Her story is one of great sadness but also inspiration. As a 13-year old girl, her name goes down in history as the author of one of the world’s most widely known books, and her story has been the basis for several plays and films. Today we had the opportunity to step into her life for just a few hours and the experience moved us. So, who was Anne Frank?

Anne Frank is one of the most discussed Jewish victims of the Holocaust. She was born in Germany in 1929 and at the age of 4, she and her family moved to the Netherlands after the Nazis gained control over Germany. Hitler won the federal election in 1933 and the Frank family were among 300,000 Jews who fled Germany between 1933 and 1939.

After moving to Amsterdam, Anne and her older sister, Margot, attend public schools in the Netherlands. Margot was brilliant at maths while Anne showed an aptitude for reading and writing. In her diary, she mentions her dream to become a journalist and writer.For her 13th birthday, Anne received a book she had shown her father in a shop window a few days earlier. Although it was an autograph book with a small lock on the front, Anne decided she would use it as a diary and she began writing in it almost immediately.

In May 1940, Germany invaded the Netherlands and the occupation government began to persecute Jews by the implementation of restrictive and discriminatory laws, mandatory registration and segregation soon followed. Margot received a call-up notice from the Central Office for Jewish Emigration, ordering her to report for relocation to a work camp. Everyone knew what that meant and her family were forced to go into hiding in some concealed rooms behind a bookcase in the building where Anne’s father worked. She describes the rooms in her diary as the annex, referred to by some publications as the” Achterhuis”, a Dutch term that means “House at the back”.

On 6 July 1942, the Frank family moved into a three-story space entered from a landing above the factory office where some of her father’s most trusted employees would be their helpers. Their apartment was left in a state of disarray to create the impression that they had left suddenly, and her father left a note that hinted they were going to Switzerland. As Jews were not allowed to use public transport, they walked several kilometres from their home. The door to the Annex was later covered by a bookcase to ensure it remained undiscovered.

Standing in the Annex today, you can feel the history and emotions of the Frank family. Looking at the one wall, you can still see the pencil lines where Otto Frank, Anne’s father, drew the markers for both Anne and Margot as they grew taller by the month. The windows were closed-up completely to ensure no one could see them. During periods of the day, the family had to remain still as the crackling wooden floors could have given away their position.

During factory hours, they weren’t allowed to open a tap for water or flush a toilet. They weren’t even allowed to cough when they were sick as any sound could put their lives in danger. Only a handful of people on the outside knew about their hiding place and by protecting the family, they also put their own lives in danger.

In her diary, she describes their two years in hiding, the happier times and the absolute worst of times. To this day, no one is sure who betrayed them and why, but on 4 August 1944, German uniformed police stormed the house to arrest them.

After being interrogated, they were sent to a detention house that was seriously over crowded. Few days later the family was moved again and their situation has gone from bad to horrible.
Upon their arrival at Auschwitz, the Germans forcibly separated the men from the women and children, and Anne’s father was separated from the family. Those deemed able to work were admitted into the camp, and those deemed unfit for labour were immediately killed.

Of the 1,019 passengers, 549 – including all children younger than 15 – were sent directly to the gas chambers. Anne, who had turned 15 three months earlier, was one of the youngest people spared from the execution. She was soon made aware that most people were gassed upon arrival and never learned that the entire group from the Annex had survived this selection. She reasoned that her father, in his mid-fifties and not particularly robust, had been killed immediately after they were separated.

With the other woman not selected for immediate death, Anne was forced to strip naked to be disinfected and was tattooed with an identifying number on her arm. By day, the women were used as slave labour and Anne was forced to haul rocks and dig rolls of sod; by night, they were crammed into overcrowded barracks. Some witnesses later testified that Anne became withdrawn and tearful when she saw children being led to the gas chambers; others reported that more often she displayed strength and courage.

On 28 October, selections began for women to be relocated to Bergen-Belsen. More than 8,000 women, including Anne and Margot were transported. Anne’s mother, Edith, was left behind and died from starvation. Tents were setup at the Bergen-Belsen camp to accommodate the increase of people and as the population rose, the death toll, due to disease, increased rapidly.

Due to these chaotic and horrible conditions, it is not possible to determine the specific cause of Anne’s death. Witnesses later testified Margot fell from her bunk in her weakened state and was killed by the shock. Anne died a few days after Margot. The exact dates of their deaths were not recorded. It was long thought that their deaths occurred only a few weeks before British soldiers liberated the camp on 15 April 1945, but research in 2015 indicated that they may have died as early as February.

Anne’s father survived his internment in Auschwitz. After the war ended, he returned to Amsterdam where he attempted to locate his family. He learned of the death of his wife in Auschwitz, but remained hopeful that his daughters had survived. Several weeks later, he discovered that Margot and Anne had also died.
Anne’s father promised her that he would never read her diary, but a few years after returning to Amsterdam, he published her diary, not only to tell her story, but to honour his daughter’s short life. She is a remarkable young woman that the world will remember!