“The Fifth Army has taken Rome” – Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl, 5 June 1944

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.

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On 5 June, 1944 – one week before her birthday on 12 June – Anne writes in her diary (which she calls Kitty):

“Dearest Kitty,

“…The Fifth Army has taken Rome. The city neither destroyed nor bombed. Great propaganda for Hitler.”

Despite her chagrin at great publicity for Hitler because the city was in tact, the liberation of Rome was a turning point in the war – less than a year later Germany would surrender to the Allies. You can see footage of the Liberation of Rome on YouTube.

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General Sir Harold Alexander, commanding 15th Army Group, talks to American and British officers in Anzio, Italy, on 14 February 1944 (Image: Sgt Menzies, Wikipedia)

‘D’ Company, 1st Battalion, Green Howards, part of 15th Brigade of British 5th Division, occupy a captured German communications trench during the breakout at Anzio, Italy, 22 May 1944, before the push to liberate Rome. (Image: Wikipedia)

Meanwhile In Amsterdam, Anne continues to write in her diary that day:

“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 Annex hidden in the attic above Prinsengracht, including a quarrel over the “division of butter”. There is also a dispute over baking a spice cake for the birthday of one of their helpers, Victor Kugler, when the Annex residents are unable to have one for themselves.

“All very petty. Mood upstairs bad.”

 

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Entry of Allied Troops into Rome, 5 June 1944 (Image Creative Commons Licence, Wikipedia)

It is hard to imagine how those in hiding like Anne Frank and her family survived years living in such confined spaces, terrified of discovery and utterly dependent on others –  fearful of running out of carefully saved money to buy supplies; and of being discovered and handed over to the Nazis,  as happened to the Franks.

The day after the Liberation of Rome, on 6 June, 1944 – and less than one week before her birthday on 12 June – the Normandy landings (D-Day) took place. 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.”

The Franks and their friends in hiding kept a map charting the progress of the Allied troops, convinced the war would soon be over and life would return to normal. Anne was looking forward to returning to school in September 1944. Tragically, on 4 August 1944, just two months after this diary entry, the Franks and their friends were discovered in the Annex at 263 Prinsengracht and were sent to Auschwitz. Out of the eight people hiding in the Annex, only Anne’s father, Otto Frank, survived.

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The Liberation of Rome brought hope to those in hiding – in Rome, the Nazis had also rounded up more than 2,000 residents of the Jewish Quarter, out of whom more than 1,000 were sent to Auschwitz. Rome had become an important base for the Nazis, so losing the city to the Allied troops was a huge blow.

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You can see more footage of the Liberation of Rome on 5 June 1944 on YouTube.

There is also in Rome Museo storico della Liberazione – Roma – a museum documenting the liberation of the city, located in an apartment building at Via Tasso 145, Rome, near the basilica of St. John Lateran.

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The happy face of the Jewish Quarter in Rome!

 

Images A. Meredith except where stated

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