The Holocaust is one of the blackest periods in world history. Extraordinary racism and hatred led to millions of needless deaths. Anne Frank was a Jewish girl whose family tried to escape persecution and imprisonment by hiding in secret rooms. Anne kept a diary of her experience in the “Secret Annexe” that shows the difficulties the Franks faced, as well as courage, wisdom, and hope in the face of adversity.
For more information about teaching the Holocaust, see our History of the Holocaust lesson plans.
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Anne Frank is a thirteen year old Jewish girl living in Amsterdam, Holland. Her parents give her a diary for her birthday and she writes all of her thoughts and experiences in letters to her friend, "Kitty."
The Franks live in German occupied Holland during World War II. Anne’s sister, Margot, is called up for deportation by the Schutzstaffel (the S.S.). The Frank family go into hiding in Mr. Frank's old workplace with the help of his coworkers. They are joined by another Jewish family, the Van Daans.
Life in the Secret Annexe is very difficult. There is not much space, very little fresh air, few resources available, and little more to do that cook, clean, read, and sleep. They have very limited supplies, must stay very quiet during the day, cannot go outside, and live in constant fear of discovery. People keep busy by reading, studying, writing, preparing meals, and listening to the radio when it is safe, but boredom is a common problem. Personalities clash in the small space: Anne with her mother, Mr. Van Daan with Mr. Frank, and Mrs. Van Daan with everyone else. It is hard to escape annoyances, and small irritations fester.
Another Jewish runaway, Mr. Dussel, comes to stay with the Franks and the Van Daans. The Secret Annexe is now even more cramped. Anne has to share a room with Mr. Dussel, and she does not always get along with him. The added person makes life that much more difficult in the small space.
Anne becomes depressed and lonely. She struggles with her relationship with her mother and cannot always talk with her sister. As many teenagers do, Anne feels misunderstood and very lonely. Her loneliness is amplified because she is so isolated with only the same few people as company, day in and day out.
Anne and Peter Van Daan start a friendship that develops into more. Both young people are very lonely and find comfort in one another. Anne later comes to realize that she may have allowed things to progress too much with Peter, and sees that he loves her more than she loves him. Still, their connection is important to Anne because it gives her much needed comfort in an impossibly difficult time.
The warehouse below the Secret Annexe is broken into. Police come to investigate and nearly find the entrance to their hiding place. Because they cannot use the water due to noise, the occupants of the Secret Annexe need to use a wastepaper basket as a chamber pot. Everyone has to stay still and quiet for a long time to avoid being found.
Anne and the rest of those in hiding hear news from friends and the radio about the Gestapo making arrests and taking many people away in the occupied countries. Those arrested are sent to various camps in Germany, and are rarely heard from again. The “vegetable man” down the street, who provided produce to them, is arrested for hiding two Jews. The Secret Annexe receives even less food than before.
Anne’s diary ends abruptly after a philosophical entry about Anne’s inner and outer character. Their hiding place is discovered! The Gestapo come to the Secret Annexe and take the Franks, the Van Daans, and Mr. Drussel away. We learn from the Afterword that Mr. Frank was the only person of the Secret Annexe to survive. The journals and notebooks in Anne’s handwriting were later published as Het Achterhuis (The Secret Annexe).