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The Diary of Anne Frank has been published in 19 languages including German and has sold nearly two million copies. Made into a play by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, it won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. In London, it ran for nearly six months at the Phoenix Theatre. Twentieth Century-Fox turned it into a film.
How this diary of a teenage girl came to be written and saved is a story as dramatic as the diary itself. No one foresaw the tremendous impact that the small book would have-not even her father, who had it published after Anne’s death in a Nazi concentration camp.
Annelies Marie went by the name “Anne” most of the time, and “Tender one” on rare occasions. Her father, Otto Frank chose to move to the friendly Netherlands in the autumn of 1933 when Hitler was implementing one anti-Jewish order after another. In Amsterdam, he established a little business. He took in a companion, Mr. Van Daan, a fellow refugee. They mostly dealt in spices.
Anne was most notable for her early affinity with other people. She was emotional and strong-willed; her father reportedly described her as “a real problem child,” “a great talker, and fond of nice clothes.”When the Nazis invaded the Netherlands in May 1940, the Franks were trapped. Otto Frank chose to hide in his own office. The “Annexe,” a few run-down rooms on the top floors, were discreetly prepared to house both the Frank and Van Daan families.
Margot Frank, Anne’s sister was summoned for deportation in early July 1942, but she declined. The Franks went straight to their hiding location, and the Van Daans followed shortly after. They took another Jew, a dentist, into their camping quarters four months later.
Song-Bird in Hiding
The eight people would live in the quarters in utter silence and with supplies secretly provided by four courageous members of Otto Frank’s staff. The only other company they had was a cat. Anne decided to keep a diary that her parents had given her on her 13th birthday while she was hiding. She recounted life in the “Annexe,” with its inevitable conflicts and squabbles. She sketched a beautifully delicate chronicle of adolescence, drawing a young girl’s thoughts and feelings with complete sincerity.
Nearly 16 months passed when she described feeling like a songbird whose wings had been brutally torn out and who was flying in utter darkness against the bars of its own cage. In two months, she had filled all the pages of the diary and had to improvise by using ordinary books she could find. Her diary disclosed her faith in a wise father, her grief because she believed her mother does not understand her, the ecstasy of a first kiss exchanged with the Van Daans’ 17-year-old son, and finally, her blossoming personality, eager to face life with adult fortitude and mature consciousness.
Anne scribbled fictitious names on a scrap of paper, intending to use them in the event of publication. She safely kept her journal in her father’s briefcase. On August 4, 1944, their hideout was discovered and raided by Nazi policemen. They demanded gold and jewellery and at last arrested the Jews. They were carried in cattle trucks to Auschwitz – the Nazi death camp in southern Poland. The entire family was separated and Mrs. Frank, Anne, and Margot were herded into the camp’s women’s section, where Mrs. Frank succumbed to fatigue. The Van Daans and the dentist, too, lost their lives.
Anne revealed herself to be a brave leader of her small Auschwitz group. She ventured to the kitchen and asked for food when there was nothing to eat. Margot was continuously reminded by her to not surrender. Later that autumn, she and her sister were deported to Belsen, another concentration camp. A close friend accounted seeing Anne cold and famished, her head shaved, and her skeleton-like frame clothed in the striped attire of the concentration camp. Her body was ravaged by typhoid fever, and she was pitifully feeble. She died a few days after Margot in early March 1945. Both were laid to rest in a mass grave.
In Auschwitz, Otto Frank had managed somehow to stay alive. He was freed early in 1945 by the Russians and in the summer he arrived back in liberated Amsterdam. He was informed of his wife’s demise, however, he hoped for his daughters to return. He met someone who told him that both had perished. It was only then that Miep, his former typist, handed him Anne’s diaries. After weeks of reading her diaries, he started to copy some parts to send to Anne’s grandmother, who had emigrated to Switzerland. Some passages which he felt to be too intimate were left out by him.
After some persuasion, Otto Frank consented to fulfill Anne’s desire to publish her diary. Upon publishing, the diary received a tremendously loving and sensational response. It was a global success.Several persons sent gifts. Japanese girls sent wonderful dolls. A statue of Anne was gifted to him by a Dutch sculptress. Flowers were delivered anonymously on Anne and Margot’s birthdays.
Otto Frank was compelled to close his business due to the flood of letters. His passion, his life’s work, had become the care of his daughter’s diary. All royalties were donated to charitable causes. He personally responded to every letter. There was a play based on her diary in seven German cities, the audience received Anne Frank’s tragedy in a silence heavy with remorse. In Dusseldorf people did not leave even during the interval.
For years, Germany’s post-war rulers worked hard to instil in people a sense of the Nazi regime’s criminality but the Anne Frank Diary triumphed. In West Berlin an Anne Frank Home was opened, devoted to social work for young people. The people of Berlin had chosen her name “to symbolize the spirit of racial and social tolerance.” Elsewhere in Germany an organization was set up, named after her, to combat remaining vestiges of Anti-Semitism. In Vienna, money was collected for Anne Frank forest, to be planted in Israel.
In March 1957, a Hamburg student proposed that flowers be placed on the mass graves in Bergen-Belsen, where Anne Frank had been buried. More than 2000 young people enthusiastically responded to his appeal.
Anne’s brief life is only the commencement of a new era. She carries the message of heroism and tolerance. Even after her death, she continues to live in the hearts of many. Anne Frank was a young woman when her life was tragically brought to an end. Others had decided to annihilate her kind, thus she was murdered. Such a demented and terrible hatred must never grow among people again.