It seems the name Anne Frank is still making the news with a report recently in the press that the two relevant Frank Foundations are in a deadly dispute over assorted letters, photos and documents, that concerned Anne. “The Anne Frank Fund” is located in Basel, Switzerland, with the Dutch Foundation being secured in Amsterdam; both being instigated by her late father, Otto Frank, some years ago.
Apparently, things are getting nasty with the Swiss directors accusing their Amsterdam opposites as being: “Reminiscent as Nazi Germany.” Poor Anne, how she would have wept over this jealous squabbling, and all in her name, as well!
The iconic name Anne Frank remains as familiar as Coca-Cola, Hollywood, Abba and of course, Elvis.
Historically, the famous diary (which apparently was an autograph album) was presented to little Anne on her thirteenth birthday, on 12th June 1942 by her father. It is tartan red and white in a then popular design. Later this little book would become as famous as its owner would be and in a strange way, you cannot separate the one without the other.
Today it is to be viewed under a plexus glass case in the attic in the building on 263/265 Prinsengracht in the city where her frightened family were confined during the Nazi occupation.
Previously they were domiciled in South Amsterdam, a then middle-class area in a modern block of apartments at 37 Merwedeplein Plaza with its manicured lawn and cherry blossom trees. Now it seems to act rather like some silent guardian. Apparently, nothing much has changed since those peaceful pre War days. However, today there is a sculptured statue of Anne that graces the location, it depicts her standing with a suitcase in her hand and under her other arm, she grips a secure bundle.
(An original sketch of how the Frank house would have looked)
The old family apartment on the first floor has been lovingly restored to how it would have looked when the Frank family occupied it in the early 1940s. Of particular interest as well is a recently discovered silent film, lasting a mere twenty seconds, that records a departing wedding party leaving this building, then as the camera pans back the young Anne is seen leaning out of the window, watching the proceedings. Then walking towards the building’s front entrance is another young girl, who I rather suspect to be Anne’s elder sister, Margot.
Another famous photograph of Anne at the time was recorded in the dining room and shows her sitting confidently at the family desk, writing in her diary. This would be something that she would commit each day until 1st August 1944. Four days later on the 4th the family were finally betrayed then arrested by the loathsome Dutch police and German officers.
“The original diary is that of an ordinary teenager,” writes her biographer Carol Ann Lee: “It is about boys, school, friends and the ping pong club.”
Later writes Ann Lee: “She was rewriting the diary with a future view to publication.” So perhaps we can assume from this task that her father had encouraged her to pursue a writing career after the war’s end. And of course she herself would write on 11th May 1944: “In any case after the war I’d like to publish a book called “The Secret Annex,” so some juvenile literary ambition was in an embryonic state, even then it seems.
However, the construction of this secular Jewish family in those pre-sheltered days, before they fled to the secret annexe in Prinsengracht, was comfortable and calm. It was it seems a happy home with Margot the elder daughter and perhaps rather like her mother in belief and benevolence. Anne, on the other hand, is the more garrulous child, always seeking her father’s attention and affection. She calls him “Pim” and maybe they will share many other pet names and secrets together in those confined walls of the secret annexe.
Through those twenty-five dangerous and difficult months eight people were now ensconced in the hidden annexe at 263 Prinsengracht in Amsterdam, then forced to live and survive together, escape it seems, was never an option.
In 2013 there are six Anne Frank Foundations in existence and with her late name now gracing popular social network pages such as “Facebook” and of course “Twitter.” And incidentally, in 1995 an asteroid was named after Anne. Why I’ve even seen a computer game with her name on it and also of interest is an opera, written about the hopes and the horizons of this young girl, all which allows her memory to be secured well into the 21st century.
(Anne Frank’s card from the records of the Jewish Council in Westerbork)
Yet the meaning of this young girl and of her family has seen the successful publication and translation of the famous diary into eighty languages, which is quite an achievement. Three films have also been produced to secure her memory and inspiration.
The story is so well known of how two Jewish families and also one other person finally found safely in an annexe, situated above a spice shop that was owned by Otto Frank in Amsterdam. However, in 1944 they are betrayed (no one seems to know who this was for certain but most likely one of the workers involved with the day to day business in the shop).
Sadly Anne’s diary ceases some days before the family are arrested. Amazingly, the diary with loose-leaf sheets of paper and office ledgers were hidden away in a desk by one of the office staff. However, before the family located to the “safe house” for protection, from the Dutch police, Otto Frank had let it be known that he and his family were leaving for Switzerland, hoping to create the impression that the Frank family were no longer in Holland.
In fact, when the eighth arrival to the house arrives the others are surprised to see the Franks are there and have been all the time. The question has to be asked why didn’t Mr Frank take his vulnerable family to Switzerland in the first place, thereby securing their safety during the War. Mr Frank certainly had the money and the means. Something or someone kept him in Amsterdam it seems during those dark days, for whatever reason.
In her diary, dated 19th November 1942, Anne show pangs of guilt at her own comfort when she writes: “I feel wicked sleeping in a warm bed while my dearest friends have been knocked down…”
An interesting statement from her and I do wonder if the other members of the self-enclosed family suffered the same pangs of conscience. And interestingly we also learn that her elder sister Margot also kept a diary as well so it would be interesting to compare the sister’s views of the annexe and its inhabitants. However, “It [the diary] has never been found. It would have been intriguing to read,” writes Carol Ann Lee. I somehow suspect that the sisters did share their secrets with each other in such close proximity, not even sharing them with their parents possibly.
(One of Hollywood’s film stills promoting the 1950’s film about her life)
More importantly from a financial aspect Otto Frank had it seems decided early in the War to place his business in the hands of his “Aryan” partners, thus by doing so he would escape severe penalties from the so-called Dutch “green police,” then aided as always by their cruel Nazi masters. Naturally, the business would remain in Otto Frank’s capable hands.
I was also surprised to learn how he would come downstairs when it was safe and empty during office hours from his annexe hideaway, and from his office/warehouse inspect the progress of the forms finance. More interestingly his secretary, Isa Cauvern would assist him in taking letter dictation and perhaps preparing invoices to post out to customers. She would later after the War be involved with Otto Frank in typing up the manuscript of Anne’s diary for future publication, assisted it seems from her husband himself, a radio author as well. Apparently Mr Frank did have some professional assistance in his chosen task, that being to bring to the world his daughter’s diary for inspection and inspiration but not then for financial gain.
Any mention of Anne Frank in polite circles is usually proceeded by “The Diary.”
(Another publicity still)
I do believe that Anne was presented with the scotch/tartan diary by her parents (or maybe just her father) on her 13th birthday. And through those enforced twenty-five months in captivity little Anne would confide in her diary some of the goings-on in the annexe concerning her own family and the Van Pels. Later she would further add new notebooks as part of her journals; writers always carry a spare notebook to jot down ideas musings and sentence structure. Ideas can arrive at any time and anywhere.
90 years later much of the charm and later controversy still cloaks this little book, and I have to suggest also that if the original house had been demolished, as was proposed some years ago, much of the prestige and pain of Anne would have disappeared. Not discounting the lost millions of Euros that the city earns from over a million visitors each year to visit the Frank museum and also the house merchandise as well. But as someone once cynically remarked: “The past is another country.”
(Final promotional still from the author’s private collection)
And what of the kind unmarried dentist, Fritz Pfeffer (whom Anne unkindly calls “Dussell” which is German for an idiot if you did not know.) Dr Fritz was the last to be admitted into the secret annexe convinced that the Frank family had departed for the safety of Switzerland in the previous months. In fact, this was a planned rumour put around by Otto himself. Mrs Frank had always wished for her family to emigrate to America as quickly as possible before the Nazi storm erupted over the Jewish race, and especially in Holland.
Yet Otto declined this lifeline. How selfish and how different events might have been if he had booked his family to America to a welcomed safety. I wonder in the post War years if he ever blamed himself for this rash decision, perhaps the promotion of Anne’s lost life into a book form became for him an obsession clouded in guilt. As regards the ridiculed dentist and his role in the annexe, I somehow think his role was never quite explained in Anne’s diary.
Also whose idea was it that he should share a small bedroom with the young Anne of all people, after his arrival in the house. Anne naturally loathed the idea of writing: “Quite honestly, I’m not so keen that a stranger should use my things,” she complains of on the 19th November 1942 in her diary.
So could not the ever-obliging Otto Frank have moved into that single bedroom with the dentist, then both young and innocent girls could share the larger room with their mother, Edith, which is how it should have been but for some strange reason, Otto refuses to consider this solution.
So much of the day-to-day actions of Otto Frank in those harsh years in occupied Amsterdam still remain a mystery that is only now starting to be explained and needs to be.
For example, was he being blackmailed over an indiscretion that might have occurred in the firm that he owned? Did the blackmailer, a fellow Dutchman, and member of the Nazi party learn of Frank’s hiding place by chance or by betrayal? Was Otto Frank part of a black-market financial ring that amongst other things were supplying the German Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe with thickening agents, such as his firm’s license to use pectin later being practised for medical purpose in treating injured German soldiers on the eastern front?
It seems pectin and its components can staunch the blood loss to a serious wound and very useful to the struggling German army. It may be that Otto Frank was paying the blackmailer to protect his family’s future safety from the inquiring Dutch police, then perhaps somehow just weeks before the arrest of the two families and the dentist, there is an altercation concerning perhaps money with the blackmailer and Otto Frank resulting soon after in the capture and arrest of the eight Jews in the annexe on Friday 4th August 1944. (A new theory claims that the cleaning lady informed the authorities of the concealed Jews in the building).
Yet even after the Wars conclusion, Otto Frank was still paying unknown sums of money into that same Dutch traitor’s bank account, who I suggest had possibly threatened to reveal to the world that Otto Frank was not the man that so many people thought him to be. Then only years later after this suspects death do the suspicious payments into his bank account cease.
So it remains difficult to arrive at any other reason or cause as to why Otto Frank continued these blood payments long after the Wars final conclusion, if not for financial or his family’s safety during those dark Dutch days of enemy occupation.
I suspect he did this to preserve his spiralling reputation at the success in those post War days of the phenomenal and financial success of Anne’s published diaries, that even he could not have imagined or foresaw.
As I write these words concerning that little book I certainly accept that the young Anne was presented with a tartan bound diary on her thirteenth birthday, whether she had requested such a gift from her parents, I do not know. Coincidently, as I compose these words on 4th June 2013 we are just eight days away from what would have been her 84th birthday if she had survived the horrors of the Nazi death camps. But then if she had and emigrated we may never have seen Anne’s diary published at all.
(Ugly and shameful graffiti tarnishes this plaque in Holland)
However, doubts about Anne’s own authenticity as the sole author of these books have to be examined. Indeed in recent years, much has been written about her style and maturity for a girl of her age seen in certain pages of the journal. In fact, some days ago I asked my wife to read some of Anne’s remarks written in the annexe concerning her parent’s marriage and to evaluate her remarks. This she agreed to do, then after reading slowly to herself she finally remarked to me saying that: “These are not the thoughts of a young girl but those of a mature woman.” I have no reason to doubt my wife’s instincts or her judgment in what she read because I also believe there are some doubts about some of the authenticity of the daily entries in that little book.
We all swim in the lake of life instead of washing in the waters of life, many will perish in the coming lake of fire, yet redemption is always there to those who seek its eternal gift.
I find little in Otto Frank’s life of himself ever seeking any salvation from sin, but instead, he pursues a lifetime obsession with promoting his daughter’s place in history, and to some extent, his own.
My other personal criticism of Mr Frank during those concealed days in the annexe is that he didn’t encourage Anne to read or study the Holy Bible. Yet I wonder if Mrs Frank encouraged her other daughter Margot to discover the Bible and maybe try to privately influence Anne to seek a relationship and renewal with God through His Son Jesus Christ.
In one of her daily diary entries, Anne records the words to “be still.” This immediately brought to mind the wonderful Psalm 46:10: “Be still and know that I am God.” Perhaps the young Anne had heard her mother read and try to explain this to her and her sister in the times of fear and depression that must have invaded that annexe so frequently in those dark days in Amsterdam of the 1940s.
(The cover to the 1959 book)
I do also have to speculate as well that when Anne wrote in 1944 those words: “In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart,” if she still would have rejoiced in these words after what she lived through and suffered with her sister through the horrors of Bergen-Belsen and Auschwitz, and then death for them both to be buried later in an unmarked grave. Anne had known or understood very little of the hard lessons of the way of the world.
All would-be novelists have to eventually submit their finished manuscript to a book publishing house if indeed their fortunate enough to have their novel accepted in the first place. Even Anne Frank would have suffered through this painful experience if she had lived and later fulfilled her ambitions to be an author. It’s just another rite of passage that all authors have to go through before the triumph of publication.
I see no reason to doubt that Otto Frank when returning after the War to Amsterdam was presented with the cache of her diaries and journals by a faithful female member of his staff, Miep Gies, who had bravely retrieved them after the police had left the building, then concealing these items for safekeeping until someone in the Frank family returned to collect them.
Grieving for his family’s imminent recent loss and especially the tragedy of Anne’s death, someone who knew him suggested that: “Anne occupied his every minute,” remembered a family member and sadly it seems he rarely talked either about his late wife or his other daughter, and I have to wonder why. He then later after perusing through the diary discovers for the first time his youngest daughter’s dreams and discoveries about others and herself, somehow to achieve them for Anne’s sake he must do all he can to promote the yet to be published book.
Yet Mr Frank is not an author but a successful businessman, and so I suggest to achieve this he will seek those who are familiar with the meaning and value of the written word. However and more importantly, those who knew Anne before and during the family’s enforced confinement in the annexe, will be asked for their memories of Anne as a young girl and to record their impressions of her.
Close to Otto Frank is his secretary, Isa Cauvern and her later terrible suicide soon after the War has never been explained, and did it somehow have something to do with the diary and its future presentation. Her husband, himself a popular writer for radio, knew the Frank family well. It seems they had in the past gone on holidays together. Both husband and wife could well have added their own professional insight into the words of Anne.
Another friend was Anneliese Schutze: “Who was a journalist and was always very interested in the children.” It seems she had also tutored the young Anne. I believe Anne like most children do in their innocence confide in their favourite teacher’s many secrets of themselves and their families, other editorial female hands may also have seen the journal and made suggestions pre-publication. I even read that a pastor was mentioned as well.
For this book to be accepted by a publisher, and several turned it down, this must-have become to Otto Frank an obsession to promote the book and have it eventually published. It is, he must have thought, after all, what his youngest daughter would have wanted.
Later there was a controversy, this time from an American playwright and author, who had a serious disagreement and ended up suing Otto Frank in the American courts, only for Otto to settle out of court with him, with a cash payment. Was this to do with his authorship of the later Broadway stage. There were hints of anti-Semitism mentioned.
Further fresh claims of the authorship of the Frank book will reach the courts in Germany raising serious doubts about the handwriting, even the suspected use of biro pens is brought into the mix. All very strange and has never been fully explained to the public and other interested parties.
The on-going mystery of the alleged literary collaborators of Otto Frank remains unsolved. The public may never know the true authorship of these diaries that have comforted and inspired so many in the years since the publication in 1947, and rather like the controversial Shroud of Turin (which we do not accept is the true face of Christ), so until further tests of carbon dating is carried out on the original diary, and of the additional handwritten notes, this will remain to be another enigma of modern times.
And I hesitatingly have to inquire of what the young Anne Frank would have made of all of this controversy and concern that surrounds her name, and her diary today, rather akin to the swirling mists from the highlands of Scotland.
We at this ministry have and always will continue to support the State of Israel in its current and future existence until the Lord Jesus Christ returns.
(DVD of the 1987 ITV television production)
But doubts have continually been raised if indeed Otto Frank did embellish or create new meanings to what Anne privately confided to her precious diary in Amsterdam. I was intrigued by a remark I came across from a Dr Nussbaum, who had known the young Anne at school, she remarked very wisely some years ago that: “She [Anne] stands as a symbolic figure upon whom the world can heap both guilt and commiseration.” Very true.
The definitive version of her diary (2010) was recently reported to be too pornographic by a mother in America for her daughter to read or be explained to, so the controversy still continues.
Much of that blame must be laid at the reputation of Otto Frank and others in perhaps the diaries crafted embellishment, and yes he did survive where many others perished in Auschwitz. Yet his reputation as the keeper of the flame of his youngest daughter Anne Frank remains blemished and damaged, and I suspect will continue to do so for as long as people want to learn from the diary of Anne Frank.
This article was completed on 12th June 2013 on what would have been Anne’s 84th birthday. I also want to dedicate it to our dear sister Tantri in thanks for all of her proofreading, prayers and support to both of us in this ministry.
To conclude this article, I wish to share the following musical tribute, that I wrote and performed in memory of Anne and all the other Jews that died during the Second World War.
An anti-Semitic outbreak in Japan has seen over 200 copies of Anne Frank’s diaries in the countries libraries damaged and defaced. During the last war, Japan and Nazi Germany were close allies. Police are continuing to investigate all possibilities.
Japanese police have confirmed that a 36-year-old man in Tokyo has been arrested for the vandalism. “It is unknown why the books were targeted by him,” a spokesman stated today.
Quoted reference books
Otto Frank, Carol Ann Lee
The biography of Anne Frank, Carol Ann Lee
(Miss Lee is to be complimented for all her painstaking research into so much of Otto Frank’s hidden past, and also her insight into the enquiring mind of the young Anne Frank).
“It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.”
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