Who was Anne Frank?
Anne Frank was a German girl and Jewish victim of the Holocaust who is famous for keeping a diary of her experiences. Anne and her family went into hiding for two years to avoid Nazi persecution. Her documentation of this time is now published in The Diary of a Young Girl.
She was born Annelies Marie Frank on June 12, 1929, in Frankfurt, Germany. Her parents were Otto and Edith Frank.
For the first 5 years of her life, Anne lived with her parents and older sister, Margot, in an apartment on the outskirts of Frankfurt. After the Nazis seized power in 1933, Otto Frank fled to Amsterdam in the Netherlands, where he had business connections. The rest of the Frank family soon followed, with Anne being the last of the family to arrive in February 1934 after staying with her grandparents in Aachen.
The Fate of Jews in Amsterdam
The fate of the Frank family and other Jews in Amsterdam was wrapped up with the German occupation of the city, which began in May 1940. In July 1942, German authorities and their Dutch collaborators began to concentrate Jews from throughout the Netherlands at Westerbork, a transit camp near the Dutch town of Assen, not far from the German border. From Westerbork, German officials deported the Jews to Auschwitz-Birkenau and Sobibor killing centers in German-occupied Poland.
During the first half of July, Anne and her family hid in an apartment that would eventually hide four Dutch Jews as well—Hermann, Auguste, and Peter van Pels, and Fritz Pfeffer. For two years, they lived in a secret attic apartment behind the office of the family-owned business at 263 Prinsengracht Street, which Anne referred to in her diary as the Secret Annex. Otto Frank's friends and colleagues, Johannes Kleiman, Victor Kugler, Jan Gies, and Miep Gies, had helped to prepare the hiding place and smuggled food and clothing to the Franks at great risk to their own lives.
While in hiding, Anne kept a diary in which she recorded her fears, hopes, and experiences.
Arrest and Deportation
On August 4, 1944, the Gestapo (German Secret State Police) discovered the hiding place. It has been long thought that the authorities acted after being tipped off by an anonymous Dutch caller. But a more recent theory is that the German SD discovered the hiding place by chance, while investigating reports that illegal work and fraud with ration coupons were occurring at the house.
That same day, Gestapo official SS Sergeant Karl Silberbauer and two Dutch police collaborators arrested the Franks; the Gestapo sent them to Westerbork transit camp on August 8. One month later, on September 3, 1944, SS and police authorities placed the Franks and the four others hiding with them on a train transport to Auschwitz-Birkenau in German-occupied Poland.
The transport arrived in Auschwitz two days later with 1,019 Jews on board. Men and women were separated.
Selected for labor due to their youth, Anne and her sister, Margot were transferred to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in northern Germany in late October 1944.
The women chosen from this transport, including Anne, Edith, and Margot, were tattooed with numbers between A-25060 and A-25271. Records indicating their exact numbers have not been preserved. Although Anne Frank's death certificate documents her movement between camps, it does not include her tattoo ID number either.
The Fate of the Frank Family: How Did Anne Frank Die?
Anne Frank died in February or March 1945, shortly before British troops liberated Bergen-Belsen on April 15, 1945. Anne Frank died at the age of 15. Margot Frank died at the age of 19, also in February or March 1945. Both Margot and Anne died of typhus.
SS officials also selected Anne's parents for labor. Anne's mother, Edith died in Auschwitz in early January 1945.
Only Anne's father, Otto, survived the war after Soviet forces liberated Auschwitz on January 27, 1945. Otto was presented later with Anne’s writings, which were preserved by Miep Gies one of the Dutch citizens who had hidden the Franks. Otto Frank was integral to getting his daughter’s diary published. The diary of Anne Frank is the first, and sometimes only, exposure many people have to the history of the Holocaust. Anne Frank's writings also included short stories, fairy tales, and essays.
The home where the Franks hid in Amsterdam continues to attract a large audience. Now known as the Anne Frank House, it drew more than 1.2 million visitors in 2017.
Critical Thinking Questions
- Find diaries of other children impacted by the Holocaust. Compare and contrast their stories with Anne and Margot’s.
- Learn about the network of individuals who tried to shield the Franks from arrest. What pressures and motivations may have affected them?