Otto Frank

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Otto Frank
Otto Frank (1961).jpg
Frank in 1961
Otto Heinrich Frank

(1889-05-12)12 May 1889
Died19 August 1980(1980-08-19) (aged 91)
Birsfelden, Switzerland
Resting placeBirsfelden's Cemetery
NationalityGerman (revoked), Swiss, Dutch
OccupationSpice merchant[1]
Known forFather of Anne Frank; The Diary of a Young Girl
Military career
Allegiance German Empire
Service/branchImperial German Army
Years of service1915–1918
Battles/warsWorld War I

Otto Heinrich Frank (12 May 1889 – 19 August 1980) was a German businessman who later became a resident of the Netherlands and Switzerland. He was the father of Anne and Margot Frank and husband of Edith Frank, and was the sole member of his family to survive the Holocaust. He inherited Anne's manuscripts after her death, arranged for the publication of her diary as "Het Achterhuis" in 1947 (known in English as The Diary of a Young Girl), and oversaw its adaptation to both theater and film.

Early life[edit]

Otto Heinrich Frank was born into a liberal Jewish family.[2] He was the second of four children born to Alice Betty (née Stern, 1865–1953) and Michael Frank (1851–1909).[3] His elder brother was Robert Frank, and younger siblings were Herbert Frank and Helene (Leni) Frank.[4] Otto was a cousin of the furniture designer Jean-Michel Frank and a grandson of Zacharias Frank. His father originally came from the town of Landau, and moved to Frankfurt in 1879, marrying Alice Stern in 1886. Alice and Michael Frank placed value on a middle-class education. Otto had music lessons, learned to ride a horse and visited the theatre and opera regularly. The Frank family enjoyed a large circle of friends, and kept a welcoming home.[2] Otto studied economics in Heidelberg from 1908 to 1909 and had a work experience placement at Macy's Department Store in New York City thanks to a college friend his age, Nathan Straus Jr. However, after leaving for New York, he had to return home briefly because of his father's death in September 1909, before once again leaving for the United States. He returned to Germany two years later in 1911.[5]

World War I[edit]

Frank served in the Imperial German Army during the First World War. He and his two brothers were drafted for military service in August 1915 and after training at a depot in Mainz, he served in an artillery unit on the Western Front in which most soldiers were mathematicians and surveyors. He was attached to the infantry as a range-finder at the Battle of the Somme in 1916. In 1917, he was promoted in the field to lieutenant and served at the Battle of Cambrai, where two of his French cousins, Oscar and Georges, were killed in action. According to other sources, Otto was late returning home because he was ordered to confiscate two horses from a farmer and returned them to the farmer when the war ended in defeat.[5][6]

Marriage and children[edit]

Frank worked in the bank that his father initially ran, which subsequently he and his brothers inherited until its collapse in the early 1930s. He married Edith Holländer – an heiress to a scrap-metal and industrial-supply business – on his 36th birthday, 12 May 1925, at the synagogue in Aachen, Edith's hometown. Edith was 25 when they married. Their elder daughter, Margot Frank (Margot Betti), was born 16 February 1926, followed by their younger daughter, Anne (Annelies Marie), on 12 June 1929.[7] Edith died of starvation and disease in Auschwitz on 6 January 1945. In late October 1944, Margot and Anne were transferred from Auschwitz to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp where they died[8] of typhus.

In 1953, Frank married Elfriede (Fritzi) Markovits, a Holocaust survivor, who assisted him with the Anne Frank Foundation in Basel,[9] which he launched a decade later. Markovits's daughter, Eva Schloss, is a Holocaust survivor, peace activist and international speaker.[10]

World War II[edit]

As the tide of Nazism rose in Germany and anti-Jewish decrees encouraged attacks on Jewish individuals and families, Otto decided to evacuate his family. In August 1933, they relocated to Aachen, where his mother-in-law, Rosa Hollander resided, in preparation for a subsequent and final move to Amsterdam in the Netherlands. In the same year, Otto's widowed mother, Alice Frank, fled to Switzerland.[11]

Otto's brother-in-law Erich Elias (the husband of his younger sister Leni and father of Buddy Elias) worked in Basel for Opekta, a company that sold spices and pectin for use in the manufacture of jam. Originating in Germany, the company was looking to expand its operations in Europe, and Erich arranged for Otto to work as Opekta's agent in Amsterdam, allowing Otto to have an income to support his family. Otto and his family lived in Merwedeplein in the modern suburb of Amsterdam-Zuid; they came to know many other German emigrant families. 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.[12][13] Hermann van Pels was employed by Pectacon as an advisor about spices. A Jewish butcher, he had fled Osnabrück with his family.[13] In 1939, Edith Hollander's mother came to live with the Franks and remained with them until her death in January 1942.[14] After Germany invaded the Netherlands in May 1940, Otto Frank was forced by the Germans to give up his companies. Otto made his businesses look "Aryan" by transferring control to his employees.[15]

In 1938 and 1941, Frank attempted to obtain visas for his family to emigrate to the United States or Cuba. He was granted a single visa for himself to Cuba on 1 December 1941, but it is not known if it ever reached him. Ten days later, when Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy declared war on the United States, the visa was cancelled.[16][17] He also attempted to obtain visas for his family to Britain, however, he was never granted the visas.

At the age of 53, when the systematic deportation of Jews from the Netherlands started in the summer of 1942, Otto Frank took his family into hiding on 6 July 1942 in the upper rear rooms of the Opekta premises on the Prinsengracht, behind a concealing bookcase. The day before his older daughter, Margot, had received the written summons to report for so-called labour duty in Germany, and Otto immediately decided to move the family to safety. They were joined a week later by Hermann van Pels, who was known as Herman van Daan in Anne's diary, his wife, Auguste van Pels and their son, Peter van Pels. In November, the group was joined by Fritz Pfeffer, known in Anne's diary as Albert Dussel. Their concealment was aided by Otto Frank's colleagues Johannes Kleiman, whom he had known since 1923, Miep Gies, and her husband Jan Gies; Victor Kugler, and Bep Voskuijl.[18]

The group hid for two years, until their discovery in August 1944. It is not known if an informant, or chance discovery by authorities, ended their period of refuge.[19][20] The group, along with Kugler and Kleiman, were arrested by SS Officer Karl Silberbauer. Miep Gies and Bep Voskuijl were not arrested with the group. Miep managed to excuse herself by saying she knew nothing of those in hiding, and Johannes Kleiman managed to excuse Bep Voskuijl from being arrested. These two people would rescue Anne's diary before the Nazis cleared out the hiding place.

After being imprisoned in Amsterdam, the Jewish prisoners were sent to the Dutch transit camp of Westerbork and finally, in September, to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where Frank was separated from his wife and daughters. He was sent to the men's barracks and was residing in the sick barracks when the camp was liberated by Soviet troops on 27 January 1945. After the liberation of Auschwitz, Otto Frank wrote to his mother in Switzerland, where she had fled in 1933 when Hitler came to power.[3][21] He travelled back to the Netherlands over the next six months and searched diligently for his family and friends. By the end of 1945, he realized he was the sole survivor of those who had hidden in the house on the Prinsengracht.[22]

Letter from the Monowai steamship[edit]

The closer we get to home the greater our impatience to hear from our loved ones. Everything that's happened the past few years! Until our arrest I don't know exactly what caused it, even now, at least we still had contact with each other. I don't know what's happened since then. Kugler and Kleiman and especially Miep and her husband and Bep Voskuil provided us with everything for two whole years, with incomparable devotion and sacrifice and despite all danger. I can't even begin to describe it. How will I ever begin to repay everything they did. But what has happened since then? To them, to you to Robert [Otto's brother and Edith Frank's brother-in-law]. Are you in touch with Julius and Walter? [Edith Hollander's brothers and Otto's brothers-in-law] All our possessions are gone. There won't be a pin left, the Germans stole everything. Not a photo, letter or document remains. Financially we were fine in the past few years, I earned good money and saved it. Now it's all gone. But I don't think about any of that. We have lived through too much to worry about that kind of thing. Only the children matter, the children. I hope to get news from you immediately. Maybe you've already heard news about the girls.[23]

— Letter sent by Otto Frank on board the Monowai steamship 15 May 1945 on his way back to Amsterdam

Post-war life[edit]

After Anne Frank's death was confirmed in the summer of 1945, her diary and papers were given to Otto Frank by Miep Gies, who had rescued them from the ransacked hiding place together with Bep Voskuijl. As Miep Gies wrote in her book, "Anne Frank Remembered", Mr. Frank immediately started to read the papers. Later he began transcribing them for his relatives in Switzerland. He was persuaded that Anne's writing shed light on the experiences of those who suffered persecution under the Nazis and was urged to consider publishing it. He typed out the diary into a single manuscript, editing out sections he thought too personal to his family or too mundane to be of interest to the general reader. The manuscript was read by Dutch historian Jan Romein, who reviewed it on 3 April 1946 for the Het Parool newspaper. This attracted the interest of Amsterdam's Contact Publishing, which accepted it for publication in the summer of 1946. Otto Frank is now recognized as a co-author of the diary.[24]

On 25 June 1947, the first Dutch edition of the diary was issued under the title Het Achterhuis ("The House Behind"). Its success led to an English translation in 1952, which led to a theatrical dramatisation in 1955 and eventually the film The Diary of Anne Frank (1959), with actor Joseph Schildkraut repeating his role as Otto.[25]

Otto Frank inaugurating the Statue of Anne Frank, Amsterdam 1977.

Otto Frank married former Amsterdam neighbor and fellow Auschwitz survivor[26] Elfriede Geiringer (1905–1998) in Amsterdam on 10 November 1953, and the couple moved to Basel, Switzerland, where he had family, including relatives' children, with whom he shared his experiences. In 1963, he founded in Basel the Anne Frank Foundation (not to be confused with the Anne Frank Foundation in Amsterdam, see below), which is devoted to global distribution and use of the Diary of Anne Frank. The non profit organisation uses the proceeds of the copyrights for charitable purposes, education, and scientific research. In addition the Foundation in Basel supports projects in the field of human rights, racism and rights and promoting social justice.[27]

In response to a demolition order placed on the building in which Otto Frank and his family hid during the war, he and Johannes Kleiman helped establish the Anne Frank Foundation in Amsterdam on 3 May 1957, with the principal aim to save and restore the building so it could be opened to the general public. With the aid of public donations, the building and the adjacent one were purchased by the Amsterdam-based foundation. It opened as a museum (the Anne Frank House) on 3 May 1960 and is still in operation.[28]

The rest of his life Otto Frank dedicated himself to the publication of the diary and the ideals his daughter had expressed in it.[29] Otto Frank died of lung cancer on 19 August 1980 in Birsfelden and his ashes were buried in the town's cemetery, where Elfriede would also be buried, in the same tomb, 18 years later.[30] He was survived by his stepdaughter Eva Schloss,[31] his sister Helene Frank (Edith Frank's sister-in-law) and her two children.[32]

Otto Frank designated the Anne Frank Foundation in Basel as his sole heir and legal successor, which means that the copyright on all Anne Frank's writings belongs to this organisation.[33]

Legal fights against Nazi sympathizers[edit]

In the years after the diaries were published, Otto Frank became embroiled in a series of legal battles with individuals who accused him or others of forging the manuscript; these cases would persist even after Frank's death in 1980. In 1959, Frank "lodged a criminal complaint on the grounds of libel, slander, defamation, maligning the memory of a deceased person and antisemitic utterances"[34] against two members of the right-wing Deutsche Reichspartei, Lothar Stielau and Heinrich Buddeberg, who had dismissed the diary as a work of fiction.

In 1976, Nazi sympathizer Ernst Römer accused Frank of editing and fabricating parts of Anne's diary. Frank filed a lawsuit against him. As with the previous case, the court determined that the diary was authentic. Römer demanded a second investigation, but on this occasion the Hamburg District Court engaged Hamburg's Bundeskriminalamt (BKA).[35] It was claimed that parts of her diary were written with ballpoint pen ink, which did not exist prior to 1951. However, the BKA found that these parts were simply two scraps of paper not attached to the manuscript, and clearly written in different handwriting, and some page numbers, presumed to have been added by Otto Frank when compiling the diary for publication.[36] Reporters were unable to question Frank, as he died around the time of the discovery.[35]


  1. ^ Carol Ann Lee, The Hidden Life of Otto Frank (Harper Collins, 2003)
  2. ^ a b Anne Frank Fonds/Otto Frank
  3. ^ a b "Photo Gallery: Treasures of the Anne Frank Family". Der Spiegel. Hamburg, Germany. 29 February 2012.
  4. ^ "Photo Gallery: Treasures of the Anne Frank Family". Der Spiegel. Hamburg, Germany. 29 February 2012.
  5. ^ a b Otto Frank at Anne Frank Guide. Retrieved 29 May 2014
  6. ^ Lee, Carol Ann (2000). The Biography of Anne Frank – Roses from the Earth. London: Viking Press. ISBN 978-0-7089-9174-9.
  7. ^ Carol Ann Lee, The Hidden Life of Otto Frank (Harper Collins, 2003), pp. 8–9
  8. ^ "Anne Frank". Anne Frank House. 25 September 2018. Retrieved 29 July 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  9. ^ "History of the foundation". Anne Frank Fonds. Retrieved 25 August 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  10. ^ "A Historic Evening With Anne Frank's Stepsister Eva Schloss". Northrop. 27 October 2019. Retrieved 29 July 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  11. ^ Verhoeven, Rian (1993). Anne Frank beyond the Diary. New York: Puffin/Penguin. p. 19. ISBN 9780590474474.
  12. ^ Müller 1999, p. 92.
  13. ^ a b Lee 2000, p. 40.
  14. ^ Müller 1999, pp. 128–130.
  15. ^ "Otto Frank". Anne Frank House. 29 July 2021. Retrieved 29 July 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  16. ^ "Anne Frank family letters released". 14 February 2007. Archived from the original on 16 February 2007. Retrieved 14 February 2007.
  17. ^ Patricia Cohen (15 February 2007). "In Old Files, Fading Hopes of Anne Frank's Family". The New York Times. Retrieved 15 February 2007. In order to reach a neutral country, Frank then tried to obtain a Cuban visa, a risky, expensive and often corrupt process. In a Sep. 8 letter to Straus, he wrote, "I know that it will be impossible for us all to leave even if most of the money is refundable, but Edith urges me to leave alone or with the children." On Oct. 12, 1941, he wrote, "It is all much more difficult as one can imagine and is getting more complicated every day." Because of the uncertainty, he decided first to try for a single visa for himself. It is granted and forwarded to Otto Frank on Dec. 1. No one knows if it ever arrived; 10 days later, Germany and Italy declared war on the United States, and Havana cancelled the visa.
  18. ^ "The people living in the Secret Annex". Anne Frank House. 25 September 2018. Retrieved 29 July 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  19. ^ Patricia Cohen (17 December 2016). "Anne Frank's arrest might not have stemmed from betrayal". Retrieved 17 December 2016. Perhaps the Sicherheitsdienst or SD (German Security Service) didn't come to hunt for Jews that day, but inadvertently found the two families in hiding while investigating another matter.
  20. ^ "New Study Casts Doubt on Theory Anne Frank Was Betrayed". NBC News. Associated Press. 17 December 2016. Retrieved 18 December 2016.
  21. ^ "Photo Gallery: Treasures of the Anne Frank Family". Der Spiegel. Hamburg, Germany. 29 February 2012.
  22. ^ Von Benda-Beckmann, Bas (2020). Na het Achterhuis. Anne Frank en de andere onderduikers in de kampen. Amsterdam: Querido. p. 310. ISBN 9789021423937.
  23. ^ Treasures From The Attic Page 202
  24. ^ Carvajal, Doreen (13 November 2015). "Anne Frank's Diary Gains 'Co-Author' in Copyright Move". The New York Times.
  25. ^ "How did Anne's diary become so famous?". Anne Frank House. 15 October 2018. Retrieved 29 July 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  26. ^ Goldsmith, Belinda (8 April 2013). "Anne Frank's step-sister highlights post-Holocaust traumas". Reuters. Retrieved 13 April 2013.
  27. ^ "Anne Frank Fonds/work". Anne Frank Fonds. Retrieved 29 July 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  28. ^ "Anne Frank House celebrates 60th anniversary". Anne Frank House. 30 April 2020. Retrieved 29 July 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  29. ^ "Otto Frank". Anne Frank Fonds. Retrieved 11 August 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  30. ^ "Otto Frank, Father of Anne, Dead at 91. Daughter's Famed Diary Described Life in Hiding From the Nazis. Family Died in Camps". The New York Times. United Press International. 21 August 1980. Retrieved 4 November 2010. Otto Frank, whose teen-age daughter Anne described two years of hiding from the Nazis in a diary that became world-renowned, died in a hospital here last night. He was 91 years old.
  31. ^ Duerden, Nick (6 April 2013). "I've been haunted by Anne Frank's memory for so long". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 April 2013.
  32. ^ Butnick, Stephanie (23 March 2015). "Anne Frank's Last Living Relative Dies at 89". Tabletmag. Retrieved 23 March 2015.
  33. ^ "History of the foundation". Anne Frank Fonds. Retrieved 26 August 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  34. ^ "The authenticity of the diary of Anne Frank". Anne Frank House. 28 June 2019. Retrieved 14 January 2022.
  35. ^ a b "Blaue paste" [Blue paste]. Der Spiegel. 5 October 1980. Retrieved 9 July 2021.
  36. ^ "Anne Frank House Ballpoint Pen". Anne Frank House. Retrieved 17 July 2021.



Otto Frank was played by the British actor Ben Kingsley in the 2001 miniseries Anne Frank: The Whole Story. He was portrayed by the Italian actor Emilio Solfrizzi in the TV movie Memories of Anne Frank.

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