Imagine what could’ve been, what was, and what must never happen again when you visit Anne Frank’s House in Amsterdam.
Six million other Jewish people were killed in the Holocaust, six million other stories – and yet it is Anne Frank’s story which has remained seared into the world’s collective conscious. A young girl all of 15 years old when she was betrayed from her hiding spot in 1944, Anne Frank was separated from her diary and sent to a transit camp, then Auschwitz, and eventually transferred to the Bergen-Belsen camp from which she never returned.
Anne was born in Annelies Marie Frank in 1929 Germany to Otto and Edith Frank. She had a cat named Moortje and an older sister Margot who was three years her senior. In Frankfurt, the Franks lived in an assimilated community of Jews and non-Jews up until 1933. This was the year Adolf Hitler was appointed as Reich Chancellor and the Nazi Party officially came into power. Anti-semitic demonstrations, talk and actions were rampant and the Franks became one of 300,000 Germans to flee their homeland before 1939. They settled in Amsterdam, where conditions were much better than Germany. The Franks had both Jewish and non-Jewish friends and life was able to return to a new kind of normal until 1940 when Germany invaded the Netherlands. The occupation government immediately began persecuting Jews with restrictive laws - confiscating properties, businesses and basic rights. The Franks attempted to immigrate to the United States but were refused in case they might become Nazi spies. Otto soon transferred his shares of his company to non-Jewish employees to keep it from being taken by authorities. A few days before Anne’s birthday in 1942, Otto bought her an autograph book which she would use as her diary. Just a few days later, her sister was given a summons to report to a work camp and the family moved into the secret annex in Otto’s workplace.
The family left their home in disarray, leaving clues that they were en route to Switzerland. They wore several layers of clothing as they walked the few miles from their home (Jews were forbidden from using public transportation) to the annex, unable to be seen carrying suitcases as it would have given them away. This was the last time Anne was able to be outside until her eventual capture. The only connection she had from the outside world now came from the “helpers” – four of Otto’s trusted former employees who kept them up to date on news developments and brought in food and other supplies.
Anne’s diary is filled with passages about the two years she spent in the annex. She wrote hopefully about how despite everything, she continued to believe people basically had good hearts. She planned on going back to school after the war, and wished to become a writer with something important to say. After the family was betrayed, she was sent to concentration camps where she died along with her sister and their mother who was separated from them. After their arrest and deportation, Miep Gies returned to the annex and saved the diary for Anne’s return. She eventually handed the diary to Otto Frank, the sole survivor of his family and the other Jews who had hidden in the annex. Eventually, Otto was persuaded to read his daughter’s diary and it was published.
Today, millions have read Anne’s diary, which has been published in over 60 languages. The house that she and her family hid in for two years has been visited by many more millions from all over the globe. In the 50s, it was ordered to be demolished but Otto Frank was able to save it and establish the Anne Frank Foundation there in 1957. It has become a pilgrimage of sorts to pay respects, remember and to learn from Anne’s story so that these events may never happen again.