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About the Author

Anne Frank was born into a Jewish family in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, on June 12, 1929. When she was four years old, the Nazis came to power, and her family fled to Holland. In May 1940, the Nazis arrived in Amsterdam, forcing the Frank family into hiding.

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Overview

Although written in Europe nearly a half-century ago, Anne Frank has remained immensely popular throughout the world. Anne lives in extraordinary circumstances, but many of her feelings, frustrations, and ideas are those of ordinary teen-agers. Thus, the reader is able to identify with her while learning about a unique and terrible historical event. Anne maintains a sense of humor and optimism throughout her ordeal. A powerful testimony to her courage, Anne’s diary is both sobering and inspiring.

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Setting

Anne Frank’s diary begins on Sunday, June 14, 1942, during World War II. At this time, thirteen-year-old Anne and her family live in Amsterdam, where she attends the Montessori School. As the Nazis march into Holland, they force Jews to wear identifying badges displaying the Star of David. Shortly thereafter, the Jews begin receiving “call up notices” and are sent to concentration camps. When Margot, Anne’s sister, is told to report to S.S. Headquarters, her father realizes that the family must hide and arranges for them to stay at the “Secret Annexe” of the warehouse on Princengracht street.

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Themes and Characters

Mr. and Mrs. Frank and their teen-age daughters Anne and Margot, Mr. and Mrs. Van Daan and their teen-age son Peter, and Mr. Dussel all share the cramped space of the attic refuge. Other important characters are the Dutch-Elli, Miep, Mr. Kraler, and Mr. Koophuis-who risk their own lives to hide the Jews and bring them food.

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Literary Qualities

Anne records her personal actions and feelings in warm, simple conversational language. Her images are vivid; her writing is sincere. She addresses Kitty, the diary, as a human being as she uncovers her true self. Anne describes characters’ daily trials and tribulations in such detail that the reader gets to know all of them intimately. These details, combined with Anne’s unaffected style, make all the more realistic a story that has captured the hearts of people throughout the world.

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Social Sensitivity

The primary social issue addressed in Anne Frank is obviously the persecution of Jews. A familiarity with the history of anti-Semitism may help the reader to better understand the events of the book. Not a new practice, anti-Semitism can be traced back to biblical times and has taken various forms throughout the history of modern man. In the Middle Ages, Jews were forced to wear “Star of David” badges to distinguish them from the rest of society. Designed to humiliate, the badge was referred to as the “Badge of Shame.” Similarly, when the Nazis occupied Holland, they not only required Jews to wear the badge, they also forced Jews to turn in their bicycles. Jews could shop only during restricted hours and could buy goods only from “Jewish shops.”

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Topics for Discussion

1. Why doesn’t Anne’s father take the family to another country?

2. What influences people like Miep, Elli, Kraler, and Koophuis to risk their lives to save others?

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Ideas for Reports and Papers

1. Different theories on the authorship of the diary have emerged. Some say that Anne’s father completely revised the text. Others contend that much material from the original diary was omitted from the published version. Research this topic, and write a paper explaining which theory you believe to be correct.

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Adaptations

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl has been adapted both to the stage and to film under the title The Diary of Anne Frank. The adaptations follow the basic ideas of the diary and capture the spirit of the young girl. The play, adapted by Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich, enjoyed a successful Broadway run beginning in 1955 and won a Pulitzer Prize, as well as the New York Drama Critics Circle Award as the best new American drama. Based on the Hackett and Goodrich script, George Stevens directed a film version released by Twentieth Century Fox in 1959. Starring Millie Perkins as Anne, Joseph Schildkraut as Otto Frank, and Shelley Winters as Mrs. Van Daan, the movie was both a commercial and a critical success, with Winters garnering an Academy Award for her performance. Also based on the Hackett and Goodrich script, a successful made-for-television movie aired in 1980, directed by Boris Sagal and starring Melissa Gilbert as Anne.

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