When Adolf Hitler and the Nazis came to power in Germany, he created a lot of strict laws that were unfair to Jewish people. Some of these restrictions were:
- Not allowed outside after 8pm
- Couldn’t ride on public trams
- Couldn’t own a business
- Jewish children could only attend special schools
So, when Hitler started fighting with other countries in Europe so he could claim more land for Germany, these strict laws came along too. Lots of people who the Nazis didn’t like, especially anyone who was Jewish, were suddenly in a lot of danger.
If the Nazis arrested someone, they could be taken to a concentration camp where they were made to work very hard. Conditions were terrible, and people weren’t given enough to eat or warm clothes to wear. Concentration camps were kept secret from the Allied troops, and some didn’t know about them until they found them towards the end of World War II. They freed the people who were kept there and gave them food and medicine.
Over 11 million civilians died in Europe while the Adolf Hitler and the Nazis were in charge. Today, we call this the Holocaust.
Lots of what we know about what happened during the Holocaust is from people who survived it, and from things people wrote about it. One source is a diary written by Anne Frank, who was born in Germany. Anne and her family were Jewish, so when things started getting difficult for them in Germany after Hitler came to power they moved to the Netherlands. Lots of Jews left Germany around the same time, for the same reasons. But, during World War II Hitler invaded the Netherlands, and Anne’s family were in danger again.
Things got really scary when Anne’s older sister got a letter saying she had to go to a concentration camp. So, Anne’s family went into hiding, at a place that Anne’s dad had prepared in case something like that happened. The rooms they lived in with four other people could only be accessed through a door hidden behind a bookcase. They couldn’t go outside and there wasn’t much space for everyone, but they were safe. A few friends helped them out by making sure they had enough food. Anne wrote about all of this in her diary.
But, after two years, Nazi soldiers found these secret rooms and arrested Anne, her family and the others living there. They were taken to concentration camps, and sadly, Anne, her mum and her sister died while there. Anne’s dad survived. When Allied soldiers found a concentration camp they would free the prisoners and try to help them get better.
A friend of Anne’s dad who had helped them when they were hiding found Anne’s diary, and gave it to her dad. Her dad decided to publish it so everyone would know about Anne and what the family had gone through.
Every year on 27 January, we mark Holocaust Memorial Day. On this day in 1945, Allied soldiers freed prisoners at a concentration camp called Auschwitz. It’s really hard to read about they terrible things that happened to people during the Holocaust, but it’s important for us to understand what can happen when we are prejudiced against other people because of what they look like, the way they live or what they believe. Remembering the Holocaust will help us to prevent something like that ever happening again.
Anne FrankBiography >> World War II
- Occupation: Writer
- Born: June 12, 1929 in Frankfurt, Germany
- Died: March 1945 at age 15 in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, Nazi Germany
- Best known for: Writing a diary while hiding from the Nazis during World War II
Born in Germany
Anne Frank was born in Frankfurt, Germany on June 12, 1929. Her father, Otto Frank, was a businessman while her mother, Edith, stayed home taking care of Anne and her older sister Margot.
Anne was an outgoing and spirited child. She got into more trouble than her quiet and serious older sister. Anne was like her father who liked to tell the girls stories and play games with them, while Margot was more like her shy mother.
Growing up Anne had lots of friends. Her family was Jewish and followed some of the Jewish holidays and customs. Anne liked to read and dreamed of being a writer someday.
Anne Frank School Photo
Source: Anne Frank Museum
Hitler Becomes Leader
In 1933 Adolf Hitler became the leader of Germany. He was the leader of the Nazi political party. Hitler did not like Jewish people. He blamed them for many of Germany's problems. Many Jewish people began to flee from Germany.
Moving to the Netherlands
Otto Frank decided his family should leave, too. In 1934 they moved to the city of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. Anne was only four years old. Before long Anne had made new friends, was speaking Dutch, and was going to school in a new country. Anne and her family felt safe once again.
Anne Frank's family moved from Germany to the Netherlands
Map of the Netherlands
from the CIA, The World Factbook, 2004
World War II Begins
In 1939 Germany invaded Poland and World War II had begun. Germany had already taken over Austria and Czechoslovakia. Would they invade the Netherlands, too? Otto considered moving again, but decided to stay.
On May 10, 1940 Germany invaded the Netherlands. The Franks did not have time to escape. Jews had to register with the Germans. They weren't allowed to own businesses, have jobs, go to the movies, or even sit on the benches at the park! Otto Frank turned his business over to some non-Jewish friends.
In the midst of all this, the Franks tried to go on as normal. Anne had her thirteenth birthday. One of her presents was a red journal where Anne would write down her experiences. It is from this journal that we know about Anne's story today.
Going Into Hiding
Things continued to get worse. The Germans began to require all Jewish people to wear yellow stars on their clothing. Some Jews were rounded up and taken to concentration camps. Then one day the order came that Margot would have to go to a labor camp. Otto was not going to let that happen. He and Edith had been preparing a place for the family to hide. The girls were told to pack up what they could. They had to wear all their clothes in layers because a suitcase would look too suspicious. Then they went to their hiding place.
A Secret Hideout
Otto had prepared a secret hideout next to his place of work. The door was hidden behind some bookshelves. The hideout was small. The first floor had a bathroom and a small kitchen. The second floor had two rooms, one for Anne and Margot and one for her parents. There was also an attic where they stored food and where Anne would sometimes go to be alone.
Anne named her diary "Kitty" after a friend of hers. Each entry into her diary began "Dear Kitty". Anne wrote about all sorts of things. She didn't think others would be reading it. She wrote about her feelings, books she read, and the people around her. From Anne's diary we find out just what it must have been like to live in hiding for years, fearing for her life.
Life in Hiding
The Franks had to be careful not be caught by the Germans. They covered all the windows with thick curtains. During the day they had to be extra quiet. They whispered when they talked and went barefoot so they could walk softly. At night, when the people working in the business below went home, they could relax a bit, but they still had to be very careful.
Soon more people moved in with the Franks. They needed a place to hide, too. The Van Pels family joined just a week later. They had a 15 year old boy named Peter. This was three more people in that cramped space. Then Mr. Pfeffer moved in. He ended up rooming with Anne and Margot moved to her parent's room.
Anne and her family had been hiding for nearly two years. They had heard that the war was coming to an end. It looked like the Germans were going to lose. They were starting to have hope that they would soon be free.
However, on August 4, 1944 the Germans stormed into the Frank's hideout. They took everyone captive and sent them to concentration camps. The men and women were separated. Eventually the girls were separated and sent to a camp. Both Anne and her sister died of the disease Typhus in March of 1945, only a month before Allied soldiers arrived at the camp.
After the War
The only family member to survive the camps was Anne's father Otto Frank. He returned to Amsterdam and found Anne's diary. Her diary was published in 1947 under the name The Secret Annex. Later it was renamed Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl. It became a popular book read throughout the world.
Interesting Facts about Anne Frank
- Anne and Margot called their father by his nickname "Pim".
- You can go here to read more about the Holocaust that caused the death of over 6 million Jewish people during World War II.
- Anne's diary was published in over sixty-five different languages.
- You can visit the Frank's hideaway, the Secret Annex, in Amsterdam today.
- One of Anne's hobbies was to collect photos and postcards of movie stars.
Take a ten question quiz about this page.
More women leaders:
Biography >> World War II