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Anne Frank In The World: 1929-1945
World War I (1914-1918) ended for Germany in total defeat. The German people were dissatisfied: the peace treaty was a great humiliation, there was no money, no work and no hope of a better future. In the chaotic twenties an unknown young man from Austria had managed to work his way up to the position of "Fuhrer" of an insignificant party in Munich. His name was Adolf Hitler; the party called itself the NSDAP and its followers were called 'Nazis.'
After an unsuccessful coup d'etat, Hitler was put in a comfortable prison, where he wrote down his plans and ideas in a book called "Mein Kampf" ('my struggle'). He said that the German people were 'Aryans' and that the 'Aryan race' was the strongest and the best. All other races were inferior. The most inferior 'race' in his eyes was the Jewish people. He blamed them for everything that was wrong and for all Germany's defeats. Hitler's ideas appealed to many in Germany. The NSDAP soon became a party to be reckoned with.
In 1933, Hitler was appointed Chancellor and quickly, within a year, he consolidated all power within his grasp. The concentration camps filled up steadily from then on - first with political opponents, particularly communists and trade union leaders, but soon with Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, in brief, everyone who disagreed with him or whom he regarded as inferior.
All of life in Germany from 1933 on was oriented towards preparation for war. Few, however, realized this. In September of 1939, World War II began with the invasion of Poland. Between then and 1945, this war was to cost nearly 55 million people their lives, among them six million Jews, most of whom were killed in the concentration camps.
In May, 1940, the Netherlands were occupied and, in spite of no end of promises, the German system was introduced here as well. The economy was entirely oriented towards Germany and many Dutch men had to go and work like slaves in German factories.
In February, 1941, the persecution of the Netherlands' 140,000 Jews began, 25,000 of whom were Jewish refugees from Germany, like the Frank family. No more than a few of them managed to go into hiding and thus escape the concentration camps and gas chambers.
The occupation of Holland meant five years of repression, slave labor, terror, hunger, and fear. Unhappily it also meant collaboration, but fortunately there was resistance as well. In any case it meant loss of an enormous number of innocent people. Anne Frank was one of them.
The Anne Frank house is a house like many others in the old part of Amsterdam. It was built in 1635 as a merchant's house but has undergone many changes since then. The price of the houses was determined by their width, so people built lengthwise. The result was the long, narrow houses typical of Amsterdam. There had to be enough daylight, however, so the house could not be too long. For this reason there were almost always two houses built one behind the other: one in front, a courtyard in between, and an annex. The Annex that served as the Frank familiy's hiding placed attained its present form in 1740.
In 1940, Otto Frank established his wholesale business in herbs and spices in this house on the Prinsengracht. By the second year of the German occupation it was clear that Jews would inevitably be deported unless they found a place to hide. Otto Frank managed to do so, thanks to the help of his former employees.
In the first months of 1942, a hiding place was created in the empty Annex for his family and that of Mr. van Daan, who had connections with Mr. Frank's business. The building that has become known as 'Anne Frank's Annex' consists of the two upper floors and the attic of the Annex. The entrance to the hiding place was hidden behind a hinged bookcase. Since the supply of herbs for the house in front had to be stored in the dark, the windows at the back were blackened out and painted over. In this way the Annex was hidden from view.
The windows at the back of the Annex were hung with thick lace curtains and were blacked out in the evenings, as were all windows in Amsterdam, by black slats. The Germans had ordered the black-out in order to make it more difficult for the Allied planes to find their way at night. Of course this also lessened the risk of the hideaways being discovered. Anne Frank has described in inimitable fashion in her diary what life in the Annex was like for 25 long months.
After the discovery and deportation of its occupants, the Annex stood empty for a long time, but when in 1957 there was talk of demolishing it, a number of prominent citizens of Amsterdam established the Anne Frank Foundation in order to preserve the house. That year, with overwhelming support of the people of Amsterdam and many others, the house on the Prinsengracht became the 'Anne Frank House.'
1929: Anne Frank was born on June 12, 1929, in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. She was the second daughter of Otto and Edith Frank. Her sister Margot was three years older than she.
1933: Adolf Hitler succeeded in becoming Chancellor of Germany. Soon after that the boycott of Jewish business began. In April, the Jewish civil servants were fired. Otto Frank decided not to wait and see what would happen next, and left with his family for Amsterdam.
School Years: The Frank family moved into a house on Merwede Square in Amsterdam. Anne went to the Montessori school in the same neighborhood. Between 1933 and 1939 hundreds of thousands of Jewish Germans sought refuge in other countries.
1935: The Nuremberg Laws, depriving Jews of citizenship, are passed. Jews are forbidden to marry non-Jews. They are forbidden to practice law or medicine. They are excluded from journalism, teaching, and farming.
1938: Passports of Jews are marked with the letter 'J'. Anti-Semitic riots known as Kristallnacht (Crystal Night) break out in Germany and Austria. Hundreds of synagogues are destroyed and thousands of shops are looted. Jewish children are expelled from German schools. All Jewish-owned businesses are taken over by the Nazis.
1939: September 1, Hitler attacks Poland which begins World War II. Jews are uprooted from their homes in German occupied territory and are forced to move to Poland. Ghettos are established in such cities as Krakow, Lodz, Lublin, and Warsaw.
1940: In May, I 940, the German armies invaded Holland; five days later it surrendered and the occupation began. Many Dutch Jews hoped that the situation would not become as bad as it was in Germany. Mr. Frank was not so optimistic. The events of this period were noted by Anne in her diary, which she had received for her thirteenth birthday.
1941: Jews from Germany are deported eastward.
1942: A top level Nazi meeting, the Wannsee Conference, is held on "The Final Solution of the Jewish Question." "The Final Solution" is defined as the extermination of all Jews in Europe.
Preparing To Go Into Hiding: Mr. Frank had already begun converting the Annex of his firm at Prinsengracht 263 into a hiding place. In the first months of 1942, household effects were brought in bit by bit. The two upper floors and the attic of the Annex would be concealed by the hinged hidden bookcase.
Going into Hiding: At the beginning of July, 1942, Margot received a summons ordering her to register for mandatory work. On July 6, 1942, the Frank family moved into the Annex, to be followed by the van Daan family and Mr. Dussel.
Daily Life In the Annex: The hideaways tried to lead as normal a life as possible. For Anne, Margot, and Peter van Daan this meant studying and doing homework; they were not allowed to get behind with their schoolwork. The hideaways had to take care that no one heard them; not all the people in the office knew that they were there.
Help: Mr. Koophuis and Mr. Kraler, two of Mr. Franks's former employees, were of inestimable value to the hideaways, as were the typists, Miep and Elly. They provided food bought on the black market or with food stamps obtained by the underground.
Deportation: On August 1, 1944, Anne wrote her last entry in her diary. On August 4, 1944, a truck with German police and their Dutch cohorts appeared at the door. They walked straight to the bookcase and shouted, "Open up" and seized the terrified hideaways. A German policeman ordered everyone to hand over jewelry and valuables. He took Mr. Frank's attache case, which contained Anne's notebooks, shook the contents out onto the floor, and put in what he wanted to take with him. Anne's papers were left behind. The hideaways were carried off, first to the police station, then to Westerbork. The last transport of Jews from Westerbork took them to Auschwitz.
The End: Mrs. Frank died of starvation in Auschwitz. Mr. van Daan was gassed. Peter was carried off with the SS when the approach of the Russians forced the Germans to evacuate Auschwitz and was reported missing. Mr. Dussel died in Neuengamme. In late October, Margot and Anne were deported to Germany to the concentration camp Bergen-Belsen. This camp was packed with prisoners from other evacuated camps. Anne and Margot both came down with typhus. They died within a short time of each other in March, 1945. Mrs. van Daan also died in Bergen-Belsen. Mr. Frank was liberated from Auschwitz by Russian troops.
Publication or the Diary: Upon his return to Amsterdam, Otto Frank realized that he was the only survivor. Then Miep, one of the helpers, gave him Anne's papers. After the hideaways had been taken away, the helpers had gone to the Annex and taken as much as they could with them. Shortly afterwards the Annex was ransacked. Miep had kept Anne's papers all the time. Acting on friends' advice, Otto Frank decided to publish Anne's diary. It appeared in 1947, entitled 'The Annex' a title Anne herself had chosen.
The Anne Frank Foundation
The house where Anne and the others lived in hiding is now a museum. It is run by the Anne Frank Foundation, which was set up in 1957. Its primary goal is the preservation of the Annex, which has become world-renowned through the diary. There are many things in the Annex that serve as reminders of the past. But the foundation does not want to look only at the past. It wants to continue Anne's struggle for a better world. Discrimination towards people with a different color skin still exists. Large groups of people are still regarded as inferior on the basis of their 'race.' Anti-Semitism continues to turn up everywhere. Fascist ideas are still far from dead. The so-called democratic countries also violate human rights. Neo-Nazi movements are still trying to make a grab for power. The Anne Frank Foundation does not see its field of action getting any smaller.
In addition to opening up the Annex and providing visitors with information on the developments and events of World War II, the Anne Frank Foundation also organizes regular exhibitions on contemporary subjects. Past themes were 'immigrant workers' and "Two Thousand years of Anti-Semitism." There were also exhibitions on various neo-Nazi groups in western Europe who think that Hitler's Germany was not so bad after all. They deny the mass murder of the Jews and even declare that the Jews thought it up themselves. Since the diary is an example of what the war meant they say that Anne did not write it but that it is a fake. In addition to the museum, the Foundation also has an education department. Special attention is devoted to pupils of the lower vocational schools. In cooperation with the teachers, study programs are set up to make students aware of what is going on in society and how to adopt a discerning attitude. Experiences with these programs are passed on to the educational system by means of publications.
The Foundation organizes courses for social workers, students, etc., from abroad. In a week-seminar social problems are studied; for example, minority problems and structures which stimulate or perpetuate discrimination. Another facet of the the educational work takes place in the museum. Groups visiting the Annex can be guided by Foundation Staff Members, who provide an audio-visual introduction. The main goal is always to provide information on Anne Frank and the times in which she lived, and to stimulate a discussion of the problems of those times in relation to our own. The Foundation also maintains archives covering a great number of subjects related to its goal. School materials on World War II are being developed and neo-Nazi groups are being investigated.
Anne Frank Foundation