was sheltered by Jan and Miep Gies as he attempted to locate his family. He learned of the death of his wife, Edith, during his journey to Amsterdam but remained hopeful that his daughters had survived. In July 1945, after the sisters Janny and Lien Brilleslijper, who were with Anne and Margot Frank in Bergen-Belsen, confirmed the deaths of the Frank sisters, Miep Gies gave Otto Anne’s notebooks (including the red-and-white checkered diary).

Otto Frank gave the diary to the historian Annie Romein-Verschoor, who tried unsuccessfully to have it published. She then gave it to her husband Jan Romein, who wrote an article about it, titled “Kinderstem” (“A Child’s Voice”), which was published in the newspaper Het Parool on April 3, 1946. He wrote that the diary “stammered out in a child’s voice, embodies all the hideousness of fascism, more so than all the evidence at Nuremberg put together.” His article attracted attention from publishers, and 3,036 copies of the diary were published in Dutch in the Netherlands as Het Achterhuis (The Annex) (literally, “the back house”) on June 25, 1947.

Otto used her original diary, known as “version A,” and her edited version, known as “version B,” to produce the first version for publication. Although he restored the true identities of his own family, he retained all of the other pseudonyms. 

It was first published in Germany and France in 1950, and, after being rejected by several publishers, was first published in the United Kingdom in 1952. The first American edition, was published on April 30, 1952, under the title Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. The first edition was only 5,000 copies. 

Since the original publication, several sections of the diary which were initially edited out were added to newer editions. These contain passages relating to her sexuality, and pages removed by Otto Frank that contain critical remarks about her parents’ strained marriage, and discuss her difficult relationship with her mother. Two additional pages which Anne had pasted over with brown paper, were deciphered in 2018 and contained an attempt to explain sex education and a handful of dirty jokes.

In November 2015, the Swiss foundation, which owns the rights to The Diary of Anne Frank, the Anne Frank Fonds, added Frank’s father, Otto, as a co-author. Otto was added as an author to extend the copyright of the work, which would have expired on December 31, 2015, 70 years after Anne’s death. If the authorship change goes unchallenged, the new copyright will allow Anne Frank Fonds to retain control of the publication of the diary until 2050. Legal experts advised officials at the Anne Frank Fonds that adding Frank’s father, Otto as a co-author was justified because he helped put together the final draft of the diary and “created new work” by editing and reshaping it.

Sales for the book picked up after positive reviews and after the production of the play, The Diary of Anne Frank, written by Otto and playwrights Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett. The show opened at the Cort Theatre in New York on October 5, 1955, and won the Pulitzer Prize for theatre, a Tony Award, and the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Play. The film adaptation was a commercial failure but a critical success, with Shelley Winters winning the Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role and Oscars being awarded for Best Cinematography (Black-and-White), and Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (Black-and-White). 

The book has become required reading in American high schools and sold millions of copies worldwide. Simon Wiesenthal said that the diary had raised more widespread awareness of the Holocaust than had been achieved during the Nuremberg Trials, because “people identified with this child. This was the impact of the Holocaust, this was a family like my family, like your family and so you could understand this.”

Anne Frank House

On May 3, 1957, a group of Dutch citizens, including Otto Frank, established the Anne Frank Stichting in an effort to rescue the Prinsengracht building from demolition and to make it accessible to the public. The Anne Frank House opened on May 3, 1960. It consists of the Opekta warehouse and offices and the Achterhuis, all unfurnished so that visitors can walk freely through the rooms. Some personal relics of the former occupants remain, such as movie star photographs glued by Anne to a wall, a section of wallpaper on which Otto Frank marked the height of his growing daughters, and a map on the wall where he recorded the advance of the Allied Forces, all now protected behind acrylic glass. The House provides information via the Internet and offers exhibitions. From the small room, which was once home to Peter van Pels, a walkway connects the building to its neighbors, also purchased by the Foundation. These other buildings are used to house the diary, as well as rotating exhibits that chronicle aspects of the Holocaust and more contemporary examinations of racial intolerance around the world.

Sources: Anne Frank House.
Official Anne Frank YouTube Channel.
“Anne Frank,” Wikipedia.
“Anne Frank’s father made ‘co-author’ of diary in bid to extend copyright,” Jewish Telegraph Agency, (November 17, 2015).
Michael Winter, “New research sets Anne Frank’s death earlier,” USA TODAY, (March 31, 2015).
Alexandra Jacobs, “A Strong New Lead in ‘The Betrayal of Anne Frank,’” New York Times, (January 17, 2022).
Cnaan Liphshiz, “Dutch publisher stops printing copies of book alleging a Jew betrayed Anne Frank,” Jewish Telegraph Agency, (January 31, 2022).
“Jewish umbrella group asks publisher to pull Anne Frank book,” Reuters, (February 2, 2022).