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.

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    Anne Frank lived in occupied Holland, not Germany.
    – Mohair
    Commented Jan 22, 2016 at 13:42
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    There were others like her. I have heard of a book (or documentary) called something like "The Last Jews in Germany" which documents some of their cases which you like.
    – Jeff
    Commented Jan 22, 2016 at 19:47
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    You may also enjoy a book called "A Chance To Live" by Pieter Kohnstam. During the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, when he was six he lived with his parents in the apartment below the Franks in Amsterdam, and they became good friends. Anne would babysit and play with Pieter often. The Franks even offered to have the Kohnstam family to come hide with them when the time came, but instead the Kohnstam family walked across Europe to Barcelona. This, in fact, saved their lives as, sadly, only Otto frank survived. As Pieter was only six at the time, he asked his father Hans to recall the account
    – user16170
    Commented Jan 24, 2016 at 23:48
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    Just to add a relevant point for recent political discussions - they tried to go to the US, but the US was nervous about the potential for German agents sneaking in, so made it very difficult to get refugee-like status. Had they gotten a US visa they would have survived.
    – Joel
    Commented Jan 25, 2016 at 1:44
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    Depends on your definition of "common", but in the Netherlands thousands of Jews and tens of thousands of non-Jews evaded the Germans in the same way as the Frank family. In Dutch it is called "onderduiken" (Literal translation "diving underwater")
    – JRB
    Commented Aug 26, 2019 at 22:27

6 Answers 6


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 - some sites were uncovered relatively recently!), by Einsatzgruppen/Police Battalions/Wehrmacht/Local Collaborationists, not gassed in central facilities, and most of those places are still undiscovered.

See "Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin" by Timothy D. Snyder.

  • Among survivors, or even those in hiding for such time, is her case even remotely common? Commented Jan 22, 2016 at 15:42
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    Surviving required luck and help. Of course, being rich helped. Of course, living in a large complex house helped. Of course it was not typical.
    – sds
    Commented Jan 22, 2016 at 15:51
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    Well, good point, good examples. And the asker of question apparently found it the best answer. However I would like it if in also an explicit answer was given to the question. I'm guessing it would be: "No, Anne Frank's story was NOT typical, Anne Frank was indeed in relatively good circumstances. This was one of the reasons she was able to write a book at all. This is a typical example of survivo...".
    – Bart
    Commented Jan 24, 2016 at 15:45
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    +1 for mentioning death factories like Sobibór, Auschwitz was horrible but Sobibór and the rest were even worse and few people know about them
    – Suriya
    Commented Jan 24, 2016 at 20:35
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    @Pablo: yes indeed, that was the purpose of dismantling the facilities (some were captured intact though).
    – sds
    Commented Jan 24, 2016 at 21:58

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.

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    To clarify, saying that her story is "not all that untypical" means that her experiences were very similar to other survivor experiences, right? I'm having a hard time parsing the phrase. Commented Jan 22, 2016 at 19:12
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    @Thunderforge, I was trying to say that there were many similar experiences among the survivors who were hiding the entire time and decided to tell their story. That's a weaker statement than "other survivors generally had the same experiences."
    – o.m.
    Commented Jan 23, 2016 at 6:00
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    “Not all that untypical” seems an apt phrasing. The scale of the holocaust was in the millions — so even if only, say, 1% of the intended victims survived in hiding in ways similar to the Franks, that’s still tens of thousands of people. So while it wasn’t typical by any means, it was far from a one-off. Commented Jan 23, 2016 at 22:39

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 (Prinsengracht, the 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!

  • I've seen it called both, the more accepted name is "The Diary of a Young Girl". en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Diary_of_a_Young_Girl The point of my question wasn't to ask if she wrote the Diary for money (She didn't), but rather to ask if her family having money lead her to live the life in hiding she had. Commented Feb 5, 2016 at 18:44
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    The title of the book in Dutch is The diary of Anne Frank, so that´s the title that comes closest to the original Dutch title, and if the family had enough money I doubt, because at the time she went undergound most jews were stripped of their properties. And why should a girl whose parents didn´t have enough money (the people where they found sanctuary provided them with food) shouldn´t be able to write a diary? And of course she didn´t it for the money, that money making stuff all happened after she died, and I don´t think she had money in mind to be made from it in her situation. Commented Feb 6, 2016 at 16:41

The story was common that they did hide in houses, but not many of them likely had as good of a hiding place as a business office.

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    H:SE isn't really a place for discussion and "I think". We're looking for research and evidence, not discussions and opinions.
    – MCW
    Commented Jan 25, 2016 at 14:32
  • Ok, I see it was a type of merged discussion/answer.
    – tstols
    Commented Jan 25, 2016 at 14:35
  • Changed it to try and fix it ^^
    – tstols
    Commented Jan 25, 2016 at 14:37

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