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Anne Frank Biography

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"These are the thoughts and expression of a young girl living under extraordinary conditions, and for this reason her diary tells us much about ourselves and about our own children. And for this reason, too, I felt how close we all are to Anne's experience, how very much involved we are in her short life and in the entire world." ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

Anne Frank was born in Frankfurt, Germany, to a Jewish family, on June 12, 1929. Her father, Otto Frank, was a respected businessman. Anne and her older sister Margot grew up in a comfortable atmosphere, surrounded by loving parents and relatives, and received a good education. In 1933, Otto Frank moved his family to Holland, anticipating the worsening of the Nazi persecution of Jews. In 1940, the Germans invaded Holland, and the Jews there became subject to harsh anti-Jewish Nazi laws. At first, Anne did not feel the persecution to a great extent, except that she was forced to leave her school for a Jewish secondary school. However, Otto Frank anticipated the seriousness of events that were to come, and had been arranging for a hiding place for his family. He moved possessions there for over a year. When his eldest daughter Margot received deportation notices ordering her to relocate to a work camp, Otto took the family into hiding. On July 5, 1942, the Franks "disappeared" for the next two years into the Secret Annexe, a building that contained the warehouse and offices for his business. They were to remain quiet during the day to prevent their discovery. Their friends who worked in the offices below brought them food and gifts, risking their own lives to protect the families.

It is in the Secret Annexe that Anne wrote the majority of her diary, a red-plaid book she named Kitty, which she received for her thirteenth birthday on June 12, 1942. With an endearing style and a remarkably strong spirit she records in the diary the events and personalities within the Secret Annexe. She also explores deep within herself, looking with mature and heartfelt introspection at the constant duality and battle of what she saw as her two sides: the silly carefree Anne; and the Anne who was sensitive and struggling to be taken seriously. She decorated the diary with sketches and pictures of her family. She also wrote short stories, which she begged one of her guardians to publish under another name, but he thought it would be too risky.

On August 4, 1944, the Gestapo, or Nazi Secret Police, raided the Secret Annexe and the Franks and the other Jewish occupants were put in a holding cell for several days, then moved to the punishment barracks at the Westerbork camp, in Drente, Holland. They were then sent among the last shipment of a thousand Jews from Holland to the concentration camp of Auschwitz in Poland. Several of their guardians from the office below were sent to Dutch labor camps, but survived. Otto Frank was the only one of the eight living in the Secret Annexe to survive. Edith Frank died at Auschwitz in January 1945. Anne and Margot both were moved to the concentration camp Bergen-Belsen in Germany, in October of 1944. There, Anne was briefly reunited with her school friend, Lies Goosens. This must have been an incredibly intense encounter, for on Saturday, 27 November, 1943, Anne wrote of a dream she had of Lies, in which the girl asked Anne why she deserted her, and begged her to rescue her from the hellish concentration camp. Lies reported that Anne was crying and told her that she did not have parents anymore. Margot and Anne died of typhus within days of each other, around the end of March 1945.

Otto Frank returned to Amsterdam in 1945, after the end of the war. Miep van Santen gave him the notebooks and papers that she had saved after the raid, before the entire Secret Annexe was cleaned out under German orders. Anne's notebooks were well written because Anne had hoped to publish her work some day. While still in hiding, she heard a radio broadcast from an exiled member of the Dutch government that indicated it would be important to document the war years. Upon hearing this, she decided that she would publish her diary when the war ended. She copied it over on clean sheets of paper and hoped she could publish the manuscript as Het Achterhuis, or "house behind," which has been translated into English as the Secret Annexe. In her edited versions of the diary, she also gave all of the characters, even herself, a pseudonym; for example, Johannes Keiman and Victor Kugler became Simon Koophuis and Harry Kraler. Since Anne did not survive to publish her work, Otto Frank typed a manuscript of her edited notes and papers as well as the original diary. It was first published in 1947. It has since been translated into over fifty languages, and there have been plays and films made of the book. It is the most widely read book documenting Nazi crimes. The Montessori school, which she attended, has been renamed the Anne Frank School. The Secret Annexe still exists, maintained by the Anne Frank Foundation, and thousands of people visit each year.

Ernst Schnabel writes, "Out of the millions that were silenced, this voice no louder than a child's whisper... It has outlasted the shouts of the murderers and has soared above the voices of time." Anne Frank is a symbol of courage and youth. But most of all, she is a universal symbol of optimism and faith in the face of cruelty.

Bibliography

Barnouw, David, and Gerrold Van Der Stroom, eds. The Diary of Anne Frank: The Critical Edition. New York: Doubleday, 1989

Frank, Anne. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. trans. B.M. Mooyaart-Doubleday. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1958.

Gies, Miep. Anne Frank Remembered. New York: Simon and Schuster, Inc., 1987.

Muller, Melissa. Anne Frank: the Biography. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1998.

van der Rol, Ruud, and Rian Verhoeven. Anne Frank: Beyond the Diary. New York: Penguin Books U.S.A., 1993.

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