War, persecution, and economic depression affect not only adults, but also old people, children, babies, the sick and the handicapped. Since history is written mostly about politicians, soldiers, intellectuals and criminals, we don’t read very often about how events affect ordinary people. Now and then a special book will shed light on what it was like to live in the midst of terrible events. Such a book is “The Diary of Anne Frank.” Anne Frank was born in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, in 1929. Her father Otto Frank was a businessman who moved the family to the Netherlands in 1934. In Amsterdam, Otto started a company selling pectin to make jams and jellies. Later he began a second company that sold herbs for seasoning meat.
Otto Frank had decided to leave Germany because of the policies and personality of the new German Chancellor Adolph Hitler. Hitler had a personal hatred not only for Jewish people but also for everything Jewish. He felt that one way to strengthen Germany and solve its problems was to kill or drive out all the Jews. Hitler also felt that other groups, such as blacks, gypsies, the handicapped, homosexuals and the chronically unemployed should be eliminated. Then only strong healthy “true Germans” would be left.
Since Hitler had a plan to solve Germany’s economic problems, he received a lot of popular support. Very few Germans realized that he was mentally and emotionally unbalanced and would kill anyone who got in his way.
The Frank family was Jewish, and they felt that they would be safe in the Netherlands. However, in May 1940, Germany invaded the Netherlands and soon took over the government. In 1941, laws were passed to keep Jews separate from other Dutch citizens. The following year, Dutch Jews began to be shipped to concentration camps in Germany and Poland. Just before this began, Anne Frank, Otto’s younger daughter, received a diary for her 13th birthday. Less than a month later, the whole family went into hiding.
Otto Frank had made friends with the Dutch people who worked with him in his business operations. Now these friends were ready to help him, even though hiding Jews from the authorities was treated as a serious crime.
Behind Otto Frank’s business offices, there was another house that was not visible from the street. Here the Franks moved many of their things. Only a few trusted people knew they were living there. The Franks moved into these small rooms on July 6, 1942, and they lived there with another Jewish family, the Van Pels, until the police captured them on August 4, 1944. So, for more than two years, the two families never went outside. All their food and supplies had to be brought to them.
During this period, Anne Frank told her diary all her thoughts and fears. Like any teenage girl, she hoped that good things would happen to her, that she would become a writer or a movie star. She complained that her parents treated her like a child. She insisted that she was grown up.
She also talked about how difficult it was to live in a small area with seven other people and not be able to go outside. She wrote about the war and hoped that the Netherlands would soon be liberated from the Germans. Anne sometimes envied her older sister, Margot, who was so much more mature, and who never got into trouble. She and Margot wrote letters to each other to pass the time. Anne even had a romance with Peter van Pels, who was seventeen.
Then all their fears came true. All the eight Jews hiding in the house were arrested and eventually sent to the Auschwitz death camp in Poland. Although the war was ending, it did not end soon enough for the Frank family. Only Otto Frank survived the war.
One of their helpers, Miep Gies, saved Anne’s diary and kept it. After the war, Otto Frank decided to publish it. Since 1947 more than 20 million copies have been sold in 55 languages. Anne’s diary shows the terrible cost of hatred, persecution and war better than any history book.