Anne Frank

The story of the young diarist.

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During the early months of confinement, Anne wrote vividly about domestic routines and tensions (notably quarrels with her mother), teenage concerns, fear of discovery, longing for independence and freedom, and the stark accounts that reached her of the Nazi persecution of Jews in Amsterdam and elsewhere. As time passed, however, she also recorded with urgency, humor and beauty an expanding awareness of herself as a sexual, moral, political and philosophical being, and as a writer.

In March 1944, in her twenty-first month in hiding, she heard a broadcast from London in which the education minister of the Dutch government in exile urged his countrymen and women to keep accounts of what they endured under German occupation, and she decided to rewrite and edit her diary for publication after the war.

Recasting earlier passages, fictionalizing the names of the actual inhabitants, and sharpening her style, she produced an unfinished, but unfailingly interesting tale of fugitives in hiding, a bitter-sweet adolescent romance involving Peter, and a stirring psychological drama of a girl becoming a young woman. While sequestered, she also wrote a handful of short stories that were to appear in 1956 as Tales of the Secret Annex.

Deportation

On 4 August 1944, German and Dutch security police (tipped off by an unidentified informer) raided the secret annex and arrested the eight Jews who had been sheltered there for twenty-five months. Anne's original and revised diaries, scattered on the floors, were recovered that afternoon by Miep Gies and Bep Voskuijl, two of the Gentiles who had courageously kept the occupants alive (the others were Victor Kugler, Johannes Kleiman and Jan Gies).

The Franks, van Pels and Pfeffer were taken first to a local police station, then to the transit camp at Westerbork and finally in September to the extermination camp at Auschwitz Birkenau. Hermann van Pels and Edith Frank died there; Peter van Pels perished in Mauthausen, Fritz Pfeffer in Neuengamme, and Auguste van Pels most likely in or near Theresienstadt.

Anne and Margot were sent to Bergen-Belsen, where they died of typhus and starvation in March 1945, a few weeks before the liberation of the camps by the British and three months short of Anne's sixteenth birthday. Otto Frank, the only one of the group to survive, had been freed when Auschwitz was liberated by the Russian army in late January 1945. (See Willy Lindwer, The Last Seven Months of Anne Frank, 1991.)

After the War

After Otto Frank returned to Amsterdam in June 1945 and eventually learned that his daughters were dead, Miep Gies gave him Anne's diaries and exercise books. In the weeks that followed, he began copying out sections that might interest relatives and friends. Since parts of the diary existed in several versions, Frank served as editor as well as transcriber.

When others read his selections, they were convinced of the manuscript's unusual value both as a document of the war and an engrossing story of a lively young girl's maturation, and they urged Frank to seek a publisher. At first he thought the diary would attract little attention from outside the immediate family, but he was persuaded to allow friends to make inquiries.

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Lawrence Graver

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