Who was Anne Frank?

”I know what I want, I have a goal, I have opinions, a religion and love. If only I can be myself, I’ll be satisfied. I know that I’m a woman, a woman with inner strength and a great deal of courage!”

Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl, 11 April 1944

A Jewish girl with so many hopes and dreams

When war broke out Anne was living in Amsterdam, but she was born in Germany. She only lived to be 15 years old, but despite this there is much to tell about Anne Frank’s short life.

1929

Anne Frank’s life in brief, 1929 - 1945

Anne Frank is born in Frankfurt am Main (Germany) on 12 June 1929. Her father Otto and mother Edith have two daughters: Margot and Anne, who is three years younger. After Adolf Hitler comes to power in 1933, the Jewish Frank family moves to Amsterdam.
The German army occupies the Netherlands in May 1940. In order to avoid deportation, the Frank family goes into hiding on 6 July 1942 in a back section of Otto Frank’s office building, the Secret Annex. Four other Jewish people soon join them.

Anne keeps a diary in the Secret Annex. The people in hiding are arrested on 4 August 1944 and deported to concentration camps. In February 1945, three months before the war ends, Anne dies in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Of the eight people who hid in the Secret Annex, only Otto Frank survives the war.

Otto Frank with his daughters Anne and Margot, Frankfurt 1931. Photo collection: Anne Frank House, Amsterdam. Photographer unknown.

Otto Frank with his daughters Anne and Margot, Frankfurt 1931. Photo collection: Anne Frank House, Amsterdam. Photographer unknown.

1929

Anne’s life begins in Frankfurt, 1929 - 1934

Annelies Marie Frank is born in Germany, in the city of Frankfurt-am-Main, on 12 June 1929. Her parents are Otto Frank and Edith Frank-Holländer. The family is Jewish. Anne has a sister who is three years older: Margot. Anne’s father works for a bank, the Frank family business.

The social climate in Germany during Anne’s early years is one of unrest and hatred, which would form the breeding ground for WWII. Germany is in the middle of a serious economic crisis. In addition many Germans are very bitter because Germany lost World War I (1914 - 1918).

The Jews as scapegoats

The NSDAP, a political party led by Adolf Hitler, capitalises on these feelings. By blaming the Jews for every problem in Germany, Hitler and his party make them to be scapegoats. Hitler promises Germany a golden future if all Jews are removed from the country. He starts to build a large and modern army. Anti-Semitism and violence against Jews increases, particularly after Hitler and his party come to power in early 1933. Anne’s parents are very worried.

Otto, Edith and Margot Frank. Frankfurt, 1928. Photo collection: Anne Frank House, Amsterdam / photo: Paul Beutler.

Otto, Edith and Margot Frank. Frankfurt, 1928. Photo collection: Anne Frank House, Amsterdam / photo: Paul Beutler.

Why did Hitler hate the Jews?

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Why did Hitler hate the Jews?

There are several reasons behind Adolf Hitler’s (1889-1945) anti-Semitism. Hitler was influenced by the anti-Semitic climate in pre-war Vienna, and by the defeat of Germany in World War I.

Anti-Semitism was generally accepted

In Vienna, then the capital city of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the young Hitler tried to unsuccessfully build a career as an artist between 1908 and 1913. Nine percent of the two million citizens of Vienna were Jewish, but the city had a strong anti-Jewish climate. With an outspoken anti-Semitic Lord Mayor, Karl Lueger, and many anti-Jewish media, anti-Semitism was generally accepted. Hitler was very strongly influenced by this.

The Germans lose World War I

The outcome of World War I (1914 -1918) shaped a large part of Hitler’s worldview. Like many other soldiers, he could not accept the defeat of the German Empire. The idea that the war was not lost on the battlefield but through treason was strong: it was a ‘stab in the back’. Socialists, communists and in particular Jews were blamed, even though they had fought in the army too.

Sowing hate delivers power

After the war, Hitler joined a new extremely right-wing party, the DAP (NSDAP from 1920). He quickly came to power within the party because he knew how to inspire many people. He quickly realised that in economically and politically desperate Germany, he could obtain the most votes with oratorical speeches denouncing Jews and Communists.

The Aryan (Germanic) race had to rule

Hitler and his party were very much against German democracy. This was why they attempted a ‘putsch’ or coup in Munich in 1923, which was unsuccessful.

Hitler was convicted and during his nine months’ imprisonment wrote the first part of his book Mein Kampf (My Struggle). In this book, he explained why the Aryan (Germanic) race should fight to rule Europe, or else it would disappear. Hence people with a handicap, with ‘deviant’ sexual preferences, and people of other races had to be removed from the population. For Hitler, Jews were an inferior race that poisoned Germany.

Moving speeches, a talent for organisation, and belligerence

There were anti-Semites who were outspoken and even more extreme than Adolf Hitler. But with his great gift for making speeches, peppered with anti-Jewish sentiment and with his organisational talents and nationalistic belligerence, for many German voters in the early 1930s, Hitler was an attractive alternative. He had followers (Nazis) who did not hold back from violence and terror. In January 1933, Hitler and his party came to power – through a democratic vote.

 

Images

Adolf Hitler in 1937. Collection: Das Bundesarchiv. Photographer unknown. Source: Wikimedia Commons. Rights: CC-BY-SA 3.0 DE.

Destroyed Jewish stores in Magdeburg (Germany) after the Kristallnacht in November 1938. Collection: Das Bundesarchiv. Photographer unknown. Source: Wikipedia. Rechten: CC BY-SA 3.0 DE.

1934

A new home in The Netherlands, 1934 - 1940

Otto and Edith Frank decide to leave Germany. Not only because of the Nazis, but also because things are not going well at the bank. With help from his brother-in-law Erich Elias, Otto starts up the Opekta company in Amsterdam. Opekta sells pectin, a natural binding agent that can be used to make fruit jam.

Anne in Amsterdam

Anne is four when she moves to the Netherlands. She soon feels right at home and picks up the new language very quickly - as does Margot. Anne and Margot go to a Dutch school and make new friends.

Hatred grows in Germany

For Otto and Edith Frank, it is a relief to be out of Nazi Germany. However, they still worry a lot about the grandmother and uncles who have remained behind and increasingly have to deal with anti-Semitic sentiments.

In the night of 9 and 10 November 1938, the Nazis held a pogrom in Germany: synagogues are set on fire, shops owned by Jewish business people were destroyed, more than 100 Jews were murdered and more than 30,000 Jewish men imprisoned.

After this horrific night, which would later become known as Kristallnacht or The Night Of The Broken Glass, Anne’s uncles flee to the United States via the Netherlands. Anne’s grandmother moves to Amsterdam. Other family members had left already Germany in previous years.

Hanneli Goslar and Anne Frank had been friends since 1934, when they met at nursery school. After Anne Frank went into hiding, Hanneli thought she would never hear from her again. In June 1943 Hanneli Goslar and her family were arrested and they ended up as ‘exchange’ prisoners in the Bergen-Belsen camp. In their part of the camp, the prisoners occasionally received extra food rations from the Red Cross. The rest of the camp was hidden behind a barbed wire screen, and the prisoners couldn’t see out. Even so, in February 1945, Hanneli found out that Anne was on the other side of the fence. After dark she ventured out to look for her.

1940

War! 1940 - 1942

The German army invades the Netherlands on 10 May 1940. After just a few days, and after heavy bombing of the centre of Rotterdam, the Dutch military leaders surrender to German dominance. The Netherlands is an occupied country. Initially the Nazis leave the Jews alone, but gradually more and more anti-Semitic measures are introduced. What do the Nazis plan to do with the 140,000 Jews in the Netherlands?

‘Prohibited for Jews’

The world of the Jews becomes ever smaller in the Netherlands. The list of places from which they are banned and that are ‘Prohibited for Jews’ gets longer: the library, the cinema, the sports club, the park.

After the summer holidays of 1941, Margot and Anne even have to attend a separate Jewish school. The occupier wants to keep Jewish and non-Jewish children separated. In the spring of 1942, rumours start to circulate that all Jews will be deported from the country. Otto and Edith start making highly secret preparations to escape this fate.

Prohibition sign that reads 'No Jews allowed during market’ at the Amsterdam flower market on the Singel, May 1941. Photographer unknown. Collection: Stadsarchief Amsterdam.

Prohibition sign that reads 'No Jews allowed during market’ at the Amsterdam flower market on the Singel, May 1941. Photographer unknown. Collection: Stadsarchief Amsterdam.

1942

The Secret Annex, 1942 – 1944

Then the rumours become fact. On 5 July 1942, a police officer issues a summons to the Frank family. Margot must report to the authorities to go to work in Germany. Otto and Edith realise that this is the moment for which they have been preparing. They have organised a hiding place in an empty back section of Otto’s business premises - the Secret Annex.

The helpers risk their lives

The family go into hiding in this Secret Annex, hoping to avoid deportation. This means that they can never go outside again - to buy food, for example. Five of Otto’s employees -- Miep Gies, Johannes Kleiman, Victor Kugler and Johan and Bep Voskuijl - are brave enough to help them. Jan Gies also helps whenever he can. Whoever helps Jews risks serious punishment. The helpers could be imprisoned, deported, or even executed.

1942

Four others join the Franks in hiding

The Frank family are not the only ones hiding in the Secret Annex. There is room for more people. Hermann van Pels, his wife Auguste and son Peter also hope to be safe there. And on November 1942 another person joins them: Fritz Pfeffer.

As quiet as mice

Every day the people in hiding fear that they will be discovered. During the day they have to remain very quiet, because there are also people working in the company besides the helpers who absolutely cannot know that there are people hiding in the Secret Annex.

The people in hiding and the helpers

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The people in hiding and the helpers

The people in hiding The helpers

Anne Frank

Daughter of Otto and Edith, sister of Margot

Anne is a lively girl and a joker. Her character is very different from that of her older sister Margot. She has lots of friends before she goes into hiding. But Anne has a serious side to her too, and reveals that aspect of her personality much more while she's in hiding.

Describing Anne’s development while in hiding, Jo Kleiman says: 'Anne was thirteen when she came here and fifteen when she was taken away. In those two years she went from being a child to being a young woman.'

Otto Frank

Anne and Margot’s father, Edith’s husband

Otto Frank is born on May 12, 1889 in Frankfurt am Main (Germany). He has an older brother Robert, and a a younger brother and sister, Herbert and Helene. His father Michael Frank heads the family bank, which specializes in currency trading. The family is Jewish.

In her memoirs, Miep Gies describes Otto Frank as: ‘The calm one, the children’s teacher, the most logical, the one who balanced everything out. He was the leader, the one in charge. When a decision had to be made, all eyes turned to Mr. Frank.’

Edith Frank

Anne and Margot’s mother, Otto’s wife

Edith Holländer is born in Aachen (Germany) on January 16, 1900. She has two older brothers and an older sister who dies at a young age. The Holländers are prominent members of Aachen’s Jewish community.

In his memoirs, Otto Frank remembers the relationship between Anne and her mother: ‘I was concerned that there was not a particularly good understanding between my wife and Anne, and I believe my wife suffered more from this than Anne. In reality, she was an excellent mother, who went to any lengths for her children. She often complained that Anne was against everything she did but it was consolation for her to know that Anne trusted me.’

Margot Frank

Daughter of Otto and Edith, sister of Anne

Margot is tidy, quiet, and gets good grades at school. Anne describes her three-year older sister’s table manners as: ‘Eats like a little mouse, doesn’t say a word.’ Anne and Margot have a few fights during their time in the Secret Annex. But usually they get on well, and they talk about lots of different things.
Anne writes that Margot considers emigrating to what was then the Palestine Mandate, to become a maternity nurse. Otto later states that she wanted to study medicine. Like Anne, Margot keeps a diary during the war. But Margot’s diary was never found and what she wrote about is unknown.

Hermann van Pels

Father of Peter, husband of Auguste

Hermann van Pels starts working with Otto Frank in 1938. Miep Gies remembers him as ‘tall, large man’ and ‘quite an agreeable sort, [who] had no trouble fitting into the routine’ of the company.

Hermann’s father is Aron van Pels, who is Dutch. After his marriage to Lina Vorsänger, Aron settles down in Gehrde, Germany. He works there for his German father-in-law, a wholesaler in butchers' equipment. Aron and Lina have six children: Max, Henny, Ida, Hermann, Klara and Meta.

Hermann acquires the knowledge of the butcher's trade he needs in Otto’s business Pectacon, through the company he founds in Hamburg 1919 together with his brother. Because Herman’s father Aron keeps his Dutch nationality, his children are Dutch as well and therefore can move to the Netherlands without any issues.

Name in The Diary of a Young Girl: Mr. (Hermann) van Daan

Auguste van Pels

Mother of Peter, wife of Hermann

Auguste is born on 29 September 1900 in Buer near Osnabrück, Germany. Miep Gies describes Auguste as stylish and coquettish. The Van Pels family provides ample excitement in the Secret Annex, which can sometimes be fun but there are also a lot of major arguments. Mrs Van Pels is the cook of the house. She likes discussing politics, and invariably gets into arguments with her husband.

Name in The Diary of a Young Girl: Mrs. (Petronella) van Daan

Peter van Pels

Hermann and Auguste’s son

Peter is born on 8 November 1926 in Osnabrück (Germany), near the Dutch border. He has no brothers or sisters. Miep Gies thinks that Peter van Pels is a ‘handsome, stocky boy with thick dark hair, dreamy eyes, dreamy-eyed and a gentle character’. She hardly has any contact with him during his time in the Secret Annex. Miep: ‘I never really talked to him, just one time, when he asked me to get some flowers for Anne.’ Bertel Hess, a cousin of Hermann van Pels, remembers that Peter was very handy: 'I saw Peter often. He visited his aunt Henny and his grandfather, who both also fled Osnabrück and lived in Amsterdam. He was a very sweet boy, and shy, very shy. He was very handy.’

Name in The Diary of a Young Girl: Peter van Daan

Fritz Pfeffer

Engaged to Charlotte Kaletta

Fritz Pfeffer is born on April 30, 1889, in Giessen (Germany). His parents are Jewish and have a clothing store in the centre of the city. The family is religious and so is Fritz. After high school Fritz studies to be a dentist in Berlin, where he later starts a dental practice.

After his first marriage ends, Fritz Pfeffer meets Charlotte Kaletta. She is not Jewish. The Nurnberger Laws of 1935 outlaw marriages between Jews and non-Jews, making it impossible for them to marry. After "Kristallnacht," the night of broken glass, Fritz and Charlotte decide to emigrate to the Netherlands. Here too, the couple is not allowed to marry because of anti-Jewish measures.

Fritz is the dentist of Miep Gies. She arranges for him to hide together with the Frank and Van Pels families in the Secret Annex.

Name in The Diary of a Young Girl: Mr. (Albert) Dussel

Miep Gies

Hermine (Miep) Gies-Santrouschitz is born in Vienna in 1909. In 1933 she starts her work as a secretary at Opekta, Otto Frank’s company. Shortly afterwards Miep meets Otto’s wife Edith and their daughters Margot and Anne. Miep and her boyfriend Jan Gies visit the Frank family frequently, and become friends.

For over two years, Miep supplies the people hiding in the Secret Annex with food, clothes, books and other necessities, together with the other helpers. About her role as helper, Miep says: ‘I’m not a hero. It wasn’t something I planned in advance, I simply did what I could to help.”

Directly after the people in hiding are arrested on 4 August 1944, Miep Gies safeguards Anne’s diary together with Bep Voskuijl.

Pseudonym in The Diary of a Young Girl: Miep van Santen.

Bep Voskuijl

Bep (Elisabeth) Voskuijl is born on 5 July 1919. She is the oldest in a family of eight children. The Voskuijl family is Nederlands Hervormd (Dutch Reformed) and the children attend Christian schools.

From the age of eighteen until the age of twenty-eight Bep works for Otto Frank’s firm. She hardly notices preparations being made to go into hiding. She sees that furniture is being piled up in the annex of the office building but does not know why, until Otto Frank tells her the reason sometime around the end of June 1942.

Bep delivers milk and other needed commodities, as well as clothing. In addition, using her own name, she orders correspondence courses for the people in hiding. By doing so, Anne, Margot, and Peter are able to learn shorthand. Bep also arranges a Latin course for Margot. Bep has dinner with the people in hiding often because there are so many mouths to feed at home.

Directly after the people in hiding are arrested on 4 August 1944, Bep Voskuijl safeguards Anne’s diary together with Miep Gies.

Pseudonym in The Diary of a Young Girl: Elli Vossen.

Johannes Kleiman

Johannes (Jo) Kleiman is born on August 17, 1896 in Koog aan de Zaan. He gets to know Otto Frank in the early 1920’s when Otto opens a bank branch in Amsterdam together with his brother and brother-in-law. Kleiman soon becomes one of the most important people of the company. However, the bank closes its doors quickly and Kleiman finds work elsewhere. Among other things, he starts a company with his brother in 1934.

Even so, the ties between Otto Frank and Johannes Kleiman remain. ‘In 1933,’ tells Jo Kleiman, ‘Otto Frank was suddenly standing at the door again and that was the beginning of a long friendship.’ From 1938, both men are closely involved with the business enterprise Pectacon. In late 1940, Pectacon moves to the empty building at 263 Prinsengracht. There is also enough space to house Opekta, Otto Frank’s company.

Johannes Kleiman is one of the helpers of the Frank family and the other people in hiding. After the war, in a radio interview, Jo Kleiman explains why he decided to help. ‘The reason I offered my help in looking after Otto Frank and his family during the time they were in hiding was because I had come to know him as a very decent and helpful person, qualities for which he is held in the highest esteem.’

Together with Victor Kugler, Jo Kleiman is arrested after the people in hiding are discovered on 4 August 1944. He is released more than a month later. He dies on 28 January 1959.

Pseudonym in The Diary of a Young Girl: Mr. Koophuis.

Victor Kugler

Victor Kugler is born on the 6 June 1900 in Hohenelbe, in the present-day Czech Republic. Victor is a good student. He excels in religion, geography, and history, and does well in gymnastics and mathematics.

After his education at a vocational school for weaving, Victor has several jobs. Among other things, he works as an electrician and at Demag, a heavy equipment manufacturer. When he is working at an assembly job in Utrecht for Demag, he meets the Dutch Laua Maria Buntenbach. They marry in 1929. Victor meets Otto Frank through the pectin business. In 1933, he becomes one of the first employees at Otto Frank’s newly established Opekta Company in Amsterdam.

Pseudonym in The Diary of a Young Girl: Mr. Kraler.

Jan Gies

Like his wife Miep, Jan helps the people in the Secret Annex. Jan has contacts with the municipality and is involved with the civil service resistance. He arranges for food and clothing vouchers, and he often visits the Secret Annex around lunchtime. Jan is also the supervisory director of Gies & Co. and the main renter of Otto Frank’s office building, in which the Secret Annex is situated.

The people in hiding are happy that Miep and Jan visit so often. They provide a cheerful atmosphere, and through them they hear the latest news from the city. Hermann van Pels is particularly interested in the visit of Jan Gies, since Jan regularly brings him cigarettes.

Pseudonym in The Diary of a Young Girl: Henk van Santen.

1942

Anne Frank, writer, 1942 - 1944

The helpers bring the people in the Annex the latest news. And this news is bad: Jewish friends and acquaintances have been arrested by the Nazis and taken to transit camp Westerbork in the east of the Netherlands. From there, trains move further east to unknown destinations. The people in hiding suspect that most of the Jews are murdered there.

‘Het Achterhuis’

In the hiding place, Anne’s diary provides her with a lot of personal comfort and support. She discovers that writing makes her happy. Anne does not just keep a diary, she also makes up short stories and writes pieces about books she likes and finds interesting. Her greatest wish is to be a famous writer after the war. She wants to publish a book about her time in hiding when the war is over: Het Achterhuis (which translates to ‘back house’ but commonly is translated to ‘Secret Annex’). She even starts writing it, with her diary entries as her starting point.

Reconstruction of the room of Anne Frank and Fritz Pfeffer. Photo collection: Anne Frank House, Amsterdam / photo: Allard Bovenberg.

Reconstruction of the room of Anne Frank and Fritz Pfeffer. Photo collection: Anne Frank House, Amsterdam / photo: Allard Bovenberg.

1945

The last months of Anne’s life

After two years, the one thing that the eight people in hiding have feared the most happens: they are discovered. They are arrested on 4 August 1944. They end up in the Auschwitz concentration and extermination camp via the transit camp Westerbork.

The fearful suspicions of those living in the Secret Annex turn out to be true: prisoners are killed in gas chambers or are forced to do heavy labour until they literally drop dead. The prisoners suffer from continuous hunger and hygienic conditions are awful.

Anne’s death

At the end of October 1944, Margot and Anne are moved from Auschwitz to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in northern Germany. The situation there is also chaotic. Hundreds of prisoners are kept in one barrack, sometimes with three prisoners sharing one bed. Margot and Anne become infected with typhus. Margot is the first to succumb, in February. Anne dies soon after. She is just fifteen years old. Margot and Anne are two of one-and-a-half million Jewish children who are murdered during World War II by the Nazis and their followers.

Memorial stone for Anne and Margot Frank at Bergen-Belsen. There are no individual graves for Anne and Margot.

Memorial stone for Anne and Margot Frank at Bergen-Belsen. There are no individual graves for Anne and Margot. Photo: bernswaelz. Source: Pixabay. Rights: CC0.