As everyone probably knows by now, Anne Frank was a young Jewish girl who spent 25 months cooped up in an annex behind her father’s factory building in Amsterdam, hiding from the Nazis during World War II. She died during a typhus epidemic at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, less than a year after the hiding place was discovered; her body was unceremoniously thrown into a mass grave, along with the bodies of 35,000 others who had died in only two months during the epidemic.
If Anne Frank had survived World War II, she would probably have been the first author to become a billionaire, instead of J.K. Rowling, the woman who wrote the Harry Potter books.
Anne Frank was born on June 12, 1928 and for her 13th birthday in 1942, she received a small diary with a red, white and beige plaid cover. She began writing in this small diary even before her family went into hiding on July 6, 1942.
In July 1942, Anne’s sister, Margot, had received a letter from the Zentralstelle für jüdische Auswanderung (Central Office for Jewish Emigration), ordering her to report to a work camp. The next day, the Frank family moved into the annex. Margot Frank was 16 at the time and no one in her wealthy family had ever done manual labor.
I am writing today about what happened to Anne Frank after her family was betrayed by some unknown person, who told the police where the family was hiding.
On August 4, 1944, an SS officer named Karl Silberbauer, accompanied by several Dutch policemen, raided the annex. The number of Dutch policemen varies from 3 to 8, depending on who is telling the story. Silberbauer was an officer in the Sicherheitsdienst or the SD. This was the German Security Service. The Dutch officers were Nazi collaborators who were also members of the SD.
At the time of the arrest, the police officers thoroughly ransacked the annex and confiscated all the valuables. Anne’s papers had been stored in her father’s briefcase, which the policemen dumped out onto the floor so that they could use the briefcase to carry away more valuable things that they had found.
After the police left, the papers remained scattered on the floor; the police officers apparently didn’t realize that the diary and all the notebooks and loose sheets of paper might contain incriminating information about who had helped the Franks while they were in hiding, or even the names of other Jews in hiding.
Miep Gies, who was mentioned in Anne’s Diary as one of the people who helped them, did not read any of Anne’s writings, after she and another helper named Bep retrieved the diary. If she had, she might have destroyed Anne’s writings because both she and Bep would have been arrested if the diary had fallen into the hands of the police. Margot Frank had also written a diary, but it was apparently never found.
The eight people who had been hiding in the annex were arrested, along with two of their helpers, Jo Kleiman and Victor Kugler. All of them were taken to the SD headquarters in a school building on Euterpestraat in Amsterdam; and on that same day, Kleiman and Kugler were taken to a prison in Amstelveenseweg.
Anne and the others spent a night or two in ordinary jail cells before they were taken, on a passenger train, to the Westerbork transit camp.
Anne was a prisoner at Westerbork less than two months. The 8 people who had gone into hiding were all held in the punishment section at Westerbork and they had to do demeaning work, like taking apart old batteries.
Karl Silberbauer, the officer who came to arrest the Franks, noticed that Otto Frank had an Iron Cross medal that he had received in World War I. Silberbauer asked Otto why he had gone into hiding. Jewish veterans of World War I were initially exempt from being sent to a concentration camp, and were later sent to the Theresienstadt ghetto. In other words, Otto Frank would have been one of the “prominent” Jews because of his status as a veteran and a holder of the Iron Cross, and as a prominent Jew, he could have stayed at Theresienstadt throughout the war.
In retrospect, it seems that it was a mistake for the Frank family to go into hiding. But what could they do? Anyone who listened to the BBC knew that the Nazis were gassing the Jews.
Only three months after they had gone into hiding, Anne wrote in her diary on October 9, 1942, regarding the gassing of the Jews:
“The English radio says they’re being gassed. I feel terribly upset.”
The following quotation, which proves that the gassing of the Jews was well known, even at this early date, is from a footnote in The Diary of Anne Frank, the Critical Edition:
In June 1942 the British press and the BBC began to refer to the gassings in Poland. Thus the 6 p.m. news on the BBC Home Service on July 9, 1942, included the following item: “Jews are regularly killed by machinegun fire, hand grenades – and even poisoned by gas.” (BBC Written Archives Center, Reading)
When Anne wrote on October 9, 1942 in the original diary (the one that she had received for her birthday in June 1942), she did not mention the gassing of the Jews. The entry on that date mentions only that Miep had told her that Jews were being “dragged from house after house in South Amsterdam.” Anne’s original entries are called version A in the Critical Edition. The first quotation above is from version B, which is the diary as rewritten by Anne between May 20 1944 and August 4, 1944, and published in the Critical Edition in 1986.
Version C in the Critical Edition is the diary as edited by Otto Frank who chose entries from both version A and version B, publishing it as “Het Achterhuis” in 1947. In 1952, version C was published by Doubleday & Co. in America under the title “Anne Frank: the Diary of a Young Girl.”
As published in The Critical Edition, the following is Anne’s entry for October 9, 1942 in version B, the rewrite, which is also used as the entry for that date in version C, which was published in 1947 by Otto Frank:
“If it is as bad as this in Holland, whatever will it be like in the distant and barbarous regions they are sent to. We assume that most of them are murdered. The English radio speaks of them being gassed; perhaps that is the quickest way to die. I feel terribly upset.”
According to information given to visitors at the Anne Frank House, Anne heard on the English radio on March 28, 1944 that after the war there would be a collection of diaries published and this was what prompted her to rewrite her diary. During the period from May 20, 1944 until her arrest on August 4, 1944, Anne rewrote all the entries in her original diary up to and including her original entry for March 29, 1944, the day before she began writing with publication in mind. According to Anne’s own words, her goal was to convert her diary into “a novel about the Secret Annex.”
On May 11, 1944, Anne wrote in her diary, regarding her ambition to become a famous writer:
“You’ve known for a long time that my greatest wish is to become a journalist some day and later on a famous writer. Whether these leanings towards greatness (or insanity) will ever materialize remains to be seen, but I certainly have the subjects in my mind. In any case, I want to publish a book entitled Het Achterhuis after the war. Whether I shall succeed or not, I cannot say, but my diary will be a great help.”
Otto Frank took some entries from each version which Anne had written and combined them into the final version, which he published in June 1947 under the title that Anne had chosen: Het Achterhuis (The House Behind). One of the 1,500 copies that were printed in the first edition of the diary is on display at the museum at the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam.
Otto Frank used his own judgment in editing his daughter’s writing: he left out a few pages, added a few words here and there and changed a few sentences. He also made corrections in grammar and punctuation with the help of others whom he consulted.
All three versions of the diary can now be read simultaneously in The Diary of Anne Frank, the Critical Edition, which was prepared by the Netherlands State Institute for War Documentation and copyrighted in 1986. This is a huge volume, weighing about 10 pounds, which contains diary entries that Otto Frank left out of the original version because they contained embarrassing sexual references. The book also contains the results of an extensive handwriting analysis which established once and for all that the diary is genuine, and not a fake as some neo-Nazis and revisionists have claimed.
In a documentary movie, which is shown at the Anne Frank House, Otto Frank says that he was amazed by the depth of Anne’s emotions when he read her diary because she had never talked about her feelings. He also didn’t know, until he read it in Anne’s diary, that his daughter Margot was also keeping a diary while the family was in hiding.
There is a documentary film clip, show at the Anne Frank House, in which Anne’s childhood friend, Hanneli Goslar, talks about being in the Star Camp section of Bergen-Belsen right next to another section of the camp where Anne and her sister were imprisoned. In the film, Hanneli tells about throwing a Red Cross package over the fence to Anne. Since prisoners in the Star Camp received preferential treatment, Hanneli Goslar was able to survive. Hanneli said that Anne was too disheartened to hold on until the liberation of Bergen-Belsen because she mistakenly believed that her beloved father was dead. Otto Frank was 55 years old, a year older than Hermann van Pels, when they arrived together at Auschwitz, but for some reason, her father had not been selected for the gas chamber, as Anne had assumed.
According to the book by Melissa Müller entitled “Anne Frank, the biography,” Peter van Pels, Otto Frank, Dr. Fritz Pfeffer and Hermann van Pels were all assigned to work in the main camp at Auschwitz. Peter was given a job in the camp post office and the other three were assigned to manual labor.
The following quote is from Müller’s book:
By November 1944, Otto too, had reached the limit of his endurance. Already weakened by hard work and hunger, he was beaten by his kapo. After that, he no longer had the will to get up. What happened to him next he described in a letter of July 1945 to his mother: through the intersession of a Dutch doctor he was admitted to the hospital and remained there until the camp was liberated by the Russians on January 27.
After the war when Otto Frank had finally made his way home from Poland, arriving in Amsterdam on June 3, 1945, he went to the home of Miep and Jan Gies, where he stayed as their guest for the next 7 years. Otto knew that his wife had died of tuberculosis in Auschwitz on January 6, 1945, but he didn’t yet know that both of his daughters were among the 35,000 prisoners who had died of typhus in Bergen-Belsen during the months of February and March 1945. Two months later, after it had been determined that Anne had not survived, Miep Gies turned over to him all of Anne’s writings which she and Bep had found on the floor in the annex after the police left.
Anne began writing in her original small diary on June 12, 1942 before the family went into hiding. She continued to write in it until December 5, 1942, but left some pages blank, which she then went back and filled in during 1943 and 1944.
Anne’s second diary is a school exercise book in which she wrote from December 22, 1943 until it was filled up on April 17, 1944. Also on display is an 8 and 1/2 by 14 inch accounting ledger in which Anne wrote “Tales and Events from the House Behind.” These stories were published in a slender volume called “Tales from the Secret Annex” by Doubleday and Co. in New York in 1983. According to the book, the longest of the stories is a tale from World War I that Otto Frank had told his daughter. Otto Frank incorporated four of the “events” from the account ledger, which describe life in the annex, into the diary which he published in 1947.
The third and last of Anne’s diaries is another school exercise book, in which she began writing on April 17, 1944. The last entry in this diary was on August 1, 1944, three days before Anne and the others in the annex were arrested by the Grüne Polizei (Green Police). When Anne began rewriting her original diary she used loose sheets of paper which Bep brought up to her from the office. There were around 300 of these loose sheets of paper. One of these pages is on display; the paper appears to be a sheet of 5 by 7 inch stationery, the kind of paper that was typically used in those years to write personal letters, although Bep later referred to the paper as “copy paper.”
There is a photograph of Hermann van Pels on display in the exhibits at the Anne Frank House and the text accompanying it says that he died in the gas chamber at Auschwitz in either September or October 1944. Mr. van Pels was the youngest of the three adult men in the annex; he was born in 1890 and was a year younger than both Otto Frank and Dr. Fritz Pfeffer. The exact date of his death is apparently unknown. Some sources say that he was gassed immediately upon arrival.
In her book entitled “Anne Frank, a biography,” Melissa Müller wrote the following:
Peter seems to have worked in the camp post office and he held up well. His father, however, like Otto Frank and Fritz Pfeffer, was assigned an outdoor job. When Hermann injured his finger, probably in early October, he gave up and asked his kapo to assign him to a barracks detail the next day, even though he must have known how dangerous that was for anyone who, like himself, was injured or in ill health. And indeed on that very day, the SS made a clean sweep of the barracks. Selection. Hermann van Pels fell victim to this arbitrary system.
In a book published by the Anne Frank Stichting in Amsterdam in 1966, entitled “Anne Frank, A History for Today” there is the following quotation from Otto Frank regarding the selection of Hermann van Pels for the gas chamber:
And I’ll never forget the time in Auschwitz when seventeen-year-old Peter van Pels and I saw a group of selected men. Among those men was Peter’s father. The men marched away. Two hours later a truck came by loaded with their clothing.
There were around 140,000 Dutch Jews that were deported to Auschwitz and other camps and few of them survived. In addition, there were around 20,000 stateless German Jews like the Franks, who had escaped to the Netherlands, but had not become Dutch citizens. In the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam, there is a display which says that “103,000 Dutch Jews died in the Nazi extermination camps.” (The US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC gives 107,000 as the total number of Dutch Jews who died in the camps.)
Around 25,000 of the Dutch Jews went into hiding and approximately 17,000 of them were able to hide from the Nazis until the end of the war. Approximately 20,000 Dutch Jews survived the concentration camps, including around 2,000 in the Star Camp in Bergen-Belsen. Several of Anne’s childhood friends were at Bergen-Belsen, including some who were in the Star Camp. It was named that because the Jews in this camp were allowed to wear their own clothes with a gold star sewn on, instead of the usual striped prison uniforms. The prisoners in the Star camp were waiting to be sent to Palestine in exchange for the release of German prisoners held by the Allies.
On display at the Anne Frank house, when I visited in 2001, was a certificate from the Chamber of Commerce which officially registered the name of Jo Kleiman as the director of one of Otto Frank’s companies. This was done to prevent the Nazis from taking the business away from Mr. Frank because Jews were forbidden to own a business during the German occupation of the Netherlands.
Jo Kleiman had formerly been in the banking business with Otto Frank and his brother Herbert in the Michael Frank Bank in Frankfurt. Herbert Frank had the controlling interest in the bank which had formerly belonged to his father, Michael Frank.
According to a book by Carol Ann Lee, entitled “The Hidden Life of Otto Frank,” Herbert Frank was arrested in April 1932 for breaking the 1931 Regulation Governing the Trade in Securities with Foreign Countries Act. The Michael Frank Bank closed in March 1933, shortly after Hitler became the Chancellor of Germany. Herbert Frank was put on trial for fraud, and Otto Frank represented him in court because his brother refused to attend the trial, claiming “material and mental injury.”
In August 1933, Otto Frank took a train to Amsterdam, telling his family that he was leaving Germany forever because Hitler and the Nazis had taken over. His wife, Edith, and their two daughters stayed in Frankfurt until December 1933, and then joined Otto in Amsterdam.
Also on display at the Anne Frank house is the call-up notice which Margot received on July 5, 1942, requesting her to report for work on July 15, 1942. It shows a list of all the things that Margot was required to bring with her for her trip to a labor camp in Germany. The Franks had been preparing the annex as a hiding place for months, storing food in the attic, and moving in furniture. When Margot received notice that she had to go to work, this was what made the Frank family decide to go into hiding immediately.
Many of the 160,000 Jews in the Netherlands in World War II were refugees, who had escaped from Germany after Hitler and the Nazis came to power in 1933. Westerbork was originally a refugee camp for German Jews who were regarded as illegal immigrants in the Netherlands after they escaped over the border from Nazi Germany before the war.
There is a short movie clip in the exhibit at the Anne Frank House which shows a train filled with Dutch Jews leaving the transit camp at Westerbork, bound for the death camp at Auschwitz. The film shows Jewish men wearing suits and hats as they board the freight cars. Inexplicably, the men are smiling and the soldier who closes the door of the car is also smiling.
On September 3, 1944, all of the 8 people, who had been hiding in the annex, were loaded onto a freight train and taken on the last transport of Dutch Jews to Auschwitz, where they arrived on the night of September 5th and 6th.
Some of the prisoners at Westerbork were sent to Bergen-Belsen or Theresienstadt, instead of the death camp at Auschwitz. Bergen-Belsen had been originally set up as an Aufenthaltslager or a transit camp for Jews who were waiting to be sent to Palestine in exchange for German citizens being held in internment camps by the Allies. Since the wealthy Amsterdam Jews were good candidates for exchange, they received better treatment at Bergen-Belsen than the Jews in the other concentration camps.
Ironically, if the Frank family had not gone into hiding, they might have been sent to the Star Camp at Bergen-Belsen because Otto Frank was a business man who would have been a suitable candidate for exchange.
At the Anne Frank House, Anne is listed in the book of names of Dutch Jews under her full name, Anneliese, which was spelled Annelies in Dutch. The book says Annelies and Margot both died on March 31, 1945. This date was assigned to them by the International Red Cross, although witnesses who were at Bergen-Belsen said that Margot died first and that Anne died some time before the end of March. Bergen-Belsen, the camp where Anne died of typhus, was voluntarily turned over to the British Army on April 15, 1945.
On display at the Anne Frank House is a board game which Peter van Pels had received for his birthday. It was a game like Monopoly, except that the game consisted of buying stock in the Stock Market. Anne wrote about this in her diary on November 9 and 10, 1942:
“Yesterday was Peter’s birthday. At eight o’clock I went upstairs and looked at the presents with Peter. He received e.g. a board game, a razor and a lighter.”
Peter van Pels died at Mauthausen on May 5, the day that the camp was liberated by American troops. If he had lived, he might have been a billionaire after making a fortune in the stock market.
According to the exhibits at the Anne Frank House, the 8 people in the annex were taken on the 83rd and last transport of Jews from Westerbork to Auschwitz. There were 1019 people on this train: 498 men, 442 women, and 79 children. Of these people, 549 were gassed immediately upon arrival, including all the children under 15 years of age, according to the museum brochure. Anne barely made the cut, since she had just turned 15, only three months before.
According to Melissa Müller’s book, Otto Frank was among only 45 men and 82 women on the September 3, 1944 transport of 1,019 prisoners to Auschwitz who survived to the end of the war.
Auschwitz was liberated by the army of the Soviet Union on January 27, 1945. The 7,650 prisoners who had stayed behind were kept in the camp for a few weeks until they were released and had to find their own way back home.
Otto began his journey home on March 5, 1945 and on the way he met a woman acquaintance, Elfriede Geiringer-Markovits, who was a survivor of Auschwitz. Her daughter, who also survived Auschwitz, had been a schoolmate of Anne Frank. Otto and Elfriede met again in Amsterdam and eventually married in November 1953. Otto continued his business at 263 Prinsengracht until he retired in 1955 and moved with his new wife to Switzerland.