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excerpt

"The World Must Know: The History Of The Holocaust As Told In The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum" by Michael Berenbaum, 1993

Anne Frank is the most famous child to die in the Holocaust. Yet her fate was no different from that of tens of thousands of other Jewish children in Western Europe.
Anne was born in Germany on 12 June, 1929. Her parents fled to Amsterdam soon after Hitler came to power. When the Nazis invaded Amsterdam in 1940, Anne's childhood ended a month shy of her twelfth birthday. She had to stop going to school and was forced to wear the yellow star. Her father was no long allowed to own his business.
On 5 June, 1942, Anne's older sister Margot received a summons to report for forced labour. The Frank family immediately went into hiding at a vacant annex of Otto Frank's office, where they were joined by Fritz Pfeffer (whose anxiety and sense of isolation were recorded by Anne in her diary) and the van Pels family (called the van Damms in the diary). The van Pel's son, Peter, two years Anne's senior, is a majour figure in the diary, their tentative adolescent friendship and romance painstakingly chronicled and analyzed by Anne. For two years, the eight people hid in a tiny attic. Their only contacts with the outside world were daily visits from one of the four Dutch people who brought them food and supplies.
Anne was given the diary by her father on her thirteenth birthday, just when the family went into hiding. In her first entry she wrote: "I hope I will be able to confide in you completely, and I hope that you will be a great support and comfort to me." She called the diary Kitty. Anne understood what would happen if the attic were discovered. On 9 October, 1942, she wrote:
Our many Jewish friends are being taken away by the dozen. These people are treated by the Gestapo without a shread of decency, being loaded into cattle trucks and sent to Westerbork .... It is impossible to escape; most of the people in the camp are branded as inmates by their shaven heads .... If it is as bad as this in Holland, whatever will it be like in the distant and barbarous regions they are sent to? We assume that most of them are murdered. The English radio speaks of their being gassed.
Anne knew she was born to be a writer. On 11 May, 1944, she wrote: "I want to publish a book entitled 'Het Achterhuis' after the war. Whether I shall succeed or not, I cannot say, but my diary will be a great help.
Like all adolescents, Anne wrestled with the conflict between her ideals and the real world around her, although the real world she knew was framed by terror. On 15 July, 1944, just after she turned fifteen, she wrote:
That's the difficulty in these times: ideals, dreams, and cherished hopes rise within us, only to meet the horrible truth and be shattered. It's really a wonder I haven't dropped all my ideals because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet, I keep them, because in spite of everything, I believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can't build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death.
By September, Anne was in Auschwitz. Hope died at Auschwitz; so too innocence.
On 4 August, 1944, the Security Service received an anonymous call informing them of the hiding place. During the arrest that followed, Anne's diary was thrown on the floor of the attic. It was found and saved by Miep Gies, a Dutch woman who had helped the Franks. Anne and her family were taken to the Westerbork transport camp. From there they were sent to Auschwitz on 3 September, part of the last transport to leave the camp.
All new arrivals at Auschwitz were "selected" for work or death according to their physical appearance. Hermann van Pels, Peter's father, was sent to the gas chamber. Anne, Margot, and their mother, Edith, were sent to the women's camp as workers. Edith died at Auschwitz early in January 1945. Anne and Margot were sent on death marches to Bergen-Belsen, where they died of typhus in March, only four weeks before the liberation of the camp. Peter left Auschwitz on a death march and arrived in Mauthausen in weakened condition. He died shortly before the camp's liberation in May.
Of the eight who lived in the attic, only Otto Frank survived. His daughter's diary was returned to him after the war. Anne survives through the diary. "The Diary Of Anne Frank" has been printed in hundreds of editions in dozens of languages and has sold more than twenty million copies. The diary was made into a play that ran on Broadway and has been performed tens of thousands of times by professional, amateur, and school groups. It was also made into a successful movie seen by millions of people throughout the world.
What accounts for the power of the "Diary"? Anne captivates us with her wit and her sensibility. It is easy to identify with the teenager whose life, even in hiding, epitomizes the struggle of adolescents everywhere as they grow to adulthood. One moment Anne is in despair, the next she is filled with hope. She can also laugh at herself and see her parents for what they are, even as she rebels. Her dreams, her fears, and her doubts are universal. On this level alone, the "Diary" stands as a marvelous example of the literary genre known as "Bildungsroman" -- a story of growing up.
But because we know that Anne did not survive, that this life of enormous potential was snuffed out in the Holocaust, the "Diary" has a poignancy that is at once unbearable and transfiguring. Through this attractive young woman the Holocaust is made real: Anne Frank has become for our time the emblem of lost possibility.