Anne Frank

The story of the young diarist.


Reprinted with permission from The Yale Holocaust Encyclopedia (Yale University Press).

Anne Frank (1929-1945) was a German-Dutch Jewish girl whose diary of life in hiding from the Nazis in Amsterdam is the best-known personal document associated with the Holocaust and one of the most widely read books of modern times. 

Born Anneliesse Marie in Frankfurt am Main on 12 June 1929, she was the second daughter of Otto Heinrich (1889-1980), a member of an assimilated, successful Frankfurt banking family that had suffered financial setbacks during the economic crises of the 1920’s, and Edith Frank-Hollander (1890-1944), the daughter of a well-to-do manufacturer in Aachen.

Nazi Rise to Power

After the Nazis came to power in March 1933 and began to persecute the Jews, Otto Frank tried to protect his family and livelihood by moving to Amsterdam (a city he knew well), where he established an independent branch of Opekta Work, a firm that made pectin, a powdered fruit extract in jams and jellies. His wife and children joined him in the winter of 1933-34 and the Franks moved to an apartment on Merwedeplein, a quiet neighborhood in the south of the city.

anne frank holocaustIn the late 1930’s, Anne and her sister Margot lived the conventional lives of upper middle-class Dutch children, attending a local Montessori school and socializing with a wide circle of friends; but after the Germans invaded Holland in May 1940 and began to restrict the economic and social activities of Jews, the girls were compelled to attend a segregated school (the Jewish Lyceum), and their father transferred overt control of Opekta and a subsidiary firm to Gentile co-workers.

He also began to make preparations to go into hiding in a sealed-off set of rooms behind his office and warehouse at 263 Prinsengracht.

In May 1942, Jews in Holland were ordered to wear yellow stars for instant identifications; and on 29 June plans were announced to deport all Jews to labor camps in Germany. On 6 July, the morning after Margot received a call-up notice, the Frank family and three friends (Hermann, Auguste, and Peter van Pels), fearing deportation and worse, moved into what became known as “the secret annex,” or “Het Achterhuis” (the house behind). An acquaintance, the dentist Fritz Pfeffer, subsequently joined them there.

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Lawrence Graver is Professor Emeritus at Williams College, and author of An Obsession with Anne Frank, and other books.

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