“IN SPITE OF EVERYTHING, I STILL BELIEVE THAT PEOPLE ARE REALLY GOOD AT HEART” (Anne Frank)
Most of what we know about Anne Frank is from her diary that was published in 1947. It provides readers with a narrative of the events that this young girl witnessed; but more significantly, it reflected her personal feelings, desires, and beliefs. Her diary contained the intimate thoughts that she could not easily discuss with anyone else.
In March of 1933, the National Socialist Party (NAZI Party) won elections in Frankfurt and other cities, and anti-Semitic demonstrations began shortly after. Otto and Edith Frank feared what could happen to them if they remained in Germany. Edith and the children left Frankfurt for Aachen, Germany, while Otto remained. He soon had a business opportunity with a company in Amsterdam and moved there to begin work. By February of 1934, the family was reunited in the Netherlands. They were part of the 300,000 Jews who left Germany during the 1930’s.
They found an apartment on Merwede Square and had both girls enrolled in school (Margot in public school, four year old Anne in a Montessori school). Anne was energetic and outspoken; Margot was more reserved and quiet. Anne displayed a real aptitude for writing but hid her work and was reluctant to share the content with anyone.
That same year, her sister Margot received a notice ordering her to report for relocation to a work camp. Otto Frank decided that the family would go into hiding. He believed that the safest place would be in some rooms located behind the offices of his company. The building backed up to a canal and there was no access from that side. Margot’s orders caused the family to make hasty preparations. They left their apartment in a state of disarray as well as leaving a note saying they had gone to Switzerland - all in an effort to convince authorities that they were gone.
One month later, the family was placed on a train headed for the Auschwitz concentration camp. After arriving, the men were separated from their families, and all 549 children younger than 15 were marched directly to the gas chambers. Anne had turned 15 three months earlier so she was placed with the women. She believed her father had been killed. Anne was disinfected, had her head shaved, and was given an ID number tattooed on her arm. She was forced to haul rocks and dig up
sod during the day; and was confined to overcrowded barracks at night.
Later, witnesses said that Anne had become withdrawn by seeing the many children being sent to the gas chamber. Others said that she often showed strength and courage. Unhealthy conditions caused disease to spread in the camp. Both Anne and Margot became infected with scabies and were moved to an infirmary where they were kept in continuous darkness.
In late October of 1944, Anne and Margot were relocated to the Bergen-Belsen camp along with 8,000 other women. Their mother Edit was left behind and died of starvation. Survivors from Bergen-Belsen described Anne Frank as emaciated, bald, and shivering. She told them that she no longer had any reason to live. After six months at this camp, a typhus epidemic spread killing 17,000 prisoners. Margot was critically ill and died when she fell out of her bunk. Anne died a few days later. It was only a few weeks before the camp was liberated by British soldiers.
Anne’s father Otto survived Auschwitz and returned to Amsterdam attempting to locate his family. While he knew that Edith had died, he was hopeful that Margot and Anne had survived. A few weeks later he learned the truth; they were buried in an unmarked mass grave.
“I simply can’t build my hopes on a foundation of confusion, misery, and death . . . I think peace and tranquility will return again” (Anne Frank)