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Anne Frank: Her Life & Diary (Het Achterhuis)


Anne Frank was born Annaliese Marie Frank at a women's clinic in Frankfurt, Germany on June 12, 1929 at 7:30am. The youngest child to Otto and Edith Frank, her birth was mistakenly recorded as a boy. She entered the world weighing 8 1/2 lbs and 21" long. Margot, her sister, was three years her senior... born February 16, 1925.

She was an avid reader and writer. She'd expressed that her greatest wish was to be a journalist, later... a famous writer. "After the war I'd like to publish a book called Het Achterhuis," she wrote. Her original red and white checkered diary was a birthday gift from her father for her 13th birthday, celebrated just a few weeks before they'd left for Amsterdam to avoid Margot having to report for forced labor and to escape the Nazis. They'd left the morning of July 6, 1942.

Anne and her family went to Holland, a country where Jews had been allowed to live in relative freedom for over three hundred years." There they would stay in the annex at 263 Prisengracht along with the Van Pels (Hermann and Auguste, their son Peter), and Fritz Pfeffer for over 2 years until it would be raided on August 4, 1944 led by Karl Silberbauer of the First District Police Headquarters.

The family would be sent to Auschwitz on September 3rd, the last shipment of Jews to leave Holland, and arrive on September 5.

They were separated. Otto and Edith remained in Auschwitz, while Anne and Margot were sent to Bergen-Belsen in northwestern Germany. Her diary, written between 1942 and 1944, was first published in 1947. In total, it consists of three versions, all of which were included in The Diary of Anne Frank: The Critical Edition, published on the 15th anniversary of her death in 1986.

What was Anne Frank like? She loved reading Cinema and Theater, a movie magazine delivered to her on Mondays. Had interest in famous individuals such as Deanna Durbin, Robert Stack, Rudy Vallee, Norma Shearer, Greta Garbo, Ray Milland, Ginger Rogers, and Sonja Henie. Held a dislike for math, especially algebra.

"The things a schoolgirl has to do in the course of a single day! Take me, for example. First, I translated a passage on Nelson's last battle from Dutch into English. Then, I read more about the Northern War (1700-21) involving Peter the Great, Charles XII, Augustus the Strong, Stanislaus Leczinsky, Mazeppa, von Gorz, Brandenburg, Western Pomerania, Eastern Pomerania and Denmark, plus the usual dates. Next, I wound up in Brazil, where I read about Bahia tobacco, the abundance of coffee, the one and a half million inhabitants of Rio de Janeiro, Pernambuco and Sao Paulo and, last but not least, the Amazon River. Then about Negroes, mulattoes, mestizos, whites, the illiteracy rate -- over 50 percent -- and malaria. Since I had some time left, I glanced through a genealogical chart: John the Old, William Louis, Ernest Casimir I, Henry Casimir I, right up to little Margriet Franciska (born in 1943 in Ottawa). [...] At two the poor child (ho hum) was back at work. Old World and New World monkeys were next. Kitty, tell me quickly, how many toes does a hippopotamus have?"

A fan of Sietske de Haan, author of four books in the Joop ter Heul series, and better known by her pen name Cissy van Marxveldt, Anne wrote that she found Marxveldt to be "terrific" and as one whom she will let her own children read one day.

Books were some of her favorite birthday gifts. She was gifted Young People's Annual, containing fairy tales, stories, and poems by such writers as Hans Christian Andersen, the Brother's Grimm, Jack London, Jules Verne, HG Wells. She'd received a copy of Anton Springer's History of Art for her fifteenth birthday, formed a club with friends and tried writing poetry.

"If I'm engrossed in a book, I have to rearrange my thoughts before I can mingle with other people, because otherwise they might think I was strange."

From the annex window at 263 Prisengracht, it's possible that she was able to see the house Rene Descartes lived in during the 17th century located at 6 Westermarket.

It seems that she was concerned with more or less the usual things a girl her age would be. Six months into hiding, she expressed her discontent at not having started her monthly cycles. "I'm so longing to have it too," she wrote, "it seems so important." 

She tried to bleach her black mustache hairs with hydrogen peroxide. On her walls were reproductions of some Leonardo da Vinci's works, a picture of Michalangelo's Pieta, a reproduction of Rembrandt's Portrait of an Old Man.

"I adore the history of the arts, especially when it concerns writers, poets and painters."

She developed a concern over the social position of women in society. In an entry dated June 13, 1944, she writes: "One of the many questions that have often bothered me is why women have been, and still are, thought to be so inferior to men. It's easy to say it's unfair, but that's not enough for me; I'd really like to know the reason for this great injustice! Men presumably dominated women from the very beginning because of their greater physical strength; it's men who earn a living, beget children and do as they please. . . Until recently, women silently went along with this, which was stupid, since the longer it's kept up, the more deeply entrenched it becomes. Fortunately, education, work and progress have opened women's eyes. In many countries they've been granted equal rights; many people, mainly women, but also men, now realize how wrong it was to tolerate this state of affairs for so long. Modern women want the right to be completely independent! But that's not all. Women should be respected as well! Generally speaking, men are held in great esteem in all parts of the world, so why shouldn't women have their share? Soldiers and war heroes are honored and commemorated, explorers are granted immortal fame, martyrs are revered, but how many people look upon women too as soldiers?"

The young Anne Frank would die from typhus at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp before turning 16... two weeks before the camp was liberated and two months before the war ended. Their family was one of 34,000 Jews who fled to the Netherlands when Adolf Hitler and Nazi party took control of Germany on January 30, 1933. "A country where Jews had been allowed to live in relative freedom for over three hundred years."

Of the four, her father was freed when Russian troops captured Auschwitz January 27, 1945. Her mother, Edith, dies in Auschwitz January 6, 1945. Margot a few weeks before Anne in Bergen-Belsen of that same year. Otto discovers that Margot and Anne are dead the summer of 1945.

"I have often been downcast, but never in despair, I regard our hiding as a dangerous adventure, romantic and interesting at the same time [...]"

Works cited:
  • Enzer, Hyman Aaron, and Sandra Solotaroff-Enzer. Anne Frank: Reflections on Her Life and Legacy. University of Illinois Press, 2000. 
  • Frank, Anne. “THE DIARY OF A YOUNG GIRL : THE DEFINITIVE EDITION.” Edited by Otto H Frank and Marjam Pressler. Translated by Susan Massotty, Parratore's Page, 1947.

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