Summary: One of the war's greatest heroes. A German-Jewish teenager forced into hiding during the Second World War.
Date: Born 12 June 1929; Died 12 March 1945
Location: Born in Frankfurt, Germany; Lived in Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Family: Father: Otto Frank; Mother: Edith Frank
- Introduction -
Otto Frank was born in 1889, to Michael Frank and Betty Stern, in Frankfurt, Germany. He had one older brother, Robert, and a younger brother and sister, Herbert and Helene, nicknamed Leni. He grew up well educated, and when the first world war began, he signed up for service in the German army. His mother and sister became nurses at a military hospital.
In 1921, when the war had finished, Otto’s sister Leni fell in love with and married Erich Elias, a Jewish man, who had also fought for his country.
Four years later, Otto Frank married Edith Hollander, and the two moved into the house of Otto’s mother after their honeymoon. Otto’s sister and her husband were in fact already living there at the time.
The year of 1926 came, and brought with it Otto and Edith’s first child, a girl, whom they named Margot. Three years later, on the 12th of June, Margot received a baby sister, Anne.
In the same year that Anne was born, her Aunt Leni and her husband Erich accepted an offer to set up a branch of a company named Opekta-Werke. This company produced pectin, which is used in making jam. He and his family moved to Switzerland in 1931 to accomplish that job.
- Growing Anti-Semitism -
As propaganda against the Jews increased, and Adolf Hitler came to power, Otto Frank followed his brother in law’s example and moved his own young family to the Netherlands, where he believed it would be safer. The Frank family was just one family among many who fled from the ‘Vaterland’ or Fatherland between 1933 and 1939, altogether numbering around 300,000 people.
Otto took a job also in Opetka-Werke, and from there went on to open his own branch of the company; which he called Pectacon. It manufactured mixed spices, herbs and pickling salts; things that were used in the making of sausages. Hermann van Pels, a Jew and a butcher by trade, was one of the people who Otto had employed to work at his factory. He worked as a spice advisor.
And so, the Frank family settled down to life in Amsterdam, where they rented an apartment in the Rivierenbuurt district of the city. The children, Margot and Anne, were ages eight and five when they arrived at their new home, and soon afterwards they were enrolled in school. Their father had a very high opinion of education and wanted the best for his daughters. Both parents encouraged the girls to read books often.
- The Call-Up Notice -
Just as life was seemingly returning to normal, the world again shook. Germany was steadily gaining a foothold on its dream of world domination, and on the 10th of May 1940, the armed forces of the führer streamed into the Netherlands. With the Germans came the Anti-Semitism and persecution of the Jewish people. Laws were issued that placed excessive restriction on the freedom of the Jews and their rights. In October of that year, the law was passed that no Jew was allowed to own a business. Otto Frank relinquished the management of his company Pectacon to Johannes Kleiman and Victor Kugler, who renamed it Gies & Co.
The Franks faced money troubles because of this legislation. Soon after Anne and Margot were transferred to the Jewish Lyceum as a result of another rule, stating that Jews couldn’t attend school with other “Aryan” children.
One day Anne returned home from her new school to find that the fragile but previously still intact sense of safety had shattered into a million pieces. Because of a mere piece of paper.
Margot Frank had received a call-up notice that ordered her to report to a Nazi work camp in Germany, on 5 July 1942. This sent the already apprehensive Otto Frank into action. That evening the workers from Gies & Co. carefully secreted as much of the Franks' possessions as possible away to a secret room which Otto had built in the back annex of the company building. The next day, the Frank family disappeared to the world; the only people who had knowledge of their location were Victor Kugler, Johannes Kleiman, Miep Gies, and Bep Voskuijl - the loyal employees of Otto’s company.
These kind and brave people were the eyes and ears of the fugitives in the Annex. They brought news of the war, along with much-need supplies and food.
Along with the Franks, the other residents of the ‘Secret Annex’ were the van Pels family- Hermann, Auguste and their son Peter, and later, Fritz Pfeffer, a practising dentist.*
- The End -
The Frank’s days in the “Achterhuis”, or in English; back house, was long and nerve-wracking. Workers at the factory came in during the day, to work in the warehouses below the Annex. The people in hiding had to limit their movement in case someone down below started wondering why they could hear the sound of footsteps in a place where no one was supposed to be living. After the workers left, in the evening, they were able to relax a little bit more. In this way, the people in the Annex were able to hide from the Nazi’s for two years.
But, in the end, everything crumbled. All of the careful planning and precautions that were made in the hope of preserving the lives of a handful of Jews came to a disastrous end. In the early days of August 1944, the worst happened. A German SS man and four Dutch Nazi’s stormed the Secret Annex and arrested all of its occupants.
They were charged as criminals and were transported to concentration camps.
In March 1945, Anne and her sister Margot were transferred from Auschwitz to Bergen-Belsen camp, where Anne died several days after her sister from typhus.
Otto Frank was the only one of the group who survived the horrors of the Nazi camps.
After liberation, Otto returned to the Secret Annex, where he found his daughter Anne’s diary. Anne had dreamed of having her diary published, and now the broken-hearted Otto set out to achieve that dream for her.
Now, Anne Frank’s diary is one of the best-known books in the world. It has been translated into 67 different languages, and over 30 million copies have been sold. And so, Anne Frank’s legacy lives on in the pages of her book, The Diary of a Young Girl.
Researched and Written By
Cody B. Mitchell
Ibrows.ch, I. A. (n.d.). History of the Frank family. Retrieved November 20, 2017, from http://www.annefrank.ch/history-of-the-frank-family.html
Anne Frank. (2017, August 02). Retrieved November 20, 2017, from https://www.biography.com/people/anne-frank-9300892
Who is Anne Frank? Everything You Need to Know. (n.d.). Retrieved November 20, 2017, from https://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/anne-frank-182.php
Stichting, A. F. (2010, April 12). The story of Anne Frank: Anti-Jewish measures. Retrieved November 20, 2017, from http://www.annefrank.org/en/Anne-Frank/The-Nazis-occupy-the-Netherlands/Anti-Jewish-Decrees/
An insight into life during the Second World War, Anne Frank recorded her horrifying wartime experience in her now-famous diary. Killed in March 1945, Anne and her family had spent over two years hiding in a secret Annex in Amsterdam.
*Most of what we know about Anne and her daily life in the Annex came from reading Anne’s diary, in which she wrote long entries almost daily, to pass the time. Her diary, which she named “Kitty”, was given to her by her parents on the 12th of June, 1942, the day she turned 13. Her dream was to become a writer or journalist.