Childhood & Early Life
Otto Frank was born in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, to Michael Frank and Alice Betty Frank. He was born in a Jewish family and had three other siblings—Robert, Herbert and Helene Frank.
After finishing his high school studies in Germany, Frank pursued art history at the University of Heidelberg.
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Frank did a job at a local bank for a year and side by side he started pursuing economics at a university. It was around this time that he got an opportunity to work in Manhattan, New York.
An internship at Macy’s Department store in New York was arranged for him. He became very excited about this opportunity and left for New York but sudden death of his father required him to come back after two weeks.
After attending the funeral, Frank again headed back to New York to make a decent living there. He spent two years working there; he worked at the Macy’s and then secured a position at a bank.
In 1911, Frank returned back to his homeland and started working in a company that manufactured window frames and later during World War I, he took up a job with a manufacturer of horseshoes for the German army.
Soon, Frank was taken into the German Military in 1914 and was stationed at the Western front where he earned the rank of lieutenant. After the war ended, he returned back to his normal civilian life.
Frank took over the management of the family bank which his younger brother was looking after until now but was not able to handle it properly. In 1936, he founded his own company ‘Opekta Company’ and became its director.
Soon he shifted with his family to Holland to avoid the dangers of growing resistance of Hitler’s army towards the Jews. In 1940, Holland was invaded by Germany and Jews were prohibited to run their own businesses.
Frank had to appoint his Dutch colleagues as the owners of the firm and in 1942, his elder daughter got an official letter that expected her to join a work camp. This shook the family and they went into hiding.
The whole family hid into a secret annex above Frank’s former office along with other Jews and lived there for two years. This was the time when his youngest daughter Anne started to write a journal on her experiences.
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In 1944, Frank family’s safe haven was invaded by the Gestapo and the whole family was arrested and sent to the Westerbork transit concentration camp and later to the Auschwitz concentration camp.
It was at Auschwitz that Frank was separated forever from his wife and his two daughters as he was shifted to men’s barracks and then to sick barracks. He was later released by Soviet troops in 1945.
Frank went to Netherlands and tried his best to trace his family and friends but after months of struggling with the search, he finally realized that he was the sole survivor in his family.
In 1945, Anne’s journal was handed to Frank by Miep Gies who salvaged the manuscript from the raided secret hiding. Frank did not do anything with it for some time but slowly started to translate it for his relatives.
Slowly he found out that Anne’s writing reflected the pain of all the Jews who went through the act of hatred and violence at the hands of Nazis. He considered getting it published.
He typed Anne’s dairy into a manuscript and edited the parts that he considered were too private a detail of his family to divulge. He then sent it to the Dutch historian Jan Romein, who evaluated it for ‘Het Parool’.
In 1946, Amsterdam’s Contract Publishing took interest in Anne’s dairy and accepted it for publication. In the following year, Anne’s diary’s first edition came out under the title of, ‘Het Achterhuis’ which means ‘The Secret Annex’.
In 1952, ‘Het Achterhuis’ was translated into English successfully, which is responsible for its eventual theatrical portrayal and a film version. Besides this, Frank was involved in restoration of the building where his family hid during the war.
Frank family went into hiding in one of the upper rooms of his office ‘Opekta Company’ on the Prinsengracht. They moved in there with another family of three—Hermann van Pels. His colleagues helped them to live in hiding for two years; these were—Johannes Kleiman, Miep Gies, Victor Kugler and Bep Voskuijl.
It was an anonymous informant that betrayed the family and they were all arrested.
The place of their hiding was considered for demolition but Frank and his friend Johannes Kleiman founded the Anne Frank Foundation in 1957 and restored the building and opened a museum there, under the name of ‘Anne Frank House’.