On March 29, 1944, 14-year-old Anne Frank tuned in to a radio broadcast that would change her life — and the lives of millions of readers around the world. Speaking on the BBC, Gerrit Bolkestein, a member of the Dutch government in exile, urged citizens living under the Nazis to preserve ordinary documents — including letters and diaries — so that future generations would fully understand the horrors they had endured during the war. Bolkestein's remarks inspired Anne Frank to dream of publishing the diary she had been keeping for nearly two years. She began transforming what she had formerly thought of as an intensely private journal into a memoir intended for publication.
Born in Frankfurt on June 12, 1929, Annelies Marie Frank immigrated to Amsterdam in 1934, the year after Hitler came to power in Germany and persecutions of Jews intensified. Anne settled in Amsterdam with her father Otto, a businessman who had served in the German army during World War I; her mother Edith; and her older sister Margot. Conditions for Anne and her family deteriorated dramatically after Germany invaded Holland in 1940: Public schools were closed to Jews, and in 1941 Anne transferred to a Jewish high school.
The Nazis ordered Anne's sister Margot to report to a "forced labor" camp in July 1942, prompting the Franks to go into hiding in a maze of rooms above Otto Frank's office. The family shared the space with Otto's business partner Hermann van Pels, his wife Auguste, and their son Peter, along with a dentist named Fritz Pfeffer. (Anne gave these companions pseudonyms when she revised the diary for publication.) The residents of this secret annex were concealed and cared for by several non-Jewish helpers, including Miep Gies, a secretary at Otto Frank's company who died in 2010 at the age of 100.
Anne documented her 25 months in hiding in a red-and-white-checkered autograph book she had received for her 13th birthday (and, later, in a series of other notebooks). In letters addressed to her imaginary friend Kitty, Anne wrote about daily life in the annex, recounting her hopes, dreams, feuds and frustrations, along with her reflections on human nature and her yearning for freedom.
Acting on an anonymous tip, the Nazis stormed the secret annex on August 4, 1944, and arrested the eight Jews who had lived there for more than two years. Anne was sent to Auschwitz and, from there, to the extermination camp at Bergen-Belsen, where she died of typhus in March 1945 at the age of 15. Anne and her sister Margot were among the more than one million Jewish children who died during the Holocaust.
Miep Gies discovered Anne's diary in the annex and kept it, unread, in a desk drawer before returning it in 1945 to Otto Frank, the only member of Anne's immediate family to survive the war. Following rejections by numerous publishers, the diary was published in Holland in 1947 and in the U.S. in 1952. A stage version opened on Broadway in 1955 and won the Pulitzer Prize; a Hollywood film adaptation, released in 1959, won three Academy Awards.
In the introduction to the first American edition of the book, Eleanor Roosevelt described Anne Frank's diary as "one of the wisest and most moving commentaries on war and its impact on human beings that I have ever read." Translated into more than seventy languages, with more than 40 million copies in print, Anne Frank's Diary of a Young Girl has become one of the most widely read works of nonfiction in the world.