Copyright

Primary Source: The Diary of Anne Frank

Instructor: David Wilson

David has taught college history and holds an MA in history.

Perhaps the most famous figure associated with the Holocaust, Anne Frank was a Dutch Jew who hid from the Nazis for 761 days, or a little over two years. Learn about Anne's life, her diary, and how her voice has survived through the years in this lesson. Updated: 02/03/2021

The Diary of Anne Frank

Arguably the best-known person who died in the Holocaust was a teenage Jewish Dutch girl named Anne Frank. Living in Amsterdam during the Nazi German invasion of the Netherlands, Anne's parents knew that their Jewish heritage would make them a major target of the Nazis, as the Nazis viewed Jews as sub-humans who had to be eradicated from German society. While some European Jews fled from the Nazis, many did not have that opportunity, and Anne and her family were forced to hide from them instead.

From 1942 to 1944, Anne, her family, and another Dutch-Jewish family named the van Pels had to live in secret in an attic apartment only about 500 square feet in size, or the size of the average living room. They feared to make any sound or make any movements that would reveal their presence, lest the Nazi Gestapo secret police find them out. Aside from the small size and the need for secrecy, Anne and her family encountered many other problems. Food was always difficult to come by, and she relates a touching story of receiving a small cake that had been made after saving sugar rations for months.

Anne grew frustrated with both her own family and the other family sharing the space, believing that the others consumed too much food and were selfish. She experienced a brief romantic interest in Peter van Pels, but later wondered whether it was genuine or just the result of their confinement. Anne and her family were eventually discovered by the Gestapo in 1944. Sent to a concentration camp, she perished in 1945, possibly from the disease typhus, just a few months before the end of the war.

Anne kept a diary throughout her time hiding from the Nazis, which is how the world came to know about this period of her life. Despite the grim conditions, Anne is nevertheless often cheerful or optimistic, famously saying that, despite the horrors of World War II, ''…I still believe people are really good at heart.'' Her diary has become internationally renowned since it was discovered in the attic annex, both for its depiction of life hiding from the Nazis as well as for her insights into the human condition.

Let's take a look at a sample of the diary now. Note that she addresses the reader of the diary as her cat, which the Franks could not bring into the annex.

Text from The Diary of Anne Frank:

WEDNESDAY, JULY 8, 1942

Dearest Kitty,

It seems like years since Sunday morning. So much has happened it's as if the whole world had suddenly turned upside down. But as you can see, Kitty, I'm still alive, and that's the main thing, Father says. I'm alive all right, but don't ask where or how. You probably don't understand a word I'm saying today, so I'll begin by telling you what happened Sunday afternoon. At three o'clock (Hello had left but was supposed to come back later), the doorbell rang. I didn't hear it, since I was out on the balcony, lazily reading in the sun. A little while later Margot appeared in the kitchen doorway looking very agitated. 'Father has received a call-up notice from the SS,' she whispered. 'Mother has gone to see Mr. van Daan' (Mr. van Daan is Father's business partner and a good friend.) I was stunned. A call-up: everyone knows what that means. Visions of concentration camps and lonely cells raced through my head. How could we let Father go to such a fate? 'Of course he's not going,' declared Margot as we waited for Mother in the living room. 'Mother's gone to Mr. van Daan to ask whether we can move to our hiding place tomorrow. The van Daans are going with us. There will be seven of us altogether.' Silence. We couldn't speak. The thought of Father off visiting someone in the Jewish Hospital and completely unaware of what was happening, the long wait for Mother, the heat, the suspense -- all this reduced us to silence.

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 5, 1942

Dear Kitty,

The British have finally scored a few successes in Africa and Stalingrad hasn't fallen yet, so the men are happy and we had coffee and tea this morning. For the rest, nothing special to report. This week I've been reading a lot and doing little work. That's the way things ought to be. That's surely the road to success. Mother and I are getting along better lately, but we're never close. Father's not very open about his feelings, but he's the same sweetheart he's always been. We lit the stove a few days ago and the entire room is still filled with smoke. I prefer central heating, and I'm probably not the only one. Margot's a stinker (there's no other word for it), a constant source of irritation, morning, noon and night.

MONDAY, AUGUST 23, 1943

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