Famous teenage diarist Anne Frank was born Annelies Marie Frank, on June 12, 1929, in Frankfurt, Germany. She lived with her sister Margot, her mother Edith and her father, Otto. A German-Jewish family, the Franks lived quietly on the outskirts of Frankfurt, until Hitler became chancellor of Germany on January 20, 1933, bringing with him strong anti-Jew policies.
In 1933 the family moved to Amsterdam. Later, Anne described her family’s emigration as, “Because we’re Jewish, my father immigrated to Holland in 1933, where he became the managing director of the Dutch Opekta Company…”
Throughout the 1930s, Anne and her family lived a normal life. That situation changed dramatically once again on September 1, 1939, when Nazi Germany invaded Poland, sparking the start of World War II. By May 1940, the Germans had invaded and occupied the Netherlands. In October 1940, the Nazi’s imposed anti-Jewish measures on the Netherlands. Jews were required to wear a yellow Star of David and observe a curfew; they were forbidden from owning businesses, and the children were put into Jewish schools.
On her 13th birthday, in 1942, Anne’s parents gave her a red checkered diary. She wrote her first entry to an imaginary friend called Kitty, saying, “I hope I will be able to confide everything to you…”
On July 5th, 1942, Margot received a summons to report to a Nazi work camp. The family instantly went into hiding in makeshift quarters in an empty space at the back of Otto Frank’s company building, known as the Secret Annex. They were accompanied in hiding by the family of Otto’s business partner Hermann van Peles. For two years the families never left the Secret Annex. Anne wrote in her diary every day. On the 3rd February, 1944, she wrote, “I’ve reached the point where I hardly care whether I live or die.”
On August 4th, 1944, after being betrayed by an anonymous tip off, a German secret police officer accompanied by four Dutch Nazis stormed the Secret Annex, arresting everyone within. They were shipped to Camp Westerbork, a concentration camp in the northeastern Netherlands, before being transferred to the Auschwitz death camp in Poland on September 3, 1944. On arrival the men and women were separated. Otto Frank never saw his wife or daughters again.
After several months of hard labor hauling heavy stones and grass mats, Anne and Margot were transferred to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany. Their mother, Edith, was forced to remain. She fell ill and died at Auschwitz on January 6th, 1945. At Bergen-Belsen, food was scarce and disease ran riot. Frank and her sister contracted typhus in the early spring. Both girls died within a day of each other in March 1945; only a few weeks before British soldiers liberated the camp. Anne was just 15 years old at the time of her death.
Otto Frank was the only family survivor of the Holocaust. On his return to Amsterdam, he found Anne’s diary.
The Secret Annex: Diary Letters from June 14, 1942 to August 1, 1944, was published on June 25th, 1947. It remains one of the most amazing accounts of faith, hope and love in the face of hate ever written, and has been read by millions of people all over the world.
Dr Kathryn Bates is a graduate of archaeology and history. She has excavated across the world as an archaeologist, and tutored medieval history at Leicester University. She joined the administrative team at Oxford Open Learning twelve years ago. Alongside her distance learning work, Dr Bates is a bestselling novelist, and an itinerant creative writing tutor for primary school children.