About the Author
Jeannette K. Ringold has translated over twenty fiction and non-fiction works by Dutch authors into English. She was born in the Netherlands and now lives in California.
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Frankfurt — Amsterdam — Bergen-Belsen
So there we were. Father, Mother and I, walking in the pouring rain, each of us with a schoolbag and a shopping bag filled to the brim with the most varied assortment of items.
Everyone knows who wrote this: Anne Frank, the world-famous diary writer. In 1942 she left her house on Merwedeplein in Amsterdam with her parents. Her older sister, Margot, had already gone ahead to the office and warehouse of Otto Frank at 263 Prinsengracht. Since 2005, Anne stands on Merwedeplein, cast in bronze, carrying two bags, and looking back at the house that she would never see again.
Frankfurt am Main
The Frank family officially moved to Amsterdam in August 1933, but for Otto, Anne's father, it wasn't the first time he lived there. Otto Heinrich Frank, born on May 12, 1889, in Frankfurt am Main, was the second son of bank director Michael Frank (1851–1909) and Alice Betty Stern (1865–1953). The family, with three sons and two daughters, was liberal Jewish and not religiously observant. Upon Michael's death, his widow, Alice Frank, took over the business. Their son Otto was in the United States at the time, visiting Nathan Strauss Jr. (1889–1961), a college friend from Heidelberg who lived in New York. Nathan Sr. and his brother Isidor were coowners of Macy's. Strauss came from a family of Jewish emigrants from Germany, and Otto visited him several times.
During the First World War, Otto joined the German army and became lieutenant of an artillery regiment that was deployed at the western front where he eventually received the Iron Cross. Both of Otto's brothers also survived the war at the front, but unlike them, Otto didn't return home until several months after the German surrender. Supposedly, Otto returned two horses that his unit had seized from a Belgian farmer because he had given his "word of honor as a German officer" to do so. Another version of the story claims that he returned the horses to Pomerania, in the eastern part of Germany, but this detour of hundreds of kilometers seems too far-fetched to be true.
The German defeat and the subsequent economic inflation had an adverse effect on the family's bank. In the expectation that Amsterdam might be a good place for business, the family sent Otto to Amsterdam so that he would become involved in foreign currency trading and the banking business. During those years, Amsterdam was Germany's gateway to the international capital market. At the end of 1923, the M. Frank & Zonen Bank was officially established, and Otto went to live at 604 Keizersgracht, where the bank was located as well. Johannes Kleiman (1893–1959), who was nine years older than Otto and would later play an important role in his life, was one of the bank's authorized agents. The bank was not successful; the end was near after only a year, although it would take another five years before it was actually liquidated. Otto had lived in Amsterdam for only a short time before returning to the family home in Germany.
In the spring of 1936, at the age of thirty-six, Otto married twenty-five-year-old Edith Holländer (1900–1945). Edith was the daughter of Abraham Holländer (1860–1928), a well-to-do Jewish manufacturer, and Rosa Holländer-Stern (1866–1942). The Holländer family, who lived in Aachen, was more religious than the Frank family and kept kosher, but Edith had attended a Christian girls' high school. The wedding ceremony took place in the synagogue in Aachen and was followed by a celebration in a well-known Aachen hotel. On their honeymoon, they went to San Remo, Italy, where they had met.
After their honeymoon, Otto and Edith first lived in the Frank family home in Frankfurt, where their oldest child, Margot Betti, was born on February 16, 1926. A year later, the family moved to another house in Frankfurt so they could raise their daughter in a more liberal and modern way, without interference from the family. On June 12, 1929, Annelies Marie, called Anne, was born. At the time, Otto was again working for the family bank, but the business had not improved. His brother-in-law, Eric (1890–1984), who also worked at the bank, moved to Switzerland in the fall of 1929 to set up a Swiss branch of the Opekta-Werke. This was a subsidiary of the Pomosin-Werke in Frankfurt, which manufactured and distributed pectin. This gelling agent was a kind of resin that was used primarily as a binding agent in the production of jam and was therefore quite seasonal, and pectin was especially in demand after the fruit harvest. Eric established himself in Basel and was followed by his wife and children. In addition to the branch in Frankfurt, there was now a Frank branch in northern Switzerland.
Otto Frank's young family was affected not only by the economic consequences of the world crisis of 1929, but also by the rise of Hitler's National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP). Because of strict foreign currency regulations, the bank, which traded in international securities, got into greater financial difficulties, and at the end of January 1923, all activities of the Frank family bank were stopped. In 1933 the Nazis had achieved a great victory in the municipal elections of liberal Frankfurt, and the Jewish mayor was forced to resign. Jewish municipal employees were dismissed, and before long, Jewish children were separated from non-Jewish children in schoolrooms. Life became increasingly difficult, and there seemed to be no end in sight.
Like many other Jews, Otto Frank wanted to leave Germany, perhaps temporarily — until Germany had once again become a democratic country. Time was pressing, and the Netherlands were a logical choice as a democratic neighbor that had no open — let alone state-sponsored — anti- Semitism. Moreover, the country had remained neutral during the First World War. In addition, Otto knew Amsterdam somewhat because of his earlier stay. With the support of his brother-in-law, Otto was able to establish a branch of Opekta in the Netherlands.
Otto had two main objectives in Amsterdam: to set up and establish his business and to find a place for his family to live. At first, he was alone in the city because his wife and two daughters were staying with his mother-in-law in Aachen (his father-in-law had died in 1929). The Dutch Opekta Company was located at 120 Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal in the center of the city. There were start-up problems because in Utrecht, not far from Amsterdam, a competing Pomosin company existed. But Otto decided to specialize in the sale of small quantities of pectin to housewives for jam-making. In addition to these direct sales, the product was to be sold in pharmacies, both in bottled liquid form and small bags of powder. Some Opekta advertising material has been saved, and it shows that the 1938 Opekta movie that was used as a training film for housewives was quite modern. It demonstrated how one should carefully handle the exact quantities of fruit, sugar, and pectin to have a good result. Miep Gies (1909–2010), one of Otto's staff members, played a role in this movie.
Miep was born in Vienna as Hermine Santrouschitz, and after the First World War she was sent to the Netherlands with a group of undernourished Austrian children to recuperate. Of course, they were supposed to return to Austria afterward, but Miep remained with her host family, the Nieuwenburgs, first in the university city of Leiden and later in Amsterdam.
Within a year, Opekta's business premises were too small, and the company moved to 400 Singel, where it stayed for six years. At the end of 1940, there was a third move, this time to 263 Prinsengracht. During the war, the building on Singel would become the headquarters of one of the Amsterdam Defense Section (WA) regiments, the armed hooligans of the Dutch Nazi party (NSB).
Meanwhile, Otto Frank sublet the third floor of 24 Stadionkade, but because it was too small for the whole family, he continued to look for an apartment. He found one that was again on the third floor, this time at 37 Merwedeplein, a quiet square in a new neighborhood of Amsterdam-Zuid, which was dominated by the Wolkenkrabber (skyscraper), the tallest residential building in the Netherlands at the time. This new housing development attracted political and Jewish refugees from Germany — if they had enough money to live there.
The family was reunited early in 1934, and this was the start of a relatively happy period for them. Edith, in particular, had a difficult time, however; she was homesick for Germany and missed her family and friends. She maintained close contact with her mother in Aachen, who came to live with the family in March 1939. It was rather exceptional that Edith's mother, Rosa, had received a residence permit, since the Netherlands had Frankfurt — Amsterdam — tried for some time to keep its borders closed to refugees. In the summer of 1941, Edith's mother became ill and died of cancer that same year. Julius (1894–1967) and Walter (1867–1968), Edith's two brothers, had left for the United States in 1938.
Otto and Edith had many German friends, refugees like them, but through his work, Otto also had many non-Jewish friends and acquaintances. Edith became active in the emerging liberal Jewish community, and — unlike her husband — she regularly went to the synagogue. Margot and Anne, eight and four years old respectively, obviously integrated more easily than their parents when they arrived in Amsterdam. They didn't attend a Jewish or an ordinary public school; instead, their parents chose the progressive Montessori education. The girls had friends, played in the street, went to the beach, and even went abroad on vacation. The Netherlands had become their second country, and they surely didn't worry much about the German Reichsbürgergesetz (citizenship law in Nazi Germany) of September 1935. That law stated, among other things, that German Jews no longer had citizenship. For Otto and Edith, it was the latest evidence that anti-Semitism in Germany was becoming increasingly vicious and that they had done the right thing by leaving for the Netherlands. Otto Frank seemed to be quite at home, witnessing his short biography with a photo in Persoonlijkheden in het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden in Woord en Beeld (Notable personalities in the kingdom of the Netherlands in words and pictures) published in 1938 — a hefty and uncritical volume of more than 1,700 pages, in which one could be included at a charge. But should they perhaps move on — to Great Britain or the United States? In 1938 Otto filled out their first application for emigration to the United States, the first of many desperate attempts to keep ahead of Hitler.
Because Opekta was still no gold mine, Otto set up the Pectacon Trading Company, which would be involved with herb mixtures for sausages. Johannes Kleiman did the bookkeeping, and Victor Kugler (1900–1981), one of the first employees, became an authorized agent. Miep Gies, who had started as a temp worker, soon developed into an all-around employee and was assisted by Bep Voskuijl (1919–1983). Hermann van Pels (1898–1944), who had fled Osnabrück, became the most important person in Pectacon. In Germany he had been in charge of a similar company with his father, but increasingly menaced by the anti-Jewish measures, Hermann had left for 6 ? The Phenomenon of Anne Frank the Netherlands in 1937 with his wife, Auguste (1900–1945), and their son, Peter (1926–1945). Otto had already made plans to establish a new company overseas, but as he wrote to his friend Strauss in the United States at the end of April 1941: "All these plans had to be given up by the war, and I had to stay where I was."
The war, which broke out in September 1939, did not yet have direct consequences for the Netherlands, and most inhabitants hoped that the country would remain neutral as it had during the First World War. But the threat increased, and the Frank girls were also aware of it. Through their school they had American pen pals, Juanita and Betty Wagner from Danville, near Burlington, Iowa. On April 27, 1949, fourteen-year-old Margot wrote in a letter: "We often listen to the radio, for these are exciting times and it doesn't feel safe as a small country to share a border with Germany."
On May 10, 1940, the war came to the Netherlands after all, and most of the armed forces capitulated after five days. Since the Germans considered the Dutch a "Germanic Brudervolk," it seemed at first that the Germans meant well with the Dutch, and even the overwhelming majority of the Jews breathed a sigh of relief. But not for long.
For her thirteenth birthday, Anne received an autograph album that she started to use as a diary. Her first musings were dated June 12, 1942: "I hope I will be able to confide everything to you, as I have never been able to confide in anyone, and I hope you will be a great source of comfort and support." In her diary, Anne described herself as a sociable chatterbox who made things difficult for her teachers, who had lots of girlfriends and also "many admirers." Anne started at the Montessori nursery school and attended this school until the summer of 1941 when she — like her sister and all other Jewish students in the Netherlands — was forced to transfer to a Jewish school, in her case, the Jewish Lyceum.
On June 20, 1942, Anne wrote a short summary of the previous four years:
Our lives were not without anxiety, since our relatives in Germany were suffering under Hitler's anti-Jewish laws. After the pogroms in 1938 my two uncles (my mother's brothers) fled Germany, finding safe refuge in North America. My elderly grandmother came to live with us. She was seventy-three years old at the time.
After May 1940 the good times were few and far between: first there was the war, then the capitulation and then the arrival of the Germans, which is when the trouble started for the Jews. Our freedom was severely restricted by a series of anti-Jewish decrees: Jews were required to wear a yellow star; Jews were required to turn in their bicycles; Jews were forbidden to use streetcars; Jews were forbidden to ride in cars, even their own; Jews were required to do their shopping between 3 and 5 P.M.; Jews were required to frequent only Jewish-owned barbershops and beauty parlors; Jews were forbidden to be out on the streets between 8 P.M. and 6 A.M.; Jews were forbidden to attend theaters, movies or any other forms of entertainment; Jews were forbidden to use swimming pools, tennis courts, hockey fields or any other athletic fields; Jews were forbidden to go rowing; Jews were forbidden to take part in any athletic activity in public; Jews were forbidden to sit in their gardens or those of their friends after 8 P.M.; Jews were forbidden to visit Christians in their homes; Jews were required to attend Jewish schools, etc. You couldn't do this and you couldn't do that, but life went on.
From December 1, 1940, onward, both Pectacon and Opekta had been located at 263 Prinsengracht, and Otto Frank did his best to prevent or at least delay the "aryanization" of his company by the Germans. Aryanization meant that the occupier would expropriate the Jewish owner and appoint an acting manager who would be in charge. Otto arranged for Pectacon to be transferred to Kleiman's name so that the company was no longer in Jewish hands. However, the Germans realized that this was only a sham; the transfer was canceled, and Pectacon was liquidated. A lawyer from Amsterdam, A. R. W. M. Dunselman, helped them with this, just as Miep and her husband, Jan Gies (1905–1993), also helped them.
In addition, Otto made attempts at emigration, and he involved his old friend Nathan Strauss in his attempt to come to the United States, if necessary, by way of Cuba. In the April 1940 letter mentioned earlier, Otto says: "No one knows if there is still a chance to leave Europe when you receive this letter." In a letter from September 1941, he writes, "Edith urges me to leave by myself or with the children," and he repeats these words a month later. When the United States became involved in the war in December 1941, that way was obviously blocked. On January 20, 1942, Otto made another attempt at emigration, this time through the Jewish Council of Amsterdam and the Zentralstelle für jüdische Auswanderung (Central Agency for Jewish Emigration). The main purpose of this agency was to give Jews false hope for emigration, because at that point it was out of the question for all but a few exceptions. At the same time, Otto was busy furnishing a hiding place for himself and his family in the annex of his office and warehouse on Prinsengracht. With the help of friends, he had transported furniture, bedding, clothes, food, and whatever might be necessary for survival.
Excerpted from "The Phenomenon of Anne Frank"
Copyright © 2012 David Barnouw.
Excerpted by permission of Indiana University Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of ContentsAuthor's NoteTranslator's NoteIntroduction1. Frankfurt – Amsterdam – Bergen-Belsen2. Anne Frank: From Diary to Het Achterhuis/Das Tagebuch/Le Journal/The Diary 3. Anne Frank on Broadway: The Play 4. Anne Frank in Hollywood: The Movie5. Anne's Diary under Attack6. Who Owns Anne Frank?7. A Girl's Book or Literature?8. How to Continue in the 21st Century?Bibliography
What People are Saying About This
"Reasonable, elegant, sometimes provocative, essential."
Everything you want to know about the Anne Frank phenomenon, about the perception and the effect of the text, whose writer became an icon, is said within these pages.
Reasonable, elegant, sometimes provocative, essential.
"Reasonable, elegant, sometimes provocative, essential."
"Everything you want to know about the Anne Frank phenomenon, about the perception and the effect of the text, whose writer became an icon, is said within these pages."