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Anne Frank and her Diary
Anne Frank, born on 12 June, 1929 (died in March 1944) was a wonderfully articulate teenager trapped in a situation not of her making, whose diary is a reminder of the human cost of the Nazi concentration camps.
The diary tells a significant story that is as powerful as it is tragic about a member of an oppressed people. A young person having to grow up in confinement and hiding because the hatred of her race meant it was the only way they could survive.
Her tale of day to day life in hiding, of living with such normal teenage emotional conflicts and family squabbles, while also trying to cope with what was happening in the outside world, is a taste of a life that had barely begun.
The World Before the Annex
1933 - the Start of Hitler's Reign
1933 to 1940 - the Continuing Plight of the Jewish People
Going into Hiding
The Secret Annex at 263 Prinsengracht
Hidden behind a bookcase in an upstairs office of Otto Franks Business, Anne Frank's family, the Van Daan's, and Albert Dussel would spend the next couple of years in hiding. They were constantly fearful of discovery and having to cope with almost complete isolation from the outside world, to the point where even leaving a window open was considered excessively risky.
There eight residents in the Annex:
And the four main helpers:
Between the 6 July, 1942, and the raiding of the annex on the 4 August, 1944, the eight occupants had to cope with bombs falling, bad news, no news, repeated break-ins, the constant fear of discovery, as well as all the problems that come with constant confinement with the same people.
All the trials, and feelings that Anne Frank faced in this time were recorded in her diary, which she called 'Kitty', that she had received as a birthday present shortly before going into hiding. It forms a very human tale of a life, of a teenager growing up in difficult circumstances, of coping with boredom and isolation from the world.
At one point she even discusses the diary being published after the war and how she wants to live on after her death. She succeeded.
Living in Hiding
The Franks and Van Daans went into hiding at the start of an awful time; earlier in the year in the Wannsee conference in Berlin they outlined the mass murder of the Jewish people in Europe. They are as good as their word, more camps begin extermination, and in the summer the Deportations to killing centres begin.
In the Annex, the people squabbled about china, sheets and food, and they were amused by tales of the gossip surrounding their disappearance, how people were swearing blind they had seen them ride off on bikes or bundled into military vehicles.
Surprisingly, the famous bookcase wasn't installed until August, after houses started being searched for hidden bicycles.
Life settled down into a routine - and routine bickering. Listening to the radio on an evening and asking the helpers for news became their only tenuous link with the outside world. Unfortunately little of the news they heard was good:
Today I have nothing but dismal and depressing news to report. Our many Jewish friends and acquaintances are being taken away in droves. The Gestapo is treating them very roughly and transporting them in cattle-trucks to Westerbork, the big camp in Drenthe to which they're sending all the Jews. Miep told us about someone who'd managed to escape from there. It must be terrible in Westerbork. The people get almost nothing to eat, much less to drink, as water is available only one hour a day, there's only one lavatory and sink for several thousand people. Men and women sleep in the same room, women and children often have their heads shaved. Escape is almost impossible; many people look Jewish, and they are branded by their shaven heads..
But life was oddly normal in the annex, complaining about the clothes they could get and putting off school work as long as possible.
During their time in hiding, the residents of the Annex had to survive scraping by on what supplies could be obtained through the black market or using ration books bought on the black market. In a time of increasing hardship and shortages, things become ever more stretched.
Meanwhile the news came through via the wireless on 8 November, 1942, (Peter Van Daan's 16th birthday) of English landings in Tunis, Algiers, Casablanca, and Oran. This set everyone saying it was the beginning of the end, but then on the BBC, Winston Churchill spelled out the reality:
This is not the end, this is not even the beginning of the end. But it is perhaps the end of the beginning.
It was rare events like these, the odd bit of news that brought hope, such as the Nazis not having yet taken Stalingrad, or the British pushing back the Nazis in some far foreign land. The news bulletins on the BBC and others were essential features of the days in the Annex; meals may be movable or non-existent but the news was essential, to know someone was coming, and the Nazis were losing, that the propaganda was wrong.
But not all the news was good. When Albert Dussel arrived he brought news that the helpers had shied away from telling, as it always reduced people to tears.
Here is how Anne saw what was happening outside:
At any time of night and day, poor helpless people are being dragged out of their homes. They're allowed to take only a rucksack and a little cash with them, and even then, they are robbed of these possessions on the way. Families are torn apart; men, women, and children are separated. Children come home from school to find their parents have disappeared. Women return from shopping to find their houses sealed and their families gone. The Christians in Holland are also living in fear because their sons are being sent to Germany. Everyone is scared.
This became a theme for thought in the house; the strains of isolation and confinement, the fear of discovery, the constant fear of being bombed, and the guilt that others that were less fortunate, who were at the mercy of the merciless Nazis.
Anne herself had nightmares about those outside, about friends or classmates from before they went into hiding. She also began to increasingly miss company of people close to her own age, and so she actively sought out Peter Van Daan's company. They became friends, then more.
Things also became increasingly risky, they were warned that people working next door noticed an open window when the place was shut and other little lapses, but nothing ever came of them. But it was yet another strain on the nerves of the occupants of the Annex. Some of their most dangerous situations came through break-ins as crime had run out of control as shortages increased. Even pets were disappearing, while interesting forms of meat arrived on other people's dinner plates. There were three break-ins in the building that housed the Annex, the most dangerous was when Peter was checking the building and found they were being broken into. By a lucky chance they avoided discovery, but luck and time had almost run out.
Ironically, anti-Semitism only started rising in Holland close to the end of the war, when people who had been caught hiding had been forced to tell the Nazis the names of those that had helped them. Maybe it is this that caused some unknown person to betray them.
The Raid and Beyond
4 August 1944, Morning
SS sergeant Karl Josef Silberbauer along with at least three Dutch security Police, probably acting on a tip-off, raided the Annex and arrested all the occupants and two of the helpers. This is what happened to them:
The Annex Occupants
Both the arrested helpers survived prison, they were transferred without trial to Amersfoort camp, Holland.
Those Not Arrested
What Happened to the Diary after the Raid?
After the raid, Miep Gies and Bep Voskuijl, while looking around the Annex, found the diary strewn all over the floor. They collected the diary together and Miep Gies put it away in a desk drawer for safe keeping.
After the war, when it became clear Anne was dead, Miep gave the unread diary to Otto Frank. After reading the diary, and after long contemplation, Otto decided to go through with Anne's wish and published the diary.
Versions of the Diary
There have been three versions of the diary to date. Version A is the unedited diary; Version B came about in 1944 when Gerrit Bolkestein (a member of the Dutch Government in exile) broadcasting from London, said how he wanted to collect eye witness accounts of the suffering of the Dutch people during the German occupation, mentioning letters and diaries. So Anne decided to edit her diary for publication after the war, re-writing, deleting and adding from memory to the book she was going to call The Secret Annex. She also added the pseudonyms for the occupants of the Annex, even herself. She toyed with the name Anne Aulis, and then Anne Robin, but Otto Frank opted to keep their own family names.
After the war when it became clear that Anne had died, Otto Frank, having been given Anne's diary, re-edited it into the C version; omitting passages on Anne's sexuality, uncomplimentary passages about other members of the Annex residents, and cutting it down to a more manageable size. This led to accusations of tampering, and even doubts about its authenticity. But a full investigation proved it genuine and was published in the critical edition in its entirety, the A, B, and C versions, along with detailed background on the Frank family, the circumstances of their arrest, analysis of Anne's handwriting, the documentation, and the materials used.
The Book and Website
The diary is published under the title The Diary of a Young Girl: Anne Frank (ISBN 0-14-026473-6). For online information, check out the Official Anne Frank Website.
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