Anne Frank, born on June 12, 1929, is one of the more well-known teenagers of the Holocaust after her diary was found and posthumously published, which held her story of what living in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam was like for the Jewish community. Anne and her family, which included her parents Otto and Edith and an older sister named Margot, were born and lived in Germany until they moved to Amsterdam, Netherlands in 1933 out of a rising fear of Hitler and the Nazi Party that controlled Germany.
Only seven years after they moved to the Netherlands, Nazi Germany invaded and took control of Amsterdam and the rest of the country, imposing strict regulations on Jewish communities and making life difficult for Anne and her family. During that time, Anne’s father was able to continue working at his business by signing over ownership of the business to two of his Christian coworkers before continuing to run everything from behind the scenes. It was in Otto’s place of work where Anne and her family went into hiding in a secret annex behind a bookshelf during 1942 after Anne’s sister Margot received summons to report to a Nazi work camp. The family left a false trail that indicated that they fled to Switzerland in hopes that they would detract anyone who was following them and avoid being found and sent to a concentration camp.
A week or two after the Frank family went into hiding, one of Otto’s coworkers and his family joined the Franks in their hiding place. The family consisted of Hermann van Pels, Otto’s coworker, his wife Auguste and his son Peter. Otto’s other non-Jewish coworkers worked to smuggle food, supplies, and news to the two families during the two years they spent hiding in the annex. From 1942 to 1944, both the Frank and the van Pels families remained hidden in what Anne called “the secret annex” and did their best to remain quiet and unnoticed when the business was open during the day. It was during this time that Anne wrote down her experiences, thoughts, feelings, and outlook on herself, humanity and the war in a diary that her parents gave her for her 13th birthday.
Unfortunately, as fate would have it, an anonymous tip to the Gestapo (the German secret state police) led to the two families being discovered and taken away to a holding camp in a northern part of the Netherlands before being sent to Auschwitz. Shortly after their arrival in the Auschwitz camp, Margot and Anne were moved to the Bergen-Belsen camp. During 1945, the two sisters passed away after contracting typhus and were buried in a mass grave; several months later, the Bergen-Belsen camp was liberated by British forces. Edith Frank died from starvation and Hermann van Pels died from the gas chambers while they were at Auschwitz; Auguste van Pels (Hermann’s wife) is rumored to have passed away in 1945 at the Theresienstadt concentration camp in modern day Czech Republic; Peter van Pels, Hermann’s son, passed away the same year as his mother at the Mauthausen concentration camp.
Anne’s father, Otto Frank, survived and made it out of the concentration camps and made his way back to Amsterdam. While he was there, his old secretary Miep Gies was able to give him all of Anne’s writings since she was able to recover them from their hiding place and safely placing them in her desk drawers before the Gestapo was able to find and destroy them. Otto knew that Anne had wanted to become a writer or a journalist, so he compiled her journal and writings into a manuscript and was able to have them published in 1947. Since then, Anne’s writings have been translated into multiple languages and published in multiple countries around the world, becoming required reading for schoolchildren and known for being a testament to the resilience of the human spirit. The annex where the Frank and the van Pels families hid has since become a museum with Anne’s original diary to honor the families and give people a glimpse into what their life was like during their brief time hiding from the Nazis.