Anne Frank receives a diary for her thirteenth birthday in June 1942. The following month she and her family go into hiding in the secret annex behind her father's business in Amsterdam to escape the Nazi roundup of Jews. An unusually perceptive writer, Anne records events in the annex over the course of the next two years.
Eventually, the Franks (Otto, Edith, and daughters Margot and Anne) are joined by the van Daans (Hermann, Petronella, and their teenage son Peter) and by Mr. Dussel, a middle-aged bachelor. Together, the eight Jews experience the stresses of air raids, food shortages, lack of privacy, break-ins, and the perpetual fear of being discovered,
But there are joys too: birthday parties, games, weekly baths, radio broadcasts, contact with sympathetic outsiders, and in due course the encouraging news that Allied troops have landed in France and are advancing against the Germans.
Through it all, Anne observes her little world with a sensitive and lively intelligence. She falls in love, falls out of love, plays childish pranks, and displays remarkable maturity. Then one day she finds her life's vocation — if only she can live long enough to fulfill it.
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Warning: Contains significant plot spoilers
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In July 1942, the Frank family hastens their plan to go into hiding when Margot, the elder daughter, is suddenly ordered to report to a Nazi labor camp. Trying to attract as little attention as possible, Otto Frank, his wife, Edith, and younger daughter, Anne, make their way through the streets of Amsterdam to join Margot in the secret annex behind Otto's business. As Jews trying to evade Hitler's Holocaust, they will wait out World War II here, if they can.
Aiding the Franks and serving as their link to the outside world are four loyal employees of Otto's firm: Miep Gies, Johannes Kleiman, Victor Kugler, and Bep Voskuijl.
Coincidentally, Anne has recently been given a diary for her thirteenth birthday. In it she records her hopes, fears, and remarkable observations of her family's day-to-day struggle. A week after the Franks move into the annex, Anne is pleased to report that they are being joined by another Jewish family. But living with the quarrelsome Hermann and Petronella van Daan, and their painfully shy teenage son Peter is more of an ordeal than she anticipated.
Also, Anne is having typical adolescent difficulties with her mother and older sister. Only her father and Miep, the office worker who brings news and provisions, seem to be her friends.
After four months, they are joined by one last refugee: Albert Dussel, a dentist who is assigned to be Anne's roommate. The humorless bachelor and upstart teen are a serious mismatch, especially because Mr. Dussel snores, does calisthenics in the room, and insists that he has a greater right to the desk than a young girl scribbling in her diary. On the other hand, he also does free dental work, a benefit that is not welcomed by everyone.
The ordinary details of life take on an epic quality as the residents of the annex time their every move to keep from attracting attention to their presence (in a set of rooms entered behind a bookcase). Even so, they are able to hold parties, listen to war news on the radio, and even take Saturday baths when the rest of the building is empty.
As the months go by, Anne develops a romantic attraction to Peter, who becomes her true love until she discovers an even more pressing commitment: her vocation as a writer. A radio broadcast discussing the importance of war diaries and letters inspires her to throw herself into her diary with more passion than ever as a prelude to her planned career as a journalist.
With the landing of Allied troops in France in June, 1944, the morale in the annex rises. Rescue seems only a few weeks or at most a few months away. In July the Franks and van Daans pass the two-year mark as fugitives. Amid the air raids, severe food shortage, and other extreme privations, they still find hope — especially Anne.
But in early August the annex is raided by security police, who have been tipped off that someone is secretly living in the building. The arresting officer is impressed that eight Jews have lasted so long without detection in the center of Amsterdam. However, their time is up, and they are perfunctorily led off to eventual imprisonment in the camps of the Holocaust, where all except Otto will perish.
After they are gone, a grief-stricken Miep enters the annex and finds Anne's diaries. In their search for valuables, the police have dumped them on the floor as unworthy of interest.