Skip Navigation

Anne Frank in the World, 1929 - 1945 Teacher Workbook

The Diary of Anne Frank

Shortly before going into hiding Anne had begun keeping a diary. On June 20th, 1942, she wrote down what her reasons were for doing so:

I can never bring myself to talk of anything outside the common round. We don't seem to be able to get any closer, that is the root of the trouble. Hence, this diary. I don't want to set down a series of bald facts in a diary like most people do, but I want this diary itself to be my friend, and I shall call my friend Kitty.

Anne wants to do more than write a story:

I want to go further, I can't imagine having to live like Mummy, Mrs. Van Daan, and all those women who do their work and are later forgotten. I must have something more than a husband and children, something I can devote myself to. I want to live on after my death.

Anne was to live on, not only thanks to her talent or because of the feelings of indignation and guilt which she evokes, but especially because she herself is proof of the hope for a world which will bring the end of oppression for all people.

On August 4th, 1944 when the Allies were nearing the Dutch border, a German policeman entered the office of Otto Frank and located the attic which had been a hiding place for two years, with four Dutch accomplices. It was clear from their purposeful behavior that betrayal was involved. They demanded that the movable bookcase placed before the staircase be pushed aside. While the arrest took place, the five men looked around for things they took a fancy to. In order to stash their loot, they grabbed Mr.Frank's bag and emptied the contents out on the floor. All that time the bag had been the place where Anne had kept her diary. Her father had accepted the responsibility for making sure that no one would look in her notebooks, including himself. Now they lay like worthless papers on the ground. Mr. and Mrs. Frank, Margot and Anne, Mr. and Mrs. Van Daan, Peter and Mr. Dussel were taken in a Black Maria to the police station on Euterpestraat, together with Mr. Koophuis and Mr. Kraler. A few days later the first eight were transported to Westerbork, the transit camp for Jews. They were in the last transport to Auschwitz (September 2nd 1944). It has never been discovered who the traitor was.

In late October, Anne and Margot were "selected" for Bergen-Belsen. Mrs. Frank was killed by the hardships of Auschwitz. Mr. Van Daan died in the gas chambers. Peter was taken along by the SS when the concentration camp had to be abandoned because of the approach of the Russians. Mr. Dussel died in the concentration camp of Neuengamme. Mrs. Van Daan died at Bergen-Belsen. Only Mr. Frank lived to see the liberation of Auschwitz by the Russian troops.

In Bergen-Belsen there was practically no food or shelter for the prisoners. Nevertheless, during the last months of the war, train loads full of SS victims arrived in Bergen-Belsen nearly every day. Together with people of all different nationalities, among them many Russian prisoners of war, 30,000 Jews were killed.

What we know about Anne's last months is that in spite of the cold the hunger and the misery, she continued to be courageous and ready to help others. Both Anne and Margot contacted typhus. When Margot died, Anne could not go on any longer, and she died in March 1945. Someone who was with her during her last days, recounts that she died peacefully, with the feeling that no evil had overcome her (cf. Schnabel, A Portrait in Courage, p. 174).

Miep and Elly were not arrested. When the group had been taken away, they were the only ones left behind. Since Miep had an extra key, she was able to enter the Annex, which the German police had locked behind them. Five hours after the arrest, she and her husband, together with Elly and the oldest shop assistant, went back upstairs.

There they found all sorts of papers, books, photos and so forth lying scattered on the floor. Under these were various notebooks and loose sheets on which Anne had written her diary. The first time they didn't dare stay long, but a week later they returned to remove the furniture, at which time all the remaining papers were gathered up.

So it was that Anne's writings were preserved. Miep decided not to read it; in her own words, she might have been shocked by the text, which would have incriminated her as well, had the Germans found it. She feared she would have been forced to destroy the document. Unread, it posed less danger.

When Otto Frank returned to Amsterdam in the summer of 1945, Miep handed the papers over to him. Weeks later, he began to type out part of the diary and to translate it into German, with the idea of showing it to his old mother, who had escaped to Switzerland. Anne herself had already rewritten her diary once and left out parts of the first text in the process. Mr. Frank used this second, unfinished version as basis for the manuscript, and added parts of Anne's first diary, excluding certain sections wanting to guard his wife's memory and Anne's modesty.

It was originally not Mr. Frank's intention to publish the diary. A good friend was given the manuscript to read, however, and passed it on to the Amsterdam historian Jan Romein to read. He wrote about it in the daily newspaper "Het Parool," in a moving article, "A Child's Voice."

The Contact publishing company was willing to accept the book for publication. On May 11th, 1944, Anne had written in her diary:

In any case, I want to publish a book entitled "The Annex" after the war. Whether I shall succeed or not, I cannot say, but my diary will be a great help.

The Diary has gone through countless editions, been the source of a play and movie and been translated into more than fifty language. Nevertheless the authenticity of the diary has been a bone of contention with neo-Nazi groups and revisionists doubting the diary's genuineness. This year, on the anniversary of the day Anne Frank would have turned sixty, an authoritative, authenticated edition of Anne Frank's diary was published.

Prepared by the Netherlands State Institute for War Documentation, a comprehensive forensic study was prepared proving once and for all the authenticity of the diary. This documentation is included in the new, critical edition along with the original diary, unabridged with Otto Frank's revisions.

There have been many attempts to analyze Anne Frank's development from child to woman based on the diary. We neither need nor can add anything to that. But we do want to consider how Anne experienced the events taking place in the world and how she reacted to them.

On June 20th, 1942, even before going into hiding, she wrote:

Anti-Jewish decrees followed each other in quick succession. Jews must wear a yellow star, Jews must hand in their bicycles, Jews are banned from trams and are forbidden to drive. Jews must be indoors by eight o'clock and cannot even sit in their own gardens after that hour. Jews may not take part in public sports. Jews may not visit Christians. Our freedom was strictly limited. Yet things were bearable.

At the time, Anne was still going to a Jewish college-preparatory school. All her attention was concentrated on the question: Will I pass this year? But the day of the final exam, was at the same time the last day of relative freedom (July 5th). On Monday, July 6th, they moved into the Annex. The Van Daan's came on July 13th. Much later, on November 16th, Mr. Dussel joined them, making a total of eight.

In the first two months, Anne wrote about everyday matters, relationships, small fights and unavoidable friction between people who are forced to live close to each other for an indefinite length of time.

On October 9th, Anne looks further than her little world:

Our many Jewish friends are being taken away by the dozens. These people are treated by the Gestapo without a shred of decency, being loaded into cattle trucks and sent to Westerbork, the big Jewish camp in Drente.

About forced labor in Germany and the fare of the hostages:

Nice people, the Germans! To think that I was once one of them too! No, Hitler took away our nationality long ago. In fact, Germans and Jews are the greatest enemies in the world.

In these months, Anne was especially concerned with herself, with her attitude towards the others and towards her mother in particular. She had already chosen for complete independence:

I must become good through my own efforts, without examples and without good advice. Then later on I shall be all the stronger. Who besides myself will ever read these letters? From whom but myself shall I get comfort.

That is not to say that Anne was exclusively and continuously concerned with herself. She made a choice for herself, for independence from others, but for precisely this reason she takes the outside world seriously.

Upon his arrival, Mr. Dussel brought bad news (November 19th):

Countless friends and acquaintances have gone to a terrible fate. Nobody is spared, each and all join in the march of death. And all because they are Jews!

November 20th, 1942:

Must I keep thinking about those other people, whatever I am doing? And if I want to laugh about something, should I stop myself quickly and feel ashamed that I am cheerful? Added to this misery there is another, but of a purely personal kind; and it pales into insignificance beside all the wretchedness I've just told you about. Still, I can't refrain from telling you that lately I have begun to feel deserted. I am surrounded by too great a void.

Did Anne mean by this a lack of understanding on the part of the adults? Or was she astounded by the unimaginable brutality to which the Jews fell prey? At any rate, she was concerned with what was happening to others, and in her thoughts about this she felt lonely.

It was no doubt not always easy for the others to live with Anne. There were painful moments when she let her temper go and told the others exactly what she thought of them. She herself said in her diary on April 2nd, 1943:

They expect me to apologize: but this is something I can't apologize for because I spoke the truth and Mummy will have to know it sooner or later anyway.

Just before that, she wrote in response to her mother's question:

But I knew that I couldn't have answered differently. It simply wouldn't work.

This was how Anne saw through a fictitious world. But that creates tensions. What she wrote on January 30th, 1943, shows how difficult this was for Anne:

They mustn't know my despair. I can't let them see the wound which they have caused. The whole day I hear nothing else but that I am an insufferable baby, and although I laugh about it and pretend not to take any notice, I do mind. I've got the nature that has been given to me and I'm sure it can't be bad.

Even though she stood alone, Anne did not shut herself away in a dream world. On January 13th, 1943, she wrote:

And as for us, we are fortunate. It is quite and safe here, and we are, so to speak, living on capital. We are even so selfish as to talk about 'after the war,' brighten up at the thought of having new clothes and new shoes, whereas we really ought to save every penny to help other people, and save what is left from the wreckage after the war.

And still she writes of other things, too (February 23rd, 1944):

When I looked outside right into the depth of nature and God, then I was happy, really happy. We miss so much here, so very much and for so long now: I miss it too, just as you do. Like you, I long for freedom and fresh air. Riches can all be lost, but that happiness in your own heart can only be veiled, and it will still bring you happiness again, as long as you live.

With the entry dated April 11th, 1944, Anne finished the first part of the diary. The second part was to cover only three and a half months. It was not Anne's intention to begin a new chapter. The story simply continued about the fear of a police raid during Easter. Also remarkable is Anne's fear that her diary will disappear. In spite of this the tone of the second part of the diary is more hopeful.

This is when Anne discovers in herself her love for Peter. Although it becomes clear from the text that Peter will disappoint her, this experience of love is so deep that she can feel unreservedly happy. Of course, she received more response from Peter than from the others. In the long run, he was unable to answer Anne's emotional and intellectual needs. One could say that Anne fell in love with an ideal, a projection of her own longings, which in those circumstances took concrete form in Peter.

Perhaps it doesn't matter that Anne's Peter never existed. July 15th, 1944:

I created an image of him in my mind. I needed a living person to whom I could pour out my heart; I wanted a friend who'd help to put me on the right road. I achieved what I wanted.

The most important thing is that thanks to her relationship with Peter, Anne was able to experience and acquire her stream of feelings and emotions, her road to adulthood, her new insights into the others.

Amazement about herself, intense experience of the forces within her, outspoken courage to be an individual human being, all of this determined her attitude during the last months of confinement, and stayed with her after she had realized that she "had conquered Peter instead of he conquering her" (July 15th. 1944).

Now he clings to me, and for the time being, I don't see any way of shaking him off and putting him on his own feet. When I realized that he could not be a friend for my understanding, I thought I would at least try to lift him up of his narrow mindedness and make him do something with his youth.

The Franks were not orthodox Jews, but religion was a fact of life for them. Anne states explicitly that for her religion is something that keeps people on the right path and which does not stem from fear. A very real part of her Jewish inheritance is the question of why the Jewish people suffer, and the manner in which she poses this question: Tuesday, April 11th, 1944:

We have been pointedly reminded that we are in hiding, that we are Jews in chains. We Jews mustn't show our feelings, must be brave and strong, must accept all the inconveniences and not grumbly. Some time this terrible war will be over. Surely the time will come when we are people again, and to just Jews. Who has inflicted this upon us? Who has made us Jews different from all other people? Who has allowed us to suffer so terribly up till now? It is God that has made us as we are, but it will be God too who will raise us up again. If we bear all this suffering and if there are still Jews left, when it is over, then Jews, instead of being doomed, will be held up as an example. Who knows, it might even be our religion from which the world and peoples learn good, and for that reason and that reason only do we have to suffer now. We can never become just Netherlanders, or just English, or representatives of any country for that matter, we will always remain Jews, but we want to, too.

In her letter of May 3rd, 1944, Anne recounts how time and time again the discussions reach an impasse at the doubt expressed in the questions:

What, oh what is the point of the war? Why can't people live together peacefully? Why are people so crazy

Anne does not claim to have an answer, but she doesn't want to continue this doubtful questioning.

I don't believe that the big men, the politicians and the capitalists alone are guilty of the war. Oh, no, the little man is just as keen. There is an urge and rage in people to destroy, to kill, to murder, and until all mankind, without exception, undergoes a great change, wars will be waged.

Sometime Anne doubts whether the Dutch people will undergo such a metamorphosis. When liberation is approaching in the summer of 1944, she is clearly more and more worried about the growing anti-Semitism. News has penetrated to the people in the Annex that even among the Resistance fighters there is grumbling about the Jews. Anne is astonished that the mistakes of individual Jews, who apparently let their tongues run away with them in the presence of the enemy, or under torture by the Gestapo, might threaten all Jews.

When one hears this one naturally wonders why we are carrying on with his long and difficult war? We always hear that we're fighting together for freedom, truth, and right! Is discord going to show itself while we are still fighting, is the Jew once again worth less than another? Oh, it is sad, very sad, that once more, for the umpteenth time, the old truth is confirmed: "What one Christian does is his own responsibility, what one Jew does is thrown back at all Jews." I hope one thing only, and that is that this hatred of Jews will be a passing thing, that the Dutch will show what they are after all, and that they will never falter and lose their sense of right. For anti-Semitism is unjust! And if this terrible threat should actually come true, then the pitiful little collection of Jews that remain will have to leave Holland. We, too, shall have to move on again with our little bundles, and leave this beautiful country, which offered us such a warm welcome and which now turns its back on us. I love Holland. I, who, having no native country, had hoped that it might become my motherland, and I still hope it will! (May 22nd, 1944)

On August 1st, 1944, Anne writes about her reputation for being a "little bundle of contradictions." Actually, she accepts the label, not so much because she is so fond of contradicting but because this nickname touches her own secret:

I know exactly how I'd like to be, how I am too, inside. But, alas, I'm only like that for myself.

It is her struggle to make the real Anne apparent to others:

If I'm watched to that extent, I start by getting snappy, then unhappy, and finally I twist my heart around, so that the bad is on the outside and the good is on the inside, and keep on trying to find a way of becoming what I would so like to be, and what I could be, if there weren't any other people living in the world.

The arrest takes place on August 4th. The incomplete diary is left behind because the papers are regarded as useless. Yet one of Anne's last entries, remains as a shining legacy of her innocence and optimism:

It's really a wonder that I haven't dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can't build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too. I feel the suffering of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again. In the meantime, I must uphold my ideals, for perhaps the time will come when I shall be able to carry them out. -- Yours, Anne