The Van Daans Family: What Anne Frank’s Diary Said

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Diary of a Young Girl" by Anne Frank. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Who were the van Daans in The Diary of a Young Girl? What was their relationship with the other residents of the Annex?

The van Daans are a Jewish family that hid alongside the Franks in the attic attachment of Otto Frank’s business premises (the Secret Annex). Mr. and Mrs. van Daan constantly fought with each other and with the other residents of the Annex. As for Peter, he and Anne ended up developing romantic feelings for each other.

Read about the van Daans family and their life in the Secret Annex.

Who Were the Van Daans?

The van Daans arrived about a week after the Franks. The family consisted of three people: Mr. van Daan, Mrs. van Daan, and their son Peter van Daan. Anne didn’t like them at first. She constantly fought with Mr. and Mrs. van Daan, who thought Anne had a bad attitude.

According to Anne, Mrs. van Daan was melodramatic and always had to be the center of attention but wasn’t the best at defending her statements. She would sometimes leave conversations if she wasn’t getting her way. She constantly complained and committed petty actions that hindered the rest of the residents. For example, she would sometimes leave food to spoil on dishes instead of cleaning it to call people out for leaving messes. 

Mr. and Mrs. van Daan had constant fights about their financial state and often disagreed on how to handle their lack of funds. In October, the van Daans ran out of funds and could no longer afford to give their helpers money to pay for supplies. On top of everything, they were keeping food from the rest of the residents. They were frying fewer potatoes for the group and weren’t giving out oils and meat fairly.

With time, Mr. and Mrs. van Daans’ fights became more frequent and it had a negative effect on their son Peter. He was frustrated with his parents’ constant bickering. He wanted to be close to his parents, but he didn’t feel like he could trust them. In an example of an isolated incident, Peter found a book the adults had kept away from the children. The book had to do with women, and the adults didn’t want the children reading books written for an adult audience. However, Peter’s curiosity got the best of him. He went behind his parents’ backs to read the book. Mr. and Mrs. van Daan caught him and punished him for his disobedience. Initially, Peter refused to apologize and stayed in his room in the loft. However, after a few days of sulking, things returned to normal. At the time, Anne didn’t like Peter’s behavior and often referred to him as awkward and insolent.

In their final months in the Annex, Anne and Peter started developing romantic feelings for each other. One day, Anne and Peter shared a kiss and cuddled in the attic. Anne was exhilarated by the development in their relationship. However, she wondered what her parents and the van Daans would think and worried about the scandal that her actions could cause. 

What Happened to Them?

On August 4, 1944, the Annex was raided by the SS. It is believed that someone tipped off the authorities to the hide-out. The van Daans were arrested and sent to concentration camps. Mr. van Daan was gassed to death in Auschwitz in late 1944. Mrs. van Daan was sent to 5 different concentration camps; her cause and time of death are unknown. As for Peter, he was forced to make the “death march” from Auschwitz to Mauthausen. He died on May 5, 1945.

The Van Daans Family: What Anne Frank’s Diary Said

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Here's what you'll find in our full The Diary of a Young Girl summary :

  • What Nazi occupation looked like from the perspective of a young Jewish girl
  • How Anne Frank had some normal teenage experiences while in hiding
  • How the hidden residents coped with the stress

Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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