Early Years in Germany
Although Anne Frank was born in Germany in 1929, her parents Otto and Edith knew they had to leave their country when Adolf Hitler came to power. Hitler and the Nazi party found a scapegoat for Germany’s economic problems—the Jews. Since the Franks were Jewish, Otto hoped his family could escape Germany’s oppressive Jewish laws by moving to the Netherlands when Anne was four.
The Move to Amsterdam
When the family settled in, they sent the children Anne and Margot to school. Anne’s parents knew that traditional schooling would not work for her stubborn, free-spirited personality. Instead, they sent her to a Montessori school in Amsterdam where she started kindergarten. Students often chose what they wanted to do for the day, like reading or drawing. Anne talked freely in class, often asking questions of her teachers. Even when a lesson that Anne didn’t enjoy was taught, teachers went out of their way to make learning fun. For example, if the teacher asked what two times two was and the students didn’t know, they hopped around the rows of desks, counting as they went.
Anne and Her Family
Anne’s friends always enjoyed coming over to the Frank house. Mrs. Frank made delicious food, and Mr. Frank loved to play with the children. In an era when fathers left most of the childrearing to their wives, Otto stood out. He made up stories and songs for Anne and Margot, and though he worked hard he always made time for them. He and Anne had a close relationship. Her bubbling personality kept his mind off his adult worries about money and what Hitler might do if he invaded Holland. Edith and Anne’s relationship became strained because she wanted Anne to be more like her older sister, Margot, who had a gentle temperament and did what she was told. Ironically, Anne’s future best friend had a personality similar to Margot’s.
Best Friends–Anne and Jackie
In 1940, Hitler invaded the Netherlands. Among other restrictions, Jewish children could only attend schools with Jewish students and teachers. On Anne’s first day at the Jewish school, she met a girl named Jacqueline van Maarsen. After school, they rode their bikes to the Frank’s house at Anne’s insistence. Jacqueline later wrote, “from that day on we were inseparable…after a few days, Anne firmly declared that I was her best friend and she mine.”
Though Anne never had trouble making friends, she wanted one that she could truly confide in, and she found what she wanted in Jackie. They read books together, pretending to be the heroines they admired. Anne wrote in her diary, “Recently I met Jacqueline van Maarsen at the Jewish Lyceum. We hang out together all the time and she’s my best friend now.” Because of the German occupation, the two friends could only hang out at each other’s homes or at certain Jewish owned businesses. They spent a lot of time on Anne’s porch gossiping and having sleepovers at each other’s homes, though they also visited an ice cream shop after school, where Anne liked to flirt with boys.
Going into Hiding
When Anne’s sister Margot got a summons to report to a labor camp, the Franks knew they had to hide. They had already heard stories of Jewish young people disappearing after they left for the German camps. It was time for the family to go into hiding. Neither Anne nor Margot knew for sure where they were going so they couldn’t tell friends about their hiding place. For years Jackie believed Anne immigrated to Switzerland. Later she discovered that the Franks tried unsuccessfully to hide out in a section of Anne’s father’s office.
For more information about Anne Frank's family, including photos, visit: