Otto Frank lived on after the war for his daughter Anne’s diary

It’s hard to imagine now, but it took Otto Frank a lot of effort then to get his daughter Anne’s diary published. Querido, H. Meulenhoff, De Bezige Bij – publisher after publisher rejected it. That changed when the diary’s typing ended up with Jan Romein through an acquaintance of Frank’s. One evening the famous historian picked it up and read it in one sitting. He then wrote a piece that appeared on the cover of April 3, 1946 Passwords appeared under the heading ‘Children’s voice’:

‘When I finished it, it was night, and I was amazed that the light was still on, that there was still bread and tea to be had, that I heard no plane roar, and no soldiers’ boots sounded in the street, so the lecture had captured me and taken me back to the unreal world, which is now almost another year behind us. (…) But to me, this seemingly insignificant diary of a child, in this’ de profundis’ stemmed from a child’s voice, incarnated by the hideousness of fascism, is more than in all the Nuremberg trials combined. ‘

And now a book with the title has been published The history of the diary, by journalist and film researcher Sandra van Beek. Everyone knows what a diary it is. Anne Frank’s diary has now been translated into more than seventy languages, and it ranks ten in the top 10 most read books in the world, writes Van Beek. Her book is not about the story of saving or the much talked about betrayal. It’s mainly about the diary’s post – war history. And is therefore also a brief biography of Otto Frank, whose life after the war was completely dominated by that diary.

‘This is your daughter Anne’s legacy,’ said Miep Gies, one of the helpers in the Secret Annex, when she gave Otto Frank the diary after the war. He was the only one of the eight hidden people who had returned alive from the camps. Frank did not read the diary right away. He wrote to his mother in Switzerland that he did not have the strength to do so. But in the autumn of 1945 he started it anyway, and it quickly became a ritual, writes Van Beek. After dinner, he retired to an unheated back room in Mieps and her husband Jan’s house, where Frank lived, to read.

He would later say of this: ‘The diaries showed a very different Anne than the child I had lost. I really had no idea about her deeper thoughts and feelings. I had to admit I had never known what she was up to. I had never imagined how intense Anne had been about the sufferings of the Jews through the ages, and what power she gained from her faith in God. ‘

Also in the USA, where Anne Frank is now almost even better known than in the Netherlands, it was not easy to get the diary published in the beginning. Barbara Zimmerman, editorial reader at the publisher Doubleday & Co, also Jewish and born just a year before Anne, was thrilled. But her bosses did not care. Their answer, despite their insistence, was no, unless she could persuade First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt to write a preface. It worked. After a rave review on the front page of New York Times A second and a third printing soon followed. A play and a movie followed. And lawsuits. About the rights, about the authenticity of the diary (which there is no doubt about).

What Sandra van Beek says is not entirely new. But based on all available material – Van Beek used, among other things, interviews made for the film Otto Frank, Anne’s father by David de Jongh from 2010 – a smooth story written. The history of the diary is a book for those who would like to understand a little more about Anne Frank’s iconic value.

Balanced image

Van Beek also paints a beautiful and probably balanced picture of Otto Frank. In memory of his daughter, he dedicated his life to a message of peace and tolerance, but it was not always easy for those around him. As for Sylvia, the granddaughter of Otto’s second wife Fritzi. Sylvia loved to write, and Otto often used it to talk about Anne. She later recounted this: ‘In a way, I felt he saw me as a kind of Anne figure. He asked me if I kept a diary and stuff like that. I did not feel comfortable with that. ”

But Otto Frank also had a big heart, as evidenced by the letters sent to him by people from all over the world, to which he responded faithfully. Like a 17-year-old girl from Japan who asked Frank if she could be his letter daughter. Also touching is the anecdote that Van Beek tells about another girl who corresponded with Frank, from Greece. On a rainy day, she was at his doorstep in Switzerland. “I’m Teti from Athens, may I stay with you?” she asked. “I do not want to live at home anymore, you are my father.”

Frank and his wife locked the girl in, gave her tea and made a bed for her. According to Otto’s cousin Buddy Elias, he then sought work for her in Bern. Later she returned to Greece and started a family.

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