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BACKGROUND INFORMATION - BIOGRAPHY
The author of the diary, Anne Frank, is teenage Jewish girl. She was born on June 12, 1929, in Frankfurt, Germany, where she spent her early years with her parents and Margot, her older sister by three years. In the summer of 1933, the family moved to Holland, because the Nazis had begun to persecute Jews in Germany. In Amsterdam, Anne at first attended a Montessori kindergarten and grade school. After the Nazis invaded Holland in 1940, however, she had to leave her school for a Jewish one. Anne made a smooth transition in the new school and was a good student.
Throughout her childhood, Anne was compared to her older sister, Margot, and judged to be less intelligent, talented, and beautiful. She was aware that her parents thought she was inferior and resented their attitude about her. In truth, Anne was a much more lively and personable girl than her sister. It is, therefore, fitting that her name, rather than that of Margot, is the one remembered by millions of readers.
Anne's father, Otto Frank, was a wise and resourceful man. After the Nazis took control of Holland, he made plans for the family to go into hiding, hoping to avoid arrest and imprisonment. In July of 1942, Anne and her family entered the secret attic that Mr. Frank had prepared in the Amsterdam office building where he had worked. They remained in hiding there for more than two years and were joined by the Van Daans and Mr. Dussel.
For the time she was in hiding, Anne recorded in a red checkered diary each and every observable fact, coupled with her own reflections. The entries reveal her to be a sensitive and wise human being and a gifted writer. Fortunately, even though she was died in a concentration camp, her diary survived to tell of the horrors she experienced during the war and to reveal her amazing, indomitable spirit as a young teenage girl.
On August 4, 1944, the Gestapo, acting on a tip, arrived at the office building to conduct a search. Even though the Dutch protectors tried to distract the Nazis, they did not succeed. The bookcase hiding the door to the annex was moved and the hideout was discovered. When the Nazis entered, the occupants stared in frightened silence. Offering no resistance, they simply packed a few things and left with Gestapo. Anne's diary was left behind.
The entire group, including Koophuis and Kraler, were taken to Gestapo headquarters, where they remained for questioning for a few days. They were then sent together by train to Westerbork, a retaining camp in Holland. During the journey, Anne, who had longed for two years to see the outdoors, stared out the window of the train, watching the passing scenery. Upon arrival at Westerbork, they found the conditions to be bearable; even though there was overcrowding and a lack of food, there were no gas chambers, firing squads, or crematoriums.
It is reported that Anne and Peter spent their time together while they were at Westerbork and seemed relatively happy. After all, they were enjoying more freedom than they had experienced for the last two years, and they were probably both too young and naïve to understand the full danger of their position. It has also been reported that Mr. Frank was allowed to visit Anne in her barracks at night.
On September 2, the Franks and Van Daans were gathered into a large group to be sent to concentration camps by train. They were herded into cattle cars, which were sealed after entering. After three days they arrived at Auschwitz, where the men were separated from the women, and the children were separated from the adults. It was the last time Otto Frank would see his family.
Anne, Margot, Mrs. Frank, and Mrs. Van Daan marched together with the other women into the horrid concentration camp, where their heads were immediately shaved. They were also stripped and given only a sack dress to wear. It is reported that when the weather turned cold, Anne Frank managed to find and wear a set of men's long underwear under her sack dress.
The women in the camp were divided into groups of four or five for purposes of work assignments and food distribution. Although Anne was the youngest in her group, she became its leader. She often was given the assignment of distributing bread to each barrack, which she always performed cheerfully and fairly. She also displayed a great deal of compassion for the prisoners who were less fortunate than she.
On October 30, 1944, all the women in camp were stripped and displayed before a searchlight. Those that appeared healthy were separated from those that were old, sick, or weak. The latter group, including Mrs. Frank, were obviously destined to be sent to the gas chambers. Anne and Margot were selected to be sent to the Belsen camp. They were again crowded into cattle cars that were sealed and traveled for several days.
At Belsen, there were no regular work assignments. Neither were there regular food distributions, so most prisoners were starving to death. Typhus was also rampant, and many prisoners fell gravely ill and died. While there, Anne's condition deteriorated rapidly. By the time she encountered her girlfriend Lies, Anne was ragged, emaciated, staving, and miserable. When Lies tried to give her food and clothing, they were stolen by other prisoners.
Margot contracted typhus and was critically ill for a long while. Then in late February or early March of 1945, she fell into a coma and died within days. Anne, who was also sick, was not even told about her sister's death. Anne herself died a few weeks later, about eight weeks before Holland was liberated.
As she had hoped, Anne's diary was preserved and published in 1947. It is a usual day-to-day accounting of most unusual circumstances. Simply written, it is an outpouring of feelings and thoughts during the most trying of times for a young Jewish teenage girl during World War II. It is also a noble testament to Anne's bravery against Nazi cruelty.