Anne Frank is one of the most well known victims of the Nazi Holocaust during World War Two.
As a thirteen year old she began a diary of her life across the period – and this diary – called The Diary of a Young Girl – was to become an international classic and a defining work on the human tragedy of the Nazi Holocaust that was directed against the Jews of Europe.
Born in Frankfurt, Germany, on 12 June 1929, Anne, along with her Jewish family, moved to Amsterdam in the early 1930’s to escape the rising tide of Nazi persecution.
However in May 1940 they became trapped by the German occupation of Holland and in 1942 they retreated to a suite of secret rooms built alongside an office building in western Amsterdam. This concealed accommodation consisted of several rooms on different levels hidden behind the existing walls, with the entrance covered by a movable bookcase. They were joined soon after by another Jewish family – the Van Pels – and then, four months later, by another Jew, the dentist Fritz Pfeffer. This made a total of eight people hiding in secret – with assistance provided by outside friends who brought them food and news, all in high secrecy.
Everyone hidden in the secret enclave had to remain indoors at all times, maintain strict silence and show no lights at night. This situation inevitably produced stress and conflict amongst the inhabitants but incredibly their presence remained undetected for just over two years. During this time Anne kept a regular diary, noting her hopes, aspirations and fears, all from within the confines of her secret house. But then, on 4 August 1944, the German police abruptly broke into their hiding place, perhaps having been notified by an outside informer.
All the Jews were arrested, and Anne, together with her mother and sister were sent to the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp where they were submitted to forced labour. Anne and her sister were relocated to the lethal Bergen-Belsen camp in November with both tragically dying in early 1945, possibly of typhus. Remarkably their father Otto survived the war and came into possession of his daughter’s diary that had been saved and preserved by one of his helpers from the days of the hidden house.
Anne Frank’s diary was eventually published as “The Diary of a Young Girl” and became a rising international success, translated into more the 60 languages. Most of those who read it were deeply moved by Anne’s eloquence and faith in human nature, despite the sea of barbarity around her. This was followed in 1959 by the immensely popular and acclaimed film “The Diary of Anne Frank” that went on to win three Academy Awards in 1960.
Anne Frank, in posterity, became the face of the children of the holocaust but also provided a striking example of the ultimate victory of resilience, hope and courage in the face of overwhelming adversity.
In 1961 the famous Soviet writer Ilya Ehrenburg commented: “one voice speaks for six million – the voice not of a sage or a poet but of an ordinary little girl”.
Image: Pages 92–93 of Anne Frank’s original The Diary of a Young Girl, displayed at the w:Anne Frank House at Prinsengracht 263, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, image taken by Heather Cowper, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.