Who is Mr. van Daan?
The Diary of Anne Frank is a diary written by Anne Frank. Anne wrote this diary while in hiding during World War II. Anne, along with her family, hid in an annex above her father's company with Mr. and Mrs. van Daan, Peter, and Alfred Dussel. An annex is a small addition to a space. In this case, the annex is above Otto Frank's office space. Mr. van Daan's surname was a pseudonym for the van Daan family's actual names, which were Hermann van Pels, Auguste van Pels, and Peter van Pels. As he is a resident in the annex, Mr. van Daan is one of the characters Anne Frank writes about in her diary.
Analysis of Mr. van Daan
Mr. van Daan and Anne do not get along with one another. Anne states that they "are always at loggerheads with each other," meaning that they struggle to get along with one another at all. Seeing as these two could not be further apart in their personalities, the reader immediately sees that this will become a persistent problem throughout the novel. However, their relationship is not all bad because, as Anne points out, "Mr. van Daan has been as nice as pie to me recently." This is important because it is a noticeable departure from the way they normally act toward one another.
Before bringing his family to the annex, Mr. van Daan worked for Otto Frank, Anne's father, as a meat seasoning specialist. Having spent his career around meats, herbs, and butcher equipment, his role inside the annex also falls within this purview. Anne and the rest of the annex appreciate his talents because, as Anne puts it, "He was hired for his knowledge of spices, and yet, to our great delight, it is his sausage talents that have come in handy now." However, while Anne appreciates Mr. van Daan for the work he does to organize the food for them, she still struggles to see eye to eye with him, and she's far from the only one.
In fact, one cannot examine Mr. van Daan without also examining Mrs. van Daan's character traits. The van Daans do not have an easy-going relationship like Anne's parents. Anne points this out several times, showing that Mr. van Daan is quite argumentative toward his wife, as they constantly yell and bicker. In one such situation, she explains that "Mr. and Mrs. van Daan have had a terrible fight. I've never seen anything like it since Mother and Father wouldn't dream of shouting at each other like that." She compares these parents directly to her own because she is a child and knows her own parents' relationship best.
This argumentative environment is quite exhausting and disturbing to Anne. One of their more heated arguments came after Mr. van Daan sold Mrs. van Daan's fur coat. Anne was bewildered at what unfolded: "You can't imagine the screaming, shouting, stamping of feet and swearing that went on. It was terrifying. My family stood holding its breath at the bottom of the stairs, in case it might be necessary to drag them apart." Obviously, Mr. van Daan greatly hurt Mrs. van Daan when he decided to sell the coat right from under her nose.
Unfortunately, Mr. van Daan also had a strained and unkind relationship with his son. Since Peter is, as Anne describes him, "peace-loving, tolerant and extremely easygoing," he is in every way the opposite of his father, who is argumentative, easily frustrated, and intolerant.
What are Mr. van Daan's Character Traits?
Perhaps one of Mr. van Daan's most recognizable traits is his smoking habit. Thanks to the cigarette shortage, it very often added to his bad temperament. Anne sees this as a ridiculous reason for him to be rude or grouchy, given everything else the family is going through. Later, she describes him suffering from withdrawal as, "Mr. van D. is growing pale without his cigarettes."
Being a respected businessman, Mr. van Daan also had his eye toward politics, another critical aspect Anne points out: "In the opinion of us all, this revered gentleman has great insight into politics." She sees this as reflective of his intelligence and even keen business sense.
Even though the Franks and van Daans worked together to bring their families together in hiding, it is evident that Mr. van Daan is not as grateful or appreciative as he should be. For example, during breakfast, "The van Daans, who always make breakfast for everyone, give themselves one and a half times more than they do us." This blatant egocentrism continues because the Franks do not speak up and contest it.
Furthermore, he and Mrs. van Daan constantly try to parent Anne. They also disparage the way the children have been raised. Anne explains that "Some people, like the van Daans, seem to take special delight not only in raising their own children but in helping others raise theirs." The van Daans believe themselves so much better than Anne's parents that they constantly try to butt into situations and provide their own insight.
Arrest and Death of Mr. van Daan
The annex was raided on August 4, 1944, and though the van Daans attempted to bribe their way out of being arrested, all eight members of the annex were taken and transported to the Westerbork transit camp. Though the family could initially stay together, they were eventually sent to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, where they were separated.
Upon separation, Mr. van Daan was sent to do hard labor in road construction. However, he injured his hand and was soon sent to the gas chamber. No one from the van Daans made it out of the concentration camp, and Otto Frank was the sole survivor of the annex.
Mr. van Daan is featured in Anne Frank's Diary of a Young Girl as one of the residents of the small living space above Anne's father's office in the annex. Mr. van Daan's actual name is Hermann van Pels, and he works with Otto Frank, Anne's father, as a meat seasoning specialist. Anne and Mr. van Daan are entirely different people, so they certainly do not see eye to eye.
Anne shows how unkind Mr. van Daan is to his son and his incredibly argumentative relationship with his wife. In fact, Mr. van Daan even sells his wife's fur coat, which really hurts her. Though Anne's diary ends a couple of days before the annex is raided, records show that Mr. van Daan and his family did not survive the concentration camp.
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What did Mr. Van Daan do for Mr. Frank?
Mr. Van Daan worked with Otto Frank before they went into hiding. He worked with Mr. Frank as a meat seasoning specialist.
What happened to Mr. and Mrs. Van Daan?
Unfortunately, Mr. and Mrs. Van Daan both died in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. In fact, the only person to survive the concentration camps was Otto Frank.
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