“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
There’s no denying that the Holocaust was one of the worst moments in modern history. Roughly six million European Jews were murdered before the end of World War II, and young Anne Frank was one of them. Only 15 years old when she died, she wrote a diary while in hiding, before her capture. Her incredible story, both brave and sad, lives on today through her diary. Here’s 48 facts about Anne Frank.
48. In the Beginning
Born in 1929, Anne Frank grew up in Frankfurt, Germany. Her parents, Otto and Edith, decided to leave Germany for The Netherlands with Anne and her older sister Margot once Adolf Hitler began to gain momentum, and because of the declining economy. Like most Jewish citizens, the Franks were facing antisemitism with Hitler’s growing popularity. Otto had even been a lieutenant for the German army during World War I.
47. Just a Normal Family
Prior to the move, the family were liberal Jews, and didn’t follow all of the Jewish traditions or customs. Their neighborhood was a mix of religions, Jews and non-Jews alike.
46. Where They Lived
When Anne was born, her family rented two floors of a house, then moved two years later to another area, whose name translates to “Poets’ Quarter.” Both of these houses are still standing to this day.
45. New Schools
Anne and Margot went to separate schools once the family moved to The Netherlands. Anne, not quite five years old yet, attended Amsterdam’s Sixth Montessori School and had friends from a variety of backgrounds and religions, while Margot attended public school.
44. A Writer From the Start
A friend of Anne’s from her time in The Netherlands said that Anne would write a lot, but would hide her work and not tell anyone what she was writing about. It goes without saying at this point, but Anne was shown to have an incredible ability for both reading and writing. Her father even had a library, and he and their mother encouraged both their daughters to read often.
43. Forced to Stay Where They Were
The Franks tried leaving Europe for the U.S. or even England, but it would be to no avail. The family would still be in The Netherlands when World War II broke out on September 1, 1939, and were still there when Germany invaded the country the following May. Roughly 300,000 Jews fled Germany in the six years leading up to the war.
42. New Rules
Anne and Margot would be forced to go to Jewish schools and their father would lose his business, as strict rules were placed on the Jewish community. They, along with other Jews, had to wear the yellow Star of David all the time and were forced to be under curfews.
41. Contingency Plans
Otto and Edith would try to leave The Netherlands for the U.S. once more, but were denied again. Otto, along with his Jewish business partner and associates, created a hiding place from the German soldiers behind his firm. The family would officially go into hiding on July 6, 1942 – the day after Anne’s sister is told she must report to a German work camp. Just a week later, Otto’s business partner and his family would join the Franks, and four months later an eighth person, a dentist, also joined them.
40. Change of Plans
Otto and Edith had originally intended for the family to go into hiding on July 16, 1942, but after the letter to Margot, they moved quickly. Aided by Otto’s associates at the firm, Anne, her family, and the four others lived in secret for two whole years. The entrance to their secret quarters would be concealed behind a bookshelf.
39. Keep Them Safe, Friend
Before the family went into hiding, Anne gave her neighbor and friend the family’s cat, a tea set, a book and a tin of marbles for safe keeping. She had been afraid of what would happen to the items, and the beloved cat, if they fell into the wrong hands.
38. Gift of the Diary, Part One
On her birthday, and just prior to going into hiding, Anne was gifted with a diary. She would write about everything, from her time in hiding, to short stories and favorite quotations from other writers. On the day she received the diary, she wrote, “I hope you will be a great source of comfort and support.” Another entry dated March 16, 1944 says, “the nicest part is being able to write down all my thoughts and feelings, otherwise I’d absolutely suffocate.”
37. The Diary
The diary itself was covered in white and red checkered cloth and had a small lock. Anne would write most of her entries to an imaginary friend, Kitty, and originally talked about the segregation and discrimination her family faced. She had seen the diary, originally an autograph book, in a store window while out with her father.
36. Throw Them From the Trail
Anne’s family left their apartment a mess, to make it look like they had left quickly in hopes that no one would suspect a thing. Otto had even written a note making it look like they were going to Switzerland.
35. It Was Never Easy
In her diary, Anne wrote about how difficult it was to live life in hiding. She and the seven others had to stay quiet and never venture outside the hiding place, so as to not tip off the workers in the warehouse below the annex. As a result, there would often be a lot of tension within the group.
34. The Darkness of the Ordeal
Anne’s diary often reflected her feelings and emotions, some notably darker than others. “I’ve reached the point where I hardly care whether I live or die,” she wrote in an entry in February, 1944. But just two months later, she admitted “when I write, I can shake off all my cares.”
33. Discovering Love
A young Anne had a small romance with the teenage son of Otto’s business partner, who was one of the eight in hiding. She would have her first kiss with Peter van Pels, but she would question her feelings for him. She didn’t know if they were true, or if it was only because they weren’t allowed to leave the Secret Annex, and there was no other option at hand.
32. Sister, Sister
Anne and Margot also became closer as time went on at the Secret Annex. Anne wrote, “Margot’s much nicer,” in her entry on January 12, 1944. “She’s not nearly so catty these days and is becoming a real friend. She no longer thinks of me as a little baby who doesn’t count.”
31. The Secret Annex
Anne would start to rewrite her diary when she heard that the Dutch minister of education, who was exiled in London, was asking for people to keep diaries of the war. Anne would call hers The Secret Annex, but sadly, she would never finish it. All eight people in hiding would be found and arrested before she could.
30. How They Helped
Before the Secret Annex was exposed, the aides for the eight people hiding there would provide war information and any updates on the political front. They also supplied food, which would become more and more difficult as time passed. They even tried to help keep morale high, all the while knowing that they could potentially be killed for helping Jews.
29. The Fateful Blow – Their Discovery
Anne, her family, her father’s business partner, his family and the dentist were all discovered and arrested on August 4, 1944. Two of the people helping to keep them safe would also be arrested. To this day, no one knows how they were discovered, though a number of theories abound.
28. Begging for Mercy
Just three days later, one of Otto’s associates who had been helping to keep them safe tried to plead with the man who led the raid on the Secret Annex, even offering money for their safe release. It would be to no avail, and the eight would remain prisoners.
27. Where They Went From There
All would be transferred to Auschwitz, after first going through Westerbork transit camp. Of the two associates who had helped them hide, one would escape, while the other was released. Meanwhile, two more of the aides that had also helped in keeping the families safe and in hiding would find Anne’s diary and other papers that were left behind, and would keep them for Anne in the hopes that she would return.
At Auschwitz, Anne, Margot and their mother would be separated from Otto because of the gender split at the camp. The sisters and their mother stayed at a barrack together, but faced hard labor—they were forced to haul heavy stones and grass mats. Because they had been in hiding, they were considered criminals, so the hard labor was their punishment.
25. Who is Spared, and Who is Not
Anne would be one of the youngest members of her transport that was spared from the gas chambers. From the 1,049 others that were moved with the Frank family and their fellow four friends who were in hiding, 549 were sent straight into the gas chambers. Any child under 15 years old would be among those sent to the chambers. Anne had even assumed her father was killed during this process.
24. Losing Her Identity
The degradation began as soon as they arrived at Auschwitz. Like the others, Anne was forced to strip naked, had her head shaved and was tattooed with a number on her arm. All of this so that she was disinfected and easily identifiable by her number.
23. Sickness at Auschwitz
Anne was able to obtain extra bread while at Auschwitz, sharing it with her mother and sister. She would later be infected by scabies, and both her and Margot were moved to an infirmary. There, it was always dark, and was infested with mice and rats. Their mother stopped eating, instead giving her rations to her daughters so that they would live.
22. A Different Fate
Because of the scabies, a scheduled transfer to a different labor camp for Anne was canceled. Margot and Edith would stay behind with her. Later the same month, the sisters would be among 8,000 transferred to Bergen-Belsen. Their mother was not chosen, and sadly, died from starvation.
21. Typhus Overwhelms Them
Most of the prisoners at Bergen-Belsen were Dutch. Shamefully, there was no food and conditions were so unsanitary that the sisters both contracted typhus. In early 1945, just weeks before this camp was liberated, both girls died. Some 17,000 other prisoners also died because of the typhus epidemic.
20. Determining the Fatal Date
There’s a bit of a discrepancy when it comes to the exact date when Anne and Margot died, however. The Red Cross had originally estimated their deaths to have taken place in March 1945, and authorities in Holland set the date as March 31, but research conducted in 2015 by the Anne Frank House has determined that it occurred earlier, in February.
19. The Fate of Bergen-Belsen
After the liberation of prisoners from Bergen-Belsen, the entire camp was burned, so as to stop any potential spread of disease. Both Anne and Margot were buried in an unknown location, in a mass grave.
18. Sole Survivor
Of the eight people that had been in hiding in the Secret Annex, only Otto Frank survives and returns home. He would learn early after his release that his wife did not survive, and soon after that, that both Anne and Margot also didn’t survive. He would stay with two of his associates for seven years following his return to The Netherlands.
17. Gift of the Diary, Part 2
After hearing of his daughters’ deaths, Otto received Anne’s diary from one of his associates. Otto’s friends convinced him that he should have his daughter’s diary published – and he followed through. 3,000 copies of The Secret Annex were released on June 25, 1947.
16. Rediscovering His Daughter
“I began to read slowly, only a few pages each day,” Otto once said. “More would have been impossible, as I was overwhelmed by painful memories. For me, it was a revelation. There, was revealed a completely different Anne to the child that I had lost. I had no idea of the depths of her thoughts and feelings.”
15. A Parent’s Love
Otto admitted after the Holocaust and World War II were over that he got along better with Anne over Margot, and that Margot was closer to her mother. “The reason for that may have been that Margot rarely showed her feelings and didn’t need as much support because she didn’t suffer from mood swings as much as Anne did,” he once said.
14. Relationship With Her Mother
Anne had a strenuous relationship with her mother, as can be seen from accounts of it in her diary. But later, when Anne was revising her entries, she came to the realization that she had been hard on her mother and started treating her with more respect. She had come to understand that her actions and words had only added more stress to her mother’s suffering in those dark days in hiding.
13. Legacy of the Diary
Anne’s diary would be published in many more editions, additional languages, translated to a play and put on film. She had expressed her interest in becoming a journalist or a writer in the future, and though that would come to be, her words and thoughts and hopes and dreams still live on through her diary.
12. From One Strong Woman to Another
After reading Anne’s diary, former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt called it “remarkable,” going on to say, “written by a young girl—and the young are not afraid of telling the truth—it is one of the wisest and most moving commentaries on war and its impact on human beings that I have ever read.”
11. High Praise
US President John F. Kennedy also had high praise for Anne, during a speech in 1961: “Of all the multitudes who throughout history have spoken for human dignity in times of great suffering and loss, no voice is more compelling than that of Anne Frank.”
10. Mandela’s Feelings
Nelson Mandela had said that he read her diary while in prison, and that he “derived much encouragement from it.” In 1994, he received a humanitarian award from the Anne Frank Foundation.
9. Keeping Anne’s Story in the Forefront
Otto carried on his telling his daughter’s story and emphasizing the importance of her words until his death in 1980, answering thousands of letters from people touched by his family’s story and helping with the Anne Frank House, which became a museum in 1960.
8. Keeping a Part of History Alive
The Anne Frank House, with the Secret Annex hidden inside, was set to be destroyed when the war ended. A group of people banded together and fought for the building to be saved, and started the foundation for the House. It is now one of the top three most visited museums in Amsterdam.
7. See for Yourself
While at the Anne Frank House, visitors can see personal items from the eight who lived in hiding there, including movie star photographs that Anne had put up. They even offer travelling exhibitions, which has gone to more than 30 countries across the world.
6. Planting the Seeds for the Future
The Sapling Project was initiated by the Anne Frank Center USA in 2009. The aim was to plant saplings in Anne’s honor. The saplings came from a 170-year-old chestnut tree that she had written about in her diary, and were planted at 11 separate sites across the country.
5. A Time Honor
Time magazine named Anne amongst its Most Important People of the Century in 1999. The writer, Roger Rosenblatt, said “she was an extraordinarily good writer, for any age, and the quality of her work seemed a direct result of a ruthlessly honest disposition.”
4. The Legacy of the Diary
Since its initial release, The Secret Annex, or The Diary of Anne Frank, has been printed almost 20 million times in more than 50 languages. A play based on the diary received both a Tony Award and a Pulitzer Prize following its debut on stage in October, 1955.
3. Imagining More for Herself
On April 5th, 1944, Anne Frank wrote something profound in her diary, but had no idea that she was in fact predicting the future.
Her words were, “I need to have something besides a husband and children to devote myself to!” she wrote on April 5, 1944. “I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I’ve never met. I want to go on living after my death!” There’s no doubt that she has lived on, long after her untimely death. Anne had wanted so much more for herself, never imagining her terrible fate. There was no way she could have known just how far-reaching and true that wish would become.
2. Everlasting Words
Just weeks before Anne, her family and their friends would be captured, arrested and sent to Auschwitz, she expressed hope for the world. “I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty too shall end, that peace and tranquility will return once more.”
Anne Frank’s father edited sensitive information out of her diary because there were things he didn’t want the world to know. One of them was her exploration of her sexuality. The other was that Anne was critical of her mother.
They, along with other deleted passages, would be included in the 1950 German edition, and the 1952 English edition.