In 1944 the whole world was waiting for the Allied Forces to push forward across Europe to defeat the Nazis. One of those waiting whose life was in jeopardy should the Allied assault fail was Anne Frank, a 15-year-old German girl whose family had fled to Amsterdam and who had been forced to go into hiding in the attic of her father’s offices on Prinsengracht in Amsterdam.
On 5 June 1944 – one week before her birthday on 12 June – Anne writes in her diary, (which she calls Kitty):
…The Fifth Army has taken Rome. The city neither destroyed nor bombed. Great propaganda for Hitler.
Very few potatoes and vegetables. One loaf of bread was mouldy…
Bad weather. Continuous bombing of Pas de Calais and the west coast of France.
No one buying dollars. Gold even less interesting. The bottom of our black money-box is in sight. What are we going to live on next month?
Yours, Anne M. Frank
Anne also writes of the ongoing friction between the residents of the Annexe hidden in the attic above Prinsengracht, including a quarrel over the “division of butter”. There is also a dispute over baking a cake for the birthday of one of their helpers, Victor Kugler, when the Annexe residents are unable to have one themselves.
All very petty. Mood upstairs bad.
It is hard to imagine how families survived years living in such confined spaces, terrified of discovery, utterly dependent on others – and fearful of running out of carefully saved money to buy supplies.
Anne Frank’s D-Day
On 6 June 1944 – Anne writes in her diary:
My dearest Kitty,
‘This is D-Day,’ the BBC announced at twelve. ‘This is the day.’ The invasion has begun!
This morning the British reported heavy bombing of Calais, Boulogne, Le Havre and Cherbourg, as well as Pas de Calais (as usual). Further, as a precautionary measure for those in the occupied territories, everyone living within a zone of twenty miles from the coast was warned to prepare for bombardments. Where possible, the British will drop pamphlets an hour ahead of time.
According to the German news, British paratroopers have landed on the coast of France. ‘British landing craft are engaged in combat with German naval units,’ according to the BBC.
Conclusion reached by the Annexe while breakfasting at nine: this is a trial landing, like the one two years ago in Dieppe.
BBC Broadcast in German, Dutch, French and other languages at ten: the invasion has begun! So this is the ‘real’ invasion. BBC broadcast in German at eleven: speech by Supreme Commander Dwight Eisenhower.
BBC broadcast in English: ‘This is D-Day.’ General Eisenhower said to the French people: ‘Stiff fighting will come now, but after this the victory. The year 1944 is the year of complete victory. Good luck!’
It is no surprise that Anne had ambitions to be a journalist – as well as an actress and writer of fiction.
She goes on to file reports in her diary during the morning of 6 June 1944, before revealing how news of the D-Day invasion affects the people hiding in the Annexe, where they have been for nearly two years.
D-Day in the Annexe
A huge commotion in the Annexe! Is this really yet beginning of the long-awaited liberation? The liberation we’ve all talked so much about, which still seems too good to be true? Will this year, 1944, bring us victory? We don’t know yet. But where there’s hope, there’s life. It fills us with fresh courage and makes us strong again. We’ll need to be brave to endure the many fears and hardships and the suffering yet to come. It’s now a matter of remaining calm and steadfast, of gritting our teeth and keeping a stiff upper lip! France, Russia, Italy, and even Germany, can cry out in agony, but we don’t yet have that right!
The most poignant comment of the day relates to her own hopes and feelings – these words were written exactly two months before the inhabitants of the Annexe were arrested by the Nazis, who received a tip off that Jews were hiding in the attic and raided it on the morning of 4 August 1944.
Oh, Kitty, the best part about the invasion is that I have the feeling that friends are on the way.
Anne was even hoping that she might go back to school that September or October – instead, she found herself in Westerbork transit camp.
Anne was nearly 16 when she died in April 1945 in Bergen-Belsen, after falling ill with typhus and having witnessed the recent death of her 19-year-old sister Margot.
At barely 16 years’ old, others, too, were fighting for survival, many were fighting for freedom against occupying forces – and some were resistance fighters.
Anne’s first boyfriend, Peter Schiff, three years her elder, also went into hiding after refusing to join a labour camp and is known to have died in Auschwitz some time in May 1945 at the age of 18. Her dreams of this Peter – as well as Peter van Pels, who lived in the Annexe with his family – were a great comfort to her. Peter Schiff was the love of her young life and she hoped one day they would meet again and she would marry him. Sadly Peter Schiff remained a dream that sometimes sustained her during her lonely days in the Annexe.
Anne Frank Huis, Amsterdam, Image by Ahmet Burak Çanakcı
You can read more about the the inhabitants of the Annexe, the people who helped them and Anne’s diary at the Anne Frank House website.
The family occupied the top floor of the building in an Annexe at the rear of the house, but on Saturdays when the offices were not occupied, Anne and her sister Margot sometimes came downstairs. The families lived in terrible fear that a door would be left unlocked or they would be detected, however, and spent two years in the cramped Annexe before they were arrested by the Nazis.
She celebrated her last birthday at the Annexe on 12 June 1944 – and although there is no diary entry on that day, on 13 June she writes:
Tuesday, 13 June 1944
Another birthday has gone by, so I’m now fifteen…
The invasion is still going splendidly, in spite of the miserable weather – pouring rains, strong winds and high seas.
Yesterday Churchill, Smuts, Eisenhower and Arnold visited the French villages that the British have captured and liberated. Churchill was on a torpedo boat that shelled the French coast. Like many men, he doesn’t seem to know what fear is – an enviable trait!
It is a full diary entry that day – from politics in Holland to realising she and Peter van Pels are not in love after all, and predicting that in the century ahead, women will not be expected to focus solely on childbirth and will be respected in the same way men are.
The commentary on the invasion continues throughout the rest of the diary – which ends suddenly with a final entry on Tuesday, 1 August 1944.
The inhabitants of the Annexe are becoming more and more convinced that by October 1944, the Allied Forces will have triumphed – her father Otto Frank (known as Pim) is predicting liberation by 10 October.
Her final diary entry focuses on her own internal confusion and what she sees as a split personality and her own exasperation at how her “purer, deeper and finer” self is forever “ambushed” by the not-so-serious side of her personality.
Poignantly, her final comment in the diary is:
…I get cross, then sad, and finally end up turning my heart inside out, the bad part on the outside and the good part on the inside, and keep trying to find a way to become what I’d like to be and what I could be if…if only there were no other people in the world.
You can hear the carillon bell that Anne Frank loved on YouTube.
27 June 1944
My dearest Kitty,
The mood has changed, everything’s going enormously well. Cherbourg, Vitebsk and Zhlobin fell today…
How far do you think we shall be on 27 July?
Yours, Anne M Frank