I've been reading the Diary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank. Prior to reading it, I always assumed that her story was somewhat typical of Jews living in countries that Germany occupied, or even in occupied Holland, during World War 2, but I'm finding a few signs that things seem a bit unusual. First of all, it seems that the Franks must have had a large supply of cash to be able to afford the food and other supplies during their time of hiding. Secondly, they were hidden within the boundaries of a city, in a warehouse/ office complex. How typical were those conditions compared to other Jews living in the same area, in hiding? I know there were others in hiding, but I'm just trying to gauge how typical their situation was. It seems to me that they were actually fairly fortunate compared to others in their circumstances, excepting of course how the story ends, and I'm wanting to get a further opinion as to how true that might be.
No, Anne Frank's story is completely exceptional - both in circumstances and the fact that she hid for so long (and her father survived).
This is a typical case of Survivorship bias. Most Holocaust victims left no memoirs (and no surviving relatives either), and did not even have their names recorded as they were murdered.
This is why just about everyone knows about Auschwitz which had a forced labor section and thus quite a few survivors, but few have heard of death factories like Sobibór, Treblinka, Bełżec, Chełmno, Maly Trostenets, Majdanek where survival rate was on the order 1:100,000.
Even fewer are aware that only about 50% of murders happened in the camps. East of the Molotov-Ribbentrop line people were mostly shot at random places (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, &c &c), by Einsatzgruppen/Police Battalions/Wehrmacht/Local Collaborationists, not gassed in central facilities, and most of those places are still undiscovered.
For survivors who went undercover the whole time, her story is not all that untypical. The German term for such people was "illegals" or "U-Boote". They needed helpers, they needed hiding places, they needed money for bribes. Wikipedia quotes estimates that several thousand survived that way in Germany.
For a Jew who lived in Germany or German-occupied Europe, her story is untypical, because she survived so long.
There is of course no such thing as a typical holocaust story. There are six million stories and each one is different. The Anne Frank story is special because it was warm and personal enough to have been palatable to the general public in the 1950's, while still being sufficiently tragic and moving to illustrate the enormous evil that was the holocaust.
But as important as this diary surely is, it does not serve as an overview of the holocaust in general. It is short on such important elements as physical cruelty, degradation, acts of great personal risk and fear, hunger, starvation and death, well...I'm not trying to be flippant, you can't just read it through and say "now I understand the holocaust."
Anne Frank's story was "uncommon." It's true that she died like many others, but in other ways her story was exceptional.
1) She lived in the Netherlands, a country where urban Jews were not rounded up in ghettoes (as they were in Poland). She also came from a relatively wealthy family who could pay for their hiding, and lived in a country that was less anti-Semitic than some others. These factors made her discovery (summer of 1944) later than others' (early 1940s), and the term of her imprisonment shorter.
2) She died in February-March, 1945. That's a tragedy of course, but she lived closer to liberation day than most. A rescue date three months earlier, and she probably would have survived.
3) Most important, her diary lived on, even though she did not. Many others kept diaries, but few, if any, of them were as famous as hers.
First of all the book is called
The diary of Anne Frank. She grew up (until her hiding time) on a nice square (
Merwedeplein), where in front of the house where she lived is put a copper plate with her name and the names of the members of her family who died in the deathcamps, and in in he middle of the square, on a big piece af grass, you can see a black statue of her, smiling while holding a suitcase. Every year many flowers are placed there. I also grew up in that neihgbourhood and in general it´s not a place for the wealthy. But I don´t think the writing af a diary is a matter of having money.
Her diaries were discovered after the war (the story goes the man was in doubt throwing them away) in the house where she was hiding, and I think every girl could have written it. The house where she hid wasn´t on the boundary of the city, it was in fact in the very centre of it (
Canal of Prinses). It´s turned into a museum and there are always long rows to get in. Short before the liberation of Holland someone felt the urge to let the nazis know her and her family´s hiding place.
Like I said, I think the book could have been written by any Jewish girl in that time, but she is the one that almost everbody knows about.
Big money is made out of her diaries.
I hope there won´t come something like
Anne, the musical!