Anne Frank was born on June 12, 1929, in Frankfurt am Main, where she spent the first years of her life. After the National Socialists took power in 1933 and their anti-Semitic laws and regulations made it increasingly difficult for Jews to lead a normal life, the Franks, who were Jewish, left Germany and fled to Amsterdam via Aachen in 1934.
The Frank family was at first safe in Amsterdam, but in May 1940 the German Wehrmacht invaded the Netherlands and, under German occupation, the country began passing anti-Jewish legislation. Writing in Dutch in a diary she received on her thirteenth birthday in June 1942, Anne Frank described the effect of these laws on everyday life:
"First the war, then the capitulation, followed by the arrival of the Germans, which is when the sufferings of us Jews really began. Anti-Jewish decrees followed each other in quick succession. Jews must wear a yellow star, Jews must hand in their bicycles, Jews are banned from trams and are forbidden to drive, Jews are only allowed to do their shopping between three and five o'clock and then only in shops which bear the placard 'Jewish Shop'. Jews must be indoors by eight o’clock and cannot even sit in their own gardens after that hour. Jews are forbidden to visit theatres, cinemas, and other places of entertainment. Jews may not take part in public sports. Swimming baths, tennis courts, hockey fields, and other sports grounds are all prohibited to them. Jews may not visit Christians. Jews must go to Jewish schools, and many more restrictions of a similar kind. So we could not do this and were forbidden to do that. But life went on in spite of it all." (Anne Frank, June 20, 1942)
In response to these developments, Anne Frank's father, Otto Frank, began preparing a hiding place for the family. When Anne's older sister, Margot, was ordered to report for deportation to a labor camp in July 1942, the Frank family immediately went into hiding. They were joined one week later by the three members of the van Pels family and in November 1942 by Fritz Pfeffer. Their new home was an inconspicuous rear building in Amsterdam, accessible only by a secret door.
The eight occupants could not leave their hiding place and depended on Dutch friends for food and supplies. In this difficult situation, Anne Frank confided many details to her diary, in which she wrote to an imaginary pen pal named Kitty about life in the hiding place, the cramped quarters, the boredom and arguments, as well as the great fear of being discovered.
Despite all the occupants' precautions, their hiding place was reported to the authorities and they were arrested on August 4, 1944. They were interrogated, taken to the Westerbork transit camp and deported from there to Auschwitz in September 1944. Anne's mother, Edith Frank, died of hunger and exhaustion in Auschwitz in January 1945. By this time Anne and her sister, Margot, had been moved to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where both sisters died of typhoid fever in the spring of 1945. Anne's father, Otto Frank, was the only family member to survive the Holocaust.
After the war, Otto Frank lived in Amsterdam for a few years and then settled near Basel, Switzerland, where he died in 1980. He devoted himself to publishing and disseminating Anne’s diary, which has been translated into fifty-five languages and has made Anne Frank one of the best-known Holocaust victims.