When she turned 13 on the 12th of June 1942, Annelies Frank, called Anne, received as a gift a diary. She still didn’t know how that notebook would have collected thoughts and words destined to be heard by millions of people. Forever remembered for better understanding what Nazism meant to those Jews who had experienced it on their own skin, besides the horrors of the war and the concentration camps.
Anne Frank – 1940
Above: public domain image
As we know well, the diary of Anne talks about those infinite days spent in the secret residence with her beloved father Otto, mother Edith, sister Margot and 4 other strangers.
50 m² (538 ft²) where they would all shared hours, days, anxiety, depression as well as fear for that future that became increasingly more unsure and hopeless. Still Anne kept on writing, though.
“..It’s a miracle that I haven’t given up on all my hopes since they seem absurd and impractical. I still keep them, despite it all, because I still believe that the inner kindness of mankind can surface”.
It was the 6th of July 1942, one month after her 13th birthday, when Ann and her family were forced to find shelter in the loft of the building, headquarter of her father’s company, number 263 of Prinsengracht, in Amsterdam.
The Amsterdam building with the secret residence
Above: public domain image
On the 5th of July Margot, 3 years older than Anne, was summoned by the Command of Nazist Occupation to be deported in a labour camp in Germany. Edith and Otto Frank decided to enter the clandestine life by exploiting that secret space, set up by some trusted employees in the loft of their business.
When Otto Frank, the only survivor of the Prinsengracht group, decided to publish Anne’s diary, he did not include some pages where private considerations of his daughter, the discovery of her sexuality, the critics of the housemates and the delicate relationship with her mother Edith emerged .
If Anne’s life had followed a normal course of events, the mother-daughter contrasts would have not been any different from the typical ones of adolescence. For Anne though her problems did not vanish because of the brutal period they all went through in the concentration camp life.
Above: image shared via Wikipedia/Giusto Uso – licence Creative Commons
Edith, born in 1900 was the last of 4 children in a well off family from Aachen. She lived a serene childhood, despite the pain caused by the death of her older sister Bettina.
Her life was similar to the one of many other girls of that time with rich parents: an education in a Jewish school, a job in the family business, parties, tennis with her friends, holidays by the sea. During a holiday in Sanremo, Edith met again Otto Frank, guy who had briefly seen months before. After 2 months they got married, on the 8th of May 1925 and moved to Frankfurt; in 1926 their older daughter Margot was born and 3 years later Anne came over as well.
Those were the best years for the Frank family, the ones that Edith missed the most. But there, in Germany, the situation became every day a little bit worse: the economic crisis did not spare their family and the hatred towards Jews soon spread throughout the land. When Hitler became Chancellor of the Reich in 1933, the Frank family decided to move to the Netherlands, to the capital. Otto started a business, which struggled to take off while Edith would look after their family. That new life did not make her happy, far from her family that in those days were witnesses of the Nazi madness. During the Kristallnacht, Night of Broken Glasses, the two brothers of Edith were arrested, but later on they found a way to save themselves and move to the US. The family felt safe in Amsterdam to the point that Edith’s mother joined them in 1939 and there she died in January 1942 after a long disease.
When Hitler invaded the neutral Netherland in 1940 the Jewish community could not feel safe any longer, though. The Frank family desperately looked for a way to move to the Us, without success. Otto and Edith kept the real situation away from their daughters, trying to live a life as normal as possible. But the woman missed Germany very much, she struggled with the new language and Amsterdam did not feel like home.
Then things collapsed on that day when Margot received that notice stating that she would have been sent to the labour camp.
Margot Frank in 1941
Above: public domain image
The girl was the opposite of Anne: calm, thoughtful and very religious. She was the example that her mother suggested Anne to follow. In her diary the child wrote about these contrasts and she did not spare unpleasant words towards her mother who was, according to the other people, a modern non authoritative type of woman.
Anne understood that the hard relationship between her and her mother came from the situation of segregation; the desperation had completely overwhelmed Edith who could not see any bright future for any of them. Besides that, Anne’s sensitivity allowed her to perceive that her parents relationship was unbalanced: the love of her mother was not reciprocal anymore and Anne would see only endearment from his side.
Otto Frank in 1961
Jac. de Nijs / Anefo – Nationaal Archief via Wikipedia – licenza CC BY-SA 3.0
All of this changed on the 4th of August 1944, when the SS broke into the secret hideout and sent them all to the camp of Westerbork.
At the beginning of September, the Frank family was deported to the concentration camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau. At their arrival, Otto was immediately taken away from Edith and his daughters and he would have never seen them anymore. Edith and the girls were inseparable and helped each other, as some survivors reported.
Auschwitz was not the place where to cultivate hatred between themselves
On the 30th of October though the woman was set up to the gas chamber and the two daughters were sent to Bergen-Belsen. Somehow Edith managed to escape her death and spent the winter in the camp, while thinking about her girls. She almost stopped to eat, trying to save up food in case her Margot and Anne would have showed up one more time. Instead she died of starvation on the 6th of January 1945, 3 weeks before the Red Army would have come and freed the prisoners, survived to the slaughter.
Memorial of Margot and Anne Frank in Bergen-Belsen
Above: picture by Arne List shared via Wikipedia – licence CC BY-SA 3.0
Margot and Anne Frank followed their mother’s footsteps: they died of typhus in the camp of Bergen Belsen, a few days apart from the other in February 1945.