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Associated Press

Happy Birthday, Anne Frank, Holocaust Diarist

June 12, 2010
by Anne Szustek
Holocaust victim and diarist Anne Frank lived 15 years, yet her legacy has outlasted that length of time fourfold. In the book known in English as “Anne Frank: the Diary of a Young Girl,” her voice of optimism in the face of inner struggle and wartime turmoil continues to inspire millions.

Anne Frank’s Early Childhood

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Annelies Marie “Anne” Frank was born in Frankfurt, Germany, on June 12, 1929, the daughter of Otto Frank and Edith Frank-Holländer and younger sister of Margot Frank.

At the beginning of 1933, as the Nazi Party took over Germany, Otto Frank moved the family to Amsterdam, where he had the opportunity to work for a Dutch company that sold pectin.

Anne and Margot took to their studies with zeal, and gained the respect of their many friends as accomplished students. But this would begin to change on May 10, 1940, when the Nazis invaded the Netherlands, and instituted a series of ever more restrictive laws on the Jews.

Anne Frank’s Life in the “Secret Annex”

In 1942, Anne’s sister Margot received a “call-up,” a summons to a German labor camp. That July, the Franks went into hiding in a secret apartment at 263 Prinsengracht, the same building where Otto Frank worked. Eventually four other Dutch Jews would join them in the “Secret Annex”: Fritz Pfeffer, and Hermann, Auguste and Peter van Pels.

Anne began writing in a diary she had received for her 13th birthday roughly a month earlier. In one of her earliest diary entries, she wrote, “I hope that you will be a great support and comfort to me.”

Indeed, the plaid-bound volume did become a source of solace to Anne during her adolescence. Her daily musings, reflecting on such common sources of teen angst as romantic crushes and sisterly squabbles, nevertheless showed introspection and literary acuity beyond her years.

Memorable quotes from her diary express hope in the face of terrible adversity: “I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too; I can feel the sufferings of millions; and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again.”

Non-Jewish friends and business associates of Otto Frank smuggled food to the residents of the Secret Annex. The group survived in secret for two years, until an anonymous Dutch informer tipped off the Gestapo, who raided the hiding place on Aug. 4, 1944.

Anne and Margot were sent to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where they both died of typhus in March 1945. Anne’s parents were sent to Auschwitz; the camp was liberated by Russian troops in early January 1945, just days after Anne’s mother had died.



Anne Frank’s Diary

Otto Frank, the only surviving member of the family, returned home, where Miep Gies, one of the Secret Annex’s “helpers” gave him the diary and Anne’s other writings, which she had kept after the raid. Astonished at his daughter’s maturity and insightfulness, Otto Frank printed 1,500 copies of the diary, titling it “Het Achterhuis,” or “The Secret Annex.”

Known to American readers as “Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl,” it has since been published in more than 60 languages and has become one of the most influential—and widely read—literary works in history.

The Anne Frank Museum site notes that there are actually several versions of Anne Frank’s diary. Anne herself edited and rewrote several sections, Otto Frank edited the diary before publication and various subsequent editors have restored previously cut sections. In 1998, five loose pages regarding her reflections on her parents’ relationship were discovered.

Anything the young diarist wrote continues to make headlines. In April 2008, experts authenticated a 1937 greeting card discovered by an Amsterdam schoolteacher that was signed by Anne Frank and addressed to one of her close friends, Samme Ledermann.
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