|Anne Frank with the first page of her diary, June 14, 1942|
During the first week of June, 1942, Anne Frank and her dad, Otto Frank, were walking down the street in Amsterdam on their way home. They were passing a shop when Anne abruptly stopped and began pulling on her father's hand. "Oh Poppa, please, come and look at this?"
Her dad, his arm suddenly outstretched so as not to lose the grip on his daughter's hand, said, "What is it, Anne? What must I come and see?"
Anne's face was now pressed up against the glass and her forefinger was pointing down at something behind the glass. "Look Poppa, look at that book. It is so beautiful. I have never seen such a beautiful book."
Otto Frank was a bit confused. The only book in the window was a a small notebook with a red and white checkered cover. It had a small gold hasp with a lock and key. "I only see that notebook with the red and white cover. You don't mean that book do you?"
"Yes Poppa, that one. I think it is so beautiful. I will save my money and one day I will buy that book."
Otto put his arm around Anne's shoulder and said, "Well now, that would be a fine thing to do. But for now we must get home. It is getting close to curfew."
They continued walking and within ten minutes had reached their building on Merwedeplein Square. They had lived there since 1934 when Otto, a successful business man, had hurriedly moved his family from Frankfurt, Germany to Amsterdam in the Netherlands. The Nazis had come to power and immediately the anti-Semitism and hatred toward the Jews was apparent. Otto was afraid. His fears were more than justified so he sent his wife, Edith, and his daughters, Margot, age 8, and Anne, age 5, to Aachen to stay with Edith's mom. By February of 1934, Otto had managed to resettle the entire Frank family in Amsterdam. He had done the best he could to evade the persecution he knew was coming.
In May of 1940, Germany invaded the Netherlands. Having already conquered Belgium, Luxembourg and France it took the Nazis only four days to defeat the country. When the Luftwaffe destroyed the beautiful city of Rotterdam it was over. Hitler now also "owned" the Netherlands. He also was the new master of the newly conquered people.
The new government immediately issued new restrictive and disciplinary laws against the Jews. Mandatory registration as Jews and segregation followed. Margot and Anne were transferred from their schools into a Jewish school called the Jewish Lyceum. From that point on it was deepening degradation and intensified abuse against the Jewish people in the Netherlands. But nothing would ruin June 12, 1942. That was Anne's thirteenth birthday. And when she opened the neatly wrapped gift from her mother and father she began to cry. It was the little book from the shop window she had seen the previous week. She hugged her Momma and Poppa and they all had some cake and sang "alles Gute zum Geburtstag" (Happy Birthday). After, Anne sat near the window looking at the street below and wondered what was going to happen to all of them. Her birthday gift was clasped firmly in her hands.
In the beginning of July, 1942, Margot Frank received her notice from the Central Office for Jewish Emigration to report for relocation to a work camp. Her father knew what that meant and immediately moved his family into hidden rooms he had secretly been preparing above the premises of a work shop. Avoiding the German authorities would be no easy task.
The Franks manged to avoid detection until August 4, 1944. That was when an "anonymous" Nazi sympathizer turned the family in. The family was captured along with the Van Pels family who the Franks had taken in and Fritz Pfeffer, a dentist and a friend of Ottos. They were all sent to concentration camps.
Anne Frank's original diaries are included in three surviving copies. The red and white checkered book had its first entry placed in it by Anne on June 14, 1942. The last one in that book was December 5, 1942. The volumes end on August 1, 1944. Anne did not write, "Dear Diary" as she made her entries. Rather, she addressed her notes to "Kitty". No one is quite sure why she did that.
Anne Frank died in early March of 1945 at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp of Typhus. She was 15 years old. She wrote about her life while under the German occupation until the Nazis arrested them in 1944. The Diary of a Young Girl (Anne Frank) has sold millions of copies and allowed generations of people to get an insight into the horrors of Nazi Germany and how its evil empire destroyed so many innocents. Today Anne Frank would have been 83. Happy Birthday Anne. Your very short life was a gift to us all.