The main characters

Anne Frank

In October 1942, 13-year-old Anne dreamt of a career as a film star in Hollywood. Two years later, her greatest wish was to publish a book about her time in hiding. What development did Anne go through in the Secret Annex?

Annes first years

Anne spent the first four years of her life in Frankfurt am Main (Germany). She was a cheerful and naughty toddler. Housekeeper Kathi later remembered the time when Anne sat down in a puddle of rain and made Kathi tell her a story there.

Anne never really got to know Germany well, though, and would always struggle with the German language, because the family moved to Amsterdam when she was only four years old. 

During the first few years in the Netherlands, Anne suffered from health problems. The family called her 'Zärtlein' [delicate puppet]. In November 1937, mother Edith wrote in a letter to an old neighbour in Frankfurt: ‘Anne stays home from school to sleep in the afternoon, which does her well; she is very cheerful, but sensitive and nervous, too.’ 

The centre of attention

Otto Frank wrote about 'cheerful Anne': ‘As soon as she entered the living room, things would get turbulent, especially since she often took a whole bunch of friends home. She was very popular because she always had plans for games they could play or things they could get up to.’

Anne loved being the centre of attention. Her teacher at the Montessori school in Amsterdam said as much. In the sixth grade, the pupils performed self-written plays. ‘Anne was in her element. Of course she was full of ideas for the scripts, but since she also had no shyness and liked imitating other people, the big part fell to her. She was rather small among her classmates, but when she played the queen or the princess she suddenly seemed a good bit taller than the others.' 


“I’ve often told you that you must raise yourself.”

Favourite subject: history

Anne was a sharp observer of other people. Otto: ‘I remember very well how my wife once took her with her on a visit and when she came home she described exactly how everyone had been dressed, from top to toe.’

When he turned 50, Otto Frank wrote letters to his wife, Margot, and Anne. To Anne, he wrote that things did not go as smoothly with her as with Margot, because Anne often struggled not to say 'Yes, but...’ all the time. Anne thought the letter ‘lovely’ and pasted it in her diary. On the envelope, she glued a picture of her dad. Her father was her idol.

At school, Anne - unlike her sister Margot – was not in the top of her class. According to Otto, she disliked mathematics, but was enthusiastic about history. When Anne had to give a talk about the Roman emperor Nero, she even wanted to go beyond the material covered in her history book. A friend of Otto’s gave Anne books about Nero. Otto: ‘Some time later, I asked about her talk. “Oh," she said, "my classmates had trouble believing what I told them, because it was so different from what they had learned about Nero.” “And the teacher?" I asked. "He was very pleased," she said.’ 

A strong opinion about others

When Anne went to secondary school, she had to take the tram. Margot’s friend Laureen Nussbaum recalled: ‘Anne was always surrounded by other children, boys and girls, and was always the centre of attention.’

Jacqueline van Maarsen was one of Anne’s friends from school. About Anne's outspoken character, she said: ‘Anne could be outspoken in her opinion about others. She was quick to judge and not afraid to voice her views, and I think that's why not everyone liked her. To me, Anne was above all a dear friend. She wanted us to spend time together every day to talk or play or do homework. When she was alone, she was easily bored. I liked to be with her, too, but sometimes I just had other things to do.'

The Benjamin of the Secret Annex

And then, all contact with her friends came to an abrupt end. Anne had to go into hiding with her parents and sister, as the Nazi anti-Jewish measures in the Netherlands made it too dangerous for them to stay in their own home. 

In the Secret Annex, Anne was left to her own resources. She had a hard time being the Benjamin in the Secret Annex, surrounded by adults. Adults who constantly commented on her behaviour, too. ‘If I talk, everyone thinks I am showing off; when I’m silent they think I'm ridiculous; rude if I answer, sly if I get a good idea, lazy if I’m tired, selfish if I eat a mouthful more than I should, stupid, cowardly, crafty, etc., etc. The whole day long I hear nothing else but that I'm an insufferable baby.’

“Though my mother is an example to me in most things she is precisely the example that I do not want to follow.”

Write or suffocate

Anne had the hardest time dealing with her mother Edith. Instead of 'mother' Anne calls her 'Mums': 'the imperfect mother, as it were'. Anne believed that a mother should be tactful, ‘not laugh in my face when I cry about something - not about pain, but about other things - like "Mums" does.’

Otto noticed that Edith and the adolescent Anne did not get along well. ‘Of course, I was worried about my wife and Anne not having a good relationship. However, she truly was an excellent mother, who put her children above all else. She often complained that Anne would oppose everything she did, but she was comforted to know that Anne trusted me.’

For Anne, writing became the means to persevere in the oppressive hiding place. ‘The brightest spot of all is that at least I can write down my thoughts and feelings, otherwise I would be absolutely stifled.’ In addition to the diary, her religion was a source of support as well. 'God has not left me alone and will not leave me alone.’ 

In love with Peter

Anne still wanted to talk to someone her own age. She decided to talk to Peter, the 17-year-old son of the other family in hiding in the Secret Annex. At first, she thought he was dull, but before long, the two grew closer and talked about everything that concerned them: their parents, the hiding place, and even intimate topics, such as sexuality. They fell in love and kissed and cuddled in Peter's room and in the attic.

Anne worried that her parents might not agree and felt that they should inform her father. At first, Otto did not seem to object, but later, he changed his mind and said that he did not want ‘that Knutscherei' (that cuddling). Anne was upset, she felt that her father should trust her. 

Anne's declaration of independence

She went on to write Otto an angry letter, her ‘declaration of independence’. She was convinced that she had become independent on her own - without any support from her parents - and that she did not need anyone. Her father was not to look upon her as a regular 14-year-old, she had grown older because of the unusual situation of living in the Secret Annex. She did not have to answer to anyone and only wrote him the letter, because she did not want to do things in secret. Anne gave her father the choice: he could either trust her and allow her to see Peter, or not trust her and forbid her to do anything. She left the letter in his coat pocket.

Margot told Anne that Otto had been upset all evening. Anne's claim that she had had no support from her parents in particular had hurt him deeply and he told her as much. Anne realised that she had gone too far and regretted her harsh words. ‘It is very good that I have been brought down from my unreachable heights, that my pride is a bit injured, because I was much too taken with myself.’ 

“I know exactly how I would like to be, how I am… on the inside. But unfortunately I’m only like that with myself.”

Two Annes

The cause of the conflict more or less resolved itself: Anne fell out of love. And from 20 May 1944 onwards, her thoughts were dominated by a new desire: after the war, Anne wanted to publish a book about her time in the Secret Annex and become a writer and journalist. 

From May 1944, she worked hard on her book. Her diary formed the basis, but 15-year-old Anne looked critically at the 13-year-old girl she had been at the beginning of the period in hiding. Much was left out or rewritten. Alongside working on the book, Anne still kept her diary.

In her last diary letter - three days before her arrest - she concluded that there were really two Annes inside of her: a superficial, funny Anne and a serious Anne. In the company of others, the superficial Anne was dominant, while she would so much like to show her serious side. It saddened her that she had not succeeded in doing so yet.

Six months

After the arrest, Anne lived for another six months. After the Westerbork and Auschwitz camps, she ended up in Bergen-Belsen. With regard to those final months, we only have the testimonies from others about her. Some said that Anne, Margot, and Edith were always together and that all the quarrels from the Secret Annex were a thing of the past. 

The conditions in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp were horrible. The prisoners were hungry and cold, and many of them fell ill due to the poor hygiene in the camp. Anne became ill as well, with spotted typhus. Anne Frank died in February 1945. She was 15 years old.

References
  1. Anne Frank Stichting [AFS], Anne Frank Collection [AFC]: Edith Frank to Gertrud Naumann, 8 November 1937.
  2. Frank, Otto, "Erinnerungen an Anne" (typescript, 1968).
  3. Schnabel, Ernst, The footsteps of Anne Frank (London etc.: Longmans, Green and Co, 1959), p. 34-35.
  4. Frank, Otto, "Erinnerungen an Anne" (typescript, 1968).
  5. Otto Frank to Anne Frank, 12 May 1939. In: Netherlands State Institute for War Documentation [NIOD], The Diary of Anne Frank: the revised critical edition (New York, NY: Doubleday, 2003), A-version, 28 September 1942.
  6. Frank, Otto, "Erinnerungen an Anne" (typescript, 1968).
  7. "Anderen over Anne: Laureen Nussbaum". In: Anne Frank Krant 2011.
  8. "Anderen over Anne: Jacqueline van Maarsen". In: Anne Frank Krant 2011.
  9. NIOD, The Diary of Anne Frank, B-version, 30 January 1943.
  10. NIOD, The Diary of Anne Frank, A-version, 6 January 1944.
  11. Frank, Otto, "Erinnerunge an Anne" (typescript, 1968).
  12. NIOD, The Diary of Anne Frank, A-version, 16 March 1944.
  13. NIOD, The Diary of Anne Frank, A-version, 31 March 1944.