Frank was born Annelies or Anneliese Marie Frank on 12 June 1929 at the Maingau Red Cross Clinic in Frankfurt, Germany, to Edith (née Holländer) and Otto Heinrich Frank. She had an older sister, Margot. The Franks were liberal Jews, and did not observe all of the customs and traditions of Judaism. They lived in an assimilated community of Jewish and non-Jewish citizens of various religions. Edith and Otto were devout parents, who were interested in scholarly pursuits and had an extensive library; both parents encouraged the children to read. At the time of Anne's birth the family lived in a house at Marbachweg 307 in Frankfurt-Dornbusch, where they rented two floors. In 1931 the family moved to Ganghoferstrasse 24 in a fashionable liberal area of Dornbusch called the Dichterviertel (Poets' Quarter). Both houses still exist.
The apartment block on the Merwedeplein where the Frank family lived from 1934 until 1942
In 1933, after Adolf Hitler's Nazi Party won the federal election and Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor of the Reich, Edith Frank and the children went to stay with Edith's mother Rosa in Aachen. Otto Frank remained in Frankfurt, but after receiving an offer to start a company in Amsterdam, he moved there to organize the business and to arrange accommodations for his family. He began working at the Opekta Works, a company that sold the fruit extract pectin. Edith travelled back and forth between Aachen and Amsterdam and found an apartment on the Merwedeplein (Merwede Square) in the Rivierenbuurt neighbourhood of Amsterdam, where more Jewish-German refugees settled In late December 1933, Edith followed her husband together with Margot. Anne stayed with her grandmother until February, when the family was reunited in the Netherlands. The Franks were among 300,000 Jews who fled Germany between 1933 and 1939.
After moving to Amsterdam, Anne and Margot Frank were enrolled in school—Margot in public school and Anne in a Montessori school. Despite initial problems with the Dutch language, Margot became a star pupil in Amsterdam. Anne soon felt at home at the Montessori school and met children of her own age, like Hannah Goslar, who would later become one of her best friends.
In 1938, Otto Frank started a second company, Pectacon, which was a wholesaler of herbs, pickling salts, and mixed spices, used in the production of sausages. Hermann van Pels was employed by Pectacon as an advisor about spices. A Jewish butcher, he had fled Osnabrück with his family. In 1939, Edith Frank's mother came to live with the Franks, and remained with them until her death in January 1942.
In May 1940, Germany invaded the Netherlands, and the occupation government began to persecute Jews by the implementation of restrictive and discriminatory laws; mandatory registration and segregation soon followed. Otto Frank tried to arrange for the family to emigrate to the United States
– the only destination that seemed to him to be viable – but Frank's application for a visa was never processed, due to circumstances such as the closing of the U.S. consulate in Rotterdam and the loss of all the paperwork there, including the visa application. Even if it had been processed, the U.S. government at the time was concerned that people with close relatives still in Germany could be blackmailed into becoming Nazi spies.
The Frank sisters had many friends, but with the introduction of a decree in the summer of 1941 that Jews could attend only Jewish schools, they were enrolled at the Jewish Lyceum. Anne became a friend of Jacqueline van Maarsen in the Lyceum. In April 1941, Otto took action to prevent Pectacon from being confiscated as a Jewish-owned business. He transferred his shares in Pectacon to Johannes Kleiman and resigned as director. The company was liquidated and all assets transferred to Gies and Company, headed by Jan Gies. In December, Otto followed a similar process to save Opekta. The businesses continued with little obvious change and their survival allowed Otto to earn a minimal income, but sufficient to provide for his family.