The year 1995 marked the 50th anniversary not only of the end of World War II, but of Anne Frank's death. Imprisoned in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp after her family was captured hiding in Amsterdam, Anne died just one month before liberation. Today, her diary lives on as a powerful symbol of the importance of human rights.
The Frank family had been in hiding for just over two years when the police raided their "Secret Annex" on August 4, 1944. The Franks and the other four residents of the annex were taken to the Westerbork transit camp, and then to Auschwitz. As Allied forces neared Poland, however, the Nazis transferred many inmates, including Anne and Margot Frank, to Bergen-Belsen, a concentration camp in Germany.
Anne and Margot suffered horribly at Bergen-Belsen. The conditions in the camp — unheated barracks during the winter, inadequate clothing, little food, and no medical attention — resulted in their early deaths. Anne was 15 and Margot 17 when they died. Anne and Margot were two of close to 18,000 inmates who died in Bergen-Belsen in March 1945. At that time, the average population of the camp had reached about 44,000 people, and as the Allies moved closer and closer, more trainloads of prisoners were brought in nearly every day.
In late April 1945, the camp was liberated by the British army. Liberators were horrified by what they saw. Approximately 40,000 inmates remained alive, many of them infected with typhus. Following liberation, 13,000 more prisoners died. After the war, the 27,000 remaining prisoners were repatriated. Unfortunately, after 12 years of Nazi reign, there was little to return to.
In June 1945, after being liberated from Auschwitz, Otto Frank returned to Amsterdam where he was reunited with Jan and Miep Gies, who had hidden the Franks in the "Secret Annex." By that time, Otto knew that his wife had died in Auschwitz, but he was unsure about the fate of his daughters. When he received word of their deaths, Miep Gies, who had kept Anne's diary, gave it to Otto. Published in 1955, the diary has been translated into 55 languages and sold throughout the world.
Copyright Anne Frank Center USA. Reprinted with permission.