Anne Frank was just 15 years old when she died but her diary is perhaps the best known document chronicling life under Nazi occupation and the persecution suffered by Jews.
Written over the course of two years, Anne’s diary details the time that her family spent in hiding during the Nazis’ occupation of the Netherlands.
The Jewish Frank family moved into a secret annex on the premises of the company owned by Anne’s father in order to escape capture by the Nazis. They lived there with another Jewish family named the van Pels and, later, a Jewish dentist named Fritz Pfeffer.
While undoubtedly showcasing her literary talent, wit and intelligence, Anne’s diary is also very much the writings of a frustrated and “ordinary” teenager, struggling to live in a confined space with people she often didn’t like.
It’s this aspect that sets her diary apart from other memoirs of the time and has seen her remembered and beloved by generation after generation of readers. Here are 10 facts about Anne Frank.
1. “Anne” was just a nickname
Her full name was Annelies Marie Frank.
2. The Frank family were originally German
Anne’s father, Otto, was a German businessman who served in the German army during World War One. In the face of the Nazis’ rising anti-Semitism, Otto moved his family to Amsterdam in the autumn of 1933. There, he ran a company that sold spices and pectin for use in the manufacture of jam.
When the family went into hiding in 1942, Otto transferred control of the business, named Opekta, to two of his Dutch colleagues.
3. Anne’s diary was a 13th birthday present
Anne received the diary for which she became famous on 12 June 1942, just a few weeks before her family went into hiding. Her father had taken her to pick out the red, checked autograph book on 11 June and she began writing in it on 14 June.
4. She celebrated two birthdays while living in hiding
Anne’s 14th and 15th birthdays were spent in the annex but she was still given presents by other residents of the hiding place and their helpers on the outside world. Among these presents were several books, including a book on Greek and Roman mythology that Anne received for her 14th birthday, as well as a poem written by her father, part of which she copied out in her diary.
5. Anne wrote two versions of her diary
The first version (A) began in the autograph book that she received for her 13th birthday and spilled over into at least two notebooks. However, since the last entry in the autograph book is dated 5 December 1942 and the first entry in the first of these notebooks is dated 22 December 1943, it is assumed that other volumes were lost.
Anne rewrote her diary in 1944 after hearing a call on the radio for people to save their war-time diaries in order to help document the suffering of the Nazi occupation once war was over. In this second version, known as B, Anne omits parts of A, while also adding new sections. This second version includes entries for the period between 5 December 1942 and 22 December 1943.
6. She called her diary “Kitty”
As a result, much – though not all – of version A of Anne’s diary is written in the form of letters to this “Kitty”. When rewriting her diary, Anne standardised the entires by addressing all of them to Kitty.
There has been some debate over whether Kitty was inspired by a real person. Anne did have a pre-war friend called Kitty but some, including the real-life Kitty herself, don’t believe that she was the inspiration for the diary.
7. The residents of the annex were arrested on 4 August 1944
It has been commonly thought that someone called the German Security Police to notify them that Jews were living on the Opekta premises. However, the identity of this caller has never been confirmed and a new theory suggests that the Nazis may in fact have discovered the annex by accident while investigating reports of ration-coupon fraud and illegal employment at Opekta.
Following their arrest, the residents of the annex were first taken to Westerbork transit camp in the Netherlands and then on to the notorious Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. At this point the men and women were separated.
Initially, Anne was housed along with her mother, Edith, and her sister, Margot, with all three forced to carry out hard labour. A few months later, however, the two girls were taken to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany.
8. Anne died in early 1945
The exact date of Anne’s death is not known but it is thought she died in either February or March of that year. Both Anne and Margot are believed to have contracted typhus at Bergen-Belsen and died around the same time, just a few weeks before the camp was liberated.
9. Anne’s father was the only resident of the annex to survive the Holocaust
Otto is also the only known survivor of the Frank family. He was held at Auschwitz until its liberation in January 1945 and afterwards returned to Amsterdam, learning of his wife’s death en route. He learned of his daughters’ deaths in July 1945 after meeting a woman who had been at Bergen-Belsen with them.
10. Her diary was first published on 25 June 1947
Following the arrest of the annex’s residents, Anne’s diary was retrieved by Miep Gies, a trusted friend of the Frank family who had helped them during their time in hiding. Gies kept the diary in a desk drawer and gave it to Otto in July 1945 following confirmation of Anne’s death.
In keeping with Anne’s wishes, Otto sought to have the diary published and a first edition combining versions A and B was published in the Netherlands on 25 June 1947 under the title The Secret Annex. Diary Letters from June 14, 1942 to August 1, 1944. Seventy years later, the diary has been translated into as many as 70 languages and more than 30 million copies have been published.