Anne Frank sits at a desk, holding a pen and writing in her journal. She looks at the camera.
Anne Frank, 12 years old, sitting at her desk at the Montessori school in Amsterdam, 1940. Anne Frank Guide © Anne Frank Stitching.

Anne Frank was born into a Jewish family on the 12th June 1929 in Frankfurt, Germany. She is one of the most recognized faces on the planet and her diary, written during World War Two, is probably the most read diary of all time. 

Anne and her family fled Germany in 1942 to escape the Nazi’s persecution of the Jews. They moved to Amsterdam to start a new life but shortly after they settled, Nazi’s began targeting Amsterdam’s Jewish communities. The family went into hiding in a secret annex, the entrance of which was concealed behind a large, moveable bookcase. Anne started keeping a diary on her 13th birthday; documenting her life in the annex and feelings of detachment and sadness. In one entry she writes “The nicest part is being able to write down all my thoughts and feelings, otherwise I’d absolutely suffocate”; a sentiment that feels particularly poignant whilst we are living through a global pandemic. When Anne heard a telegraph asking for people to keep war diaries, she decided to start writing a novel called The Secret Annex, which she hoped to publish after the War. Anne never got to finish her book. 

On 4th August 1944, everyone in the annexe was captured and separated. Anne, her mother and sister Margot were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Prisoners were forced into hard labour during the days and slept in overcrowded compounds at night. As the Russian Army started to advance on the camps, the Nazi’s decided to send ‘healthy’ prisoners back to Germany. Margot and Anne were chosen and taken away – this was the last time they would see their mother. 

The sisters were crammed onto freight trains with thousands of other women and transported to another concentration camp. The dire conditions worsened during the winter of 1944-45 as food ran out, overcrowding increased and diseases such as Typhus spread. The Frank sisters caught the disease and just weeks before the camp was liberated by the Russians, Anne and Margot died. Anne Frank was just 15 years old. This fact always gets to me because it reminds me of how many innocent lives were lost and how much potential was wasted. 

The Secret Annexe was saved by Miep Gies, who had helped hide the family years before, and given to her father Otto, the only member of the family to survive. He published the diary as per Anne’s wishes on the 25thJune 1947 and it has since sold over 25 million copies worldwide. 10 years later, The Anne Frank House opened at Prinsengracht 263, Amsterdam – the building where Anne and her family hid for over two years. Photographs, videos and personal artefacts tell Anne’s inspiring and tragic life story.As a millennial living in the UK, I cannot even begin to imagine how conflicts like WW2 devastate lives. Despite seeing news coverage and reading articles, many of us are selfishly able to detach ourselves from the tragedies of the past and those currently happening in countries such as Syria, Afghanistan and Yemen. Millions of young people lost their lives in World War Two and Anne’s diary gives us a glimpse into what life was like for a Jewish child living through the Second World War. I doubt 13-year-old Anne had any idea how influential or significant her writings would be, but her voice has impacted stories and lives for decades. And for the voice of a young Jewish girl to have such power around the world is pretty monumental.

– Emily Clarke, Junior Girl

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