Tragically, Anne Frank (born 1929) is perhaps the best-known Dutch writer. The diary she wrote during World War II has become a worldwide bestseller and is one of the most widely read books in the world. It gave a face to the Holocaust.
The book is about her time in ‘het Achterhuis’ (the house in the back) in Amsterdam, right next to the famous Westertoren. They lived there and hide during raids in a room hidden behind a bookcase. While staying in this house, Anne Frank starts working on her diary, which she called Kitty. She does this to give the misery of the war a place in her young life.
In 1944 the hiding place is discovered, probably by betrayal. It is still unclear who was responsible for this. She was deported to the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp and later to concentration camp Bergen-Belsen. There she died in 1945 as a result of typhoid fever.
Only father Otto Frank survives the war. He receives a stack of notebooks from Miep Gies, who had helped the family. It turns out that they are the diaries that Anne wrote. In 1947 the diary is published under the title Het Achterhuis.
The book was soon published in several languages, but only really became world famous after an American stage adaptation in 1955. A historic moment. The municipality of Amsterdam wanted to demolish ‘het Achterhuis’ on the Prinsengracht. Today, this ‘Anne Frank House’ is visited by more than a million people every year.
In the garden of ‘het Achterhuis’ stood a chestnut tree that Anne overlooked. Cuttings of it were brought to America and can be seen in New York’s Liberty Park, as well as in the Holocaust museums in Washington and Michigan. A cutting has also been planted at Central High School in Little Rock. That city was the center of a major race riot in 1957 in which nine black students were refused entry to the school. With this initiative, the Anne Frank Center wants to keep the memory of Anne Frank alive and promote tolerance.
Excerpt of the diary of Anne Frank
Saturday, June 20, 1942
My father was 36 when he married my mother, who was then 25. My sister Margot was born in 1926. I
followed on June 12, 1929, and, as we are Jewish, we emigrated to Holland in 1933, where my father
was appointed Managing Director of Travies NV. This firm is in close contact with the firm Kolen and
Company in the same building, of which my father is a partner.
The rest of our family, however, felt the full impact of Hitler’s snit-Semitic laws, so life was filled with
anxiety. In 1938 after the pograms1
, my two uncles escaped to the USA. My old grandmother then came
to us, she was then 73. After May 1940, good times rapidly fled: first the war, then the surrender,
followed by the arrival of the Germans, which is when the suffering of the Jews really began.
followed each other in quick succession. Jews must wear a yellow star. Jews must
hand in their bicycles. Jews are banned from trains and are forbidden to drive. Jews are only allowed to
do their shopping between three and five o’clock, and then only in shops which bear the placard “Jewish
Shop.” Jews must be indoors by eight o’clock and cannot even sit in their own gardens after that hour.
Jews are forbidden to visit theatres and other places of entertainment. Jews may not take part in public
sports, swimming baths, tennis courts, hockey fields, and other sports grounds are all prohibited to
them. Jews may not visit Christians. Jews must go to Jewish schools, and many more similar restrictions.
So we could not do this and we were forbidden to do that. Jopie3
used to say to me, “You’re scared to
do anything because you fear it may be forbidden.” Our freedom was strictly limited. Yet things were