On June 12, 1929, Otto and Edith Frank welcomed their second daughter, Ann, into the world. Anne was born in Frankfurt, Germany and the early years of her life were good as she grew up in an upper-middle class Jewish family.
Otto Frank had served as a Lieutenant in the German Army in World War I. After the war, Otto became a successful businessman, operating in both Germany and the Netherlands.
In 1933, Adolf Hitler gained control of Germany and everything started to change, especially for German Jews. Realizing that under Hitler’s rule and hearing German Storm Troops marching through the streets of Frankfurt singing ‘When Jewish blood splatters from the knife,’ as Otto later recalled, he knew Germany was no longer safe for his family so he moved to Amsterdam, Netherlands. Anne later described the move in her diary:
“Because we’re Jewish, my father immigrated to Holland in 1933, where he became the managing director of the Dutch Opekta Company, which manufactures products used in making jam.”
Anne Frank attended the Sixth Montessori School in Amsterdam where she was described as being a bright and inquisitive student. She was well liked and had many Jewish and Christian friends.
On May 10, 1940, Germany invaded the Netherlands.
On May 15, 1940, Dutch forces surrendered to Germany.
In her now famous diary, Anne wrote:
“After May 1940, the good times were few and far between; first there was the war, then the capitulation and then the arrival of the Germans, which is when the trouble started for the Jews.”
In October 1940, Germany imposed strict anti-Jewish laws in the Netherlands, similar to those already imposed in Germany. All Jews were required to wear a yellow Star of David on their clothing and they had to obey a curfew. Jews were also forbidden from owning businesses, so Otto Frank signed over ownership of his business to Jo Kleiman and Victor Kugler, two of his Christian business associates, who allowed Otto to silently run the company without the German’s knowing.
On June 12, 1942, Anne Frank turned 13-years-old. Her parents presented her with a red checked diary. Being the bright student she was, Anne began writing in her new diary that same day, penning:
“I hope I will be able to confide everything to you, as I have never been able to confide in anyone, and I hope you will be a great source of comfort and support.”
On July 5, 1942, Anne’s older sister Margot, received an order to report to a Nazi work camp in Germany. Knowing what lay ahead for Margot, Otto took his family and entered the Secret Annex, a hidden empty space inside the building where Otto’s business was located. In addition to the Frank family, Hermann van Pels, a business partner of Otto, and his family, wife Auguste and son Peter, went into hiding in the Secret Annex.
The two Christian associates that Otto had signed his business over to, Kleiman and Kugler began providing food, supplies and news to the Frank and van Pels families. Additionally, Jan and Miep Gies and Bep Voskuji also helped provide food for the families in hiding.
Imagine spending 2 years of your life in a dark and damp hiding space, too afraid to ever venture outside. Young Anne wrote in her diary every day. Her writings demonstrated her emotions as well as kept track of events.
On February 3, 1944, Anne wrote:
“The world will keep on turning without me, and I can’t do anything to change events anyway.”
But Anne Frank kept writing and her writing eventually did effect the lives of many people.
On April 4, 1944, she wrote:
“When I write, I can shake off all my cares.”
On July 15, 1944, Anne wrote in her diary:
“It’s utterly impossible for me to build my life on a foundation of chaos, suffering and death. I see the world being slowly transformed into a wilderness; I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too. I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty too shall end, that peace and tranquility will return once more.”
Realize that these were the words penned by a 15-year-old girl.
On this day, August 4, 1944, four Dutch Nazis and German Storm Troopers raided the Secret Annex and captured everyone inside, including 15-year-old Anne Frank. There is some speculation as to who may have turned in the families hiding in the Secret Annex, but no one knows for sure who it was. The captives were sent to a German concentration facility in the Netherlands known as Camp Westerbork.
On September 3, 1944, the Frank and van Pels families arrived at the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. The men and women were separated.
During the winter of 1944/45, Anne and her sister Margot were sent to BergenBelsen concentration camp in Germany.
On January 6, 1945, Edith Frank died at Auschwitz after suffering from an illness.
In March 1945, Anne and Margot Frank died within a day of each other after suffering from typhus. Anne Frank was only 15 years old. Several weeks later, British soldiers liberated BergenBelsen, but it was too late for the Frank sisters.
The only member of the immediate Frank family to survive the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps was Otto, who never saw his wife or daughters after arriving at Auschwitz. He returned to Amsterdam and desperately sought news of his family.
On July 18, 1945, Otto met up with two sisters who were at BergenBelsen with Anne and Margot. The sisters told Otto of the deaths of his daughters that he had gone into hiding to protect.
Miep Gies had found Anne’s diary, which was left behind when the families were arrested. Gies gave the diary to Otto Frank after he arrived home in Amsterdam. After taking time to grieve, he eventually got the strength and nerve to read his daughter’s diary. He later wrote to his mother about Anne and her diary, saying:
“There was revealed a completely different Anne to the child that I had lost. I had no idea of the depths of her thoughts and feelings.”
On June 25, 1947, Otto had portions of Anne’s diary published under the title The Secret Annex: Diary Letters from June 14, 1942 to August 1, 1944. Today, the book is better known by the title The Diary of a Young Girl. It’s been translated and published in at least 67 different languages. If you have never read it, I highly recommend it. It will move and inspire you and may even have a profound impact on your life and the lives of your family, especially your children.