Anne Frank died in a Nazi concentration camp at the age of 15—condemned for the crime of being born Jewish. She left behind her belief that goodness would prevail over evil. Had she lived, she would be 90 years old today.
Anne Frank was born a German citizen on 12 June 1929, at a time when her country's political landscape was undergoing dramatic change. The National German Socialist Workers (or Nazi) Party was on the rise. Its anti-Semitic platform put Jews in danger. When the charismatic spokesman, Adolf Hitler, won control of both party and government in 1933, the Franks saw the writing on the wall — Edith, Otto, Anne, and her older sister Margot fled to Amsterdam.
They were safe there, for some time. But in September of 1939, the Nazis invaded Poland, igniting what we now know as World War II.
In May 1940, the Nazis rolled into the Netherlands, imposing their anti-Semitic laws: they required all Jews to wear yellow Stars of David; forbade Jews from owning and operating businesses; and refused Jewish school-children an education alongside their non-Jewish peers.
In June 1942, five days after Anne's 13th birthday, Margot was summoned to a Nazi work camp. The Franks went immediately into hiding in a makeshift living quarters in Otto's former company building. Otto's business partner and his family joined them. They would remain locked in and living on top of each other in near-total silence in the "Secret Annex" for two miserable years, kept alive at great personal risk by Otto's non-Jewish former co-workers.
Anne brought her birthday present into hiding with her: a blank diary. In it, she kept a daily account of life in captivity. She wrote to pass the time as well as to keep her spirits up. She wrote not only autobiographically, but also fiction, beginning short stories and even a novel. She also kept a list of her favorite quotes. None amongst the captives knew what Anne scribbled about, day in and day out.
On 5 August 1944, Anne's diary comes to an abrupt end. That’s when German soldiers stormed the Secret Annex. The Franks and their friends had been betrayed.
They were held at Camp Westerbork for little under a month, then transferred to Auschwitz on September 3, 1944, where the men and women were separated. Otto, the only Frank to survive the Holocaust, would never see his wife or daughters again.
Anne and Margot were taken from their mother and sent to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. There, living under dire conditions, both girls caught typhus. They died within a day of each other in March 1945 — just weeks before British troops liberated the wretched prison.
After the war, Otto returned to the Secret Annex. He discovered Anne's diary. In it she described the horrors of the Holocaust with immense pain, but woven into the experience was hope and her belief in love. He understood the power in her words and stories. In her pages he also learned of her desire to one day be published. He determined to give that dream to her.
Anne’s first letters appeared in 1947. Her diary remains one of the fullest accounts of the Holocaust. It continues to educate and to heal the spirits of readers today. May we all continue to learn from Anne Frank’s hardship and sacrifice.