Anne Frank was born on June 12, 1929 in Frankfurt, Germany. Her father, Otto Frank, was a respected businessman and a solid member of the city's Jewish community--he could trace his family in the city's archives all the way back to the seventeenth century. Anne and her older sister Margot grew up in a small, close-knit enclave of parents, relatives, and nurses.
By 1933, however, Otto Frank feared the spread of Nazi persecution, which was already making itself felt. (Germany's president appointed Hitler Chancellor of Germany in January 1933; he was ruling the country by decree by April.) He moved directly to Holland, where he started a food products business. Holland had a long history of sheltering refugees. Mrs. Frank and the two girls first moved to Aachen, near the Belgian border, while Otto got settled. By the spring of 1934, the entire family reunited in Amsterdam. While Hitler consolidated his power and events in Germany continued to boil, Anne Frank went to the Montessori School and enjoyed childhood friendships and (to her delight) the attention of boys.
War was declared in September 1939. Hitler's Germany had a series of emphatic victories in Poland, Denmark and Norway--and then moved to crush Holland in April 1940. The German occupying forces in Holland behaved much the way they did in other occupied countries: they restricted the flow of information from Dutch citizens, imprisoned Dutch leaders, and enacted their infamous anti-Jewish decrees. For Anne, life went on mostly as before, except that she had to leave the Montessori School and attend a segregated Jewish school. But her parents, recognizing that Hitler would eventually send Dutch Jews to concentration camps just as he had sent German Jews there, began preparations for the family to go into hiding. Although Otto Frank had been forced to abandon his business, he still had friends among his Dutch associates and employers. With their assistance, he prepared a group of rooms at the top and back of his old office building to serve as their hiding place. On July 6, 1942, the day after sixteen-year-old Margot was summoned for deportation, the entire family went into hiding.
For the next two years, the Franks lived in the "secret annexe" joined by the Van Daan family and an elderly dentist named Albert Dussel. While Germany was at the height of its conquests (with an empire that extended from the British Channel to Russia and from the Arctic Circle to North Africa), Anne struggled to adjust to life in hiding--a life that meant staying quiet during the day and only moving about at night, a life that meant never going outdoors and living with bad food and the tensions that came with life in close quarters. The Franks, Van Daans and Mr. Dussel all followed the news on an illegal radio.
On August 4, 1944, acting on information from a Dutch informer, the Gestapo entered the secret annexe. They arrested the Franks, the Van Daans, Mr. Dussel, and two Dutchmen who had been assisting them. One of the Dutchmen, Mr. Kraler, spent eight months in a forced labor camp; the other was released for medical care. All of the Jews were sent to Westerbork and then Auschwitz in Poland. On September 3, they were among the last shipment of Jews to leave Holland for the concentration camps. After three days on a cramped train, they reached Auschwitz. On the platform, men and women were separated--it was the last time Otto Frank saw his family.
In October 1944, Anne, Margot and Mrs. Van Daan were selected to be moved to the Belsen camp in Germany. Mrs. Frank died at Auschwitz on January 6, 1945. The Belsen camp was different from Auschwitz--where Auschwitz had been a model of terrorized activity and order, Belsen was disorganized and lacking food and water. Typhus raged among the prisoners and most people were starving. Although the Allies were winning battle after battle in Europe, there was little hope for the prisoners of Belsen. There Anne met her school friend, Lies Goosens. Lies described the night when they found each other, saying that "We cried and cried, for now there was only the barbed wire between us, nothing more...no longer any difference in our fates."
Anne's sister Margot died at the end of February or the beginning of March, 1945. Mrs. Van Daan died at Belsen, although no one marked her death. Otto Frank, who survived the war, saw Mr. Van Daan escorted to the gas chambers in the men's barracks at Auschwitz. Mr. Dussel died in a German camp by the name of Neuengamme. When the Germans abandoned Auschwitz in February 1945, they took Peter Van Daan with them, and he was never heard from again. Anne Frank died a few days after her sister. She was not quite sixteen years old.
In May 1945, after the war ended, Otto Frank returned to Amsterdam. Some of the Dutch who had helped his family in hiding gave him the papers that the Gestapo had left behind in the "secret annexe." Among the papers were Anne's diary. At first, Otto Frank circulated her diary among his friends and relatives as a memorial, but a Dutch university professor urged him to publish the book. It was first published in Holland in 1947. Since then it has been translated into thirty-one languages.