The diary of 15-year-old Anne Frank ended abruptly when the Nazis broke into her family's hiding place in Amsterdam. What happened next? Of the last days of one of the world's best-known modern heroines, little was known except that she had died, like millions of other Jews, in a German concentration camp. To fill out the chronicle of her short life, West German Publisher S. Fischer last year assigned Author Ernst Schnabel to search the German and Dutch archives and interview survivors of the camps who might have known her. In Paris Le Figaro Littéraire printed excerpts from Schnabel's findings, to be published as a book in the U.S. this fall.
Anne, her sister Margot, and her father and mother were first taken to Westerbork prison in The Netherlands, then shipped by cattle car to Auschwitz. Recalls a woman fellow prisoner: "The doors of the cars were opened violently, and the first thing we saw at Auschwitz was the garish light of the searchlights trained on the cars . . . The voice of a loudspeaker dominated all others; it bellowed: 'Women to the left, men to the right!' I saw them go away: Mr. Van Daan, Mr. Dussel, Peter, Mr. Frank." The men never saw the women again. The women were told that trucks were ready to take the small children and the sick to the prison. But those who fought their way into the trucks never reached the camp; they vanished from-the face of the earth.
Sackcloth Smocks. At Auschwitz, Anne's long hair was clipped and her eyes seemed to grow larger and larger as she grew thinner. Her gaiety disappeared but not her indomitable spirit. The women were divided into groups of five and, though the youngest of her group, Anne became its leader, partly because she was efficient at scrounging necessities. When during cold weather she and the others were reduced to sackcloth smocks, Anne found somewhere a supply of men's long underwear. She even magically produced a cup of coffee for an exhausted prisoner.
Most of the adults tried to armor themselves against reality: "Who bothered to look at the flames billowing up from the crematory? When, suddenly, an order came to barricade the neighboring block, who was disturbed? We well knew that they were being readied for the gas chamber, but we were too well-trained to worry about it. We no longer heard anything, saw anything."
But Anne Frank did, right up to the end. Said a survivor: "I can still see her standing by the door, watching a group of naked young gypsy girls being shoved along to the crematory. Anne watched them, weeping. And she also wept when we filed past Hungarian children waiting, twelve hours naked under the rain, for their turn to enter the gas chamber. Anne cried: 'Look at their eyes!' She wept when most of us had no tears left."