The Lonely Journey of Otto Frank on the Monowai Steamship


I am a father of three children, and every time they leave the house—a million scenarios go through my head of things that could happen to them, but I am not unique in this because it is what fathers and mothers do—they worry for their kids.

Otto Frank was a father, and a husband, to two beautiful daughters and a remarkable wife. I couldn’t fathom the anxiety he must have felt on the 4th of August 1944 when the Gestapo raided the annexe of the building. Otto and his family had been hiding since 6 July 1942.


The uncertainty of the fate of his family must have driven him to the brink of insanity.

On 22 April 1945, a few weeks before the end of the war in Europe, the Monowai, flying the New Zealand flag, set sail from England for Odesa on the Black Sea. It was carrying 1600 Soviets who had been captured serving with the Germans in France. The Manowai then embarked Jewish Holocaust survivors from Western Europe, one of them was Otto Frank—who had been liberated from the Auschwitz death camp on 27 January 1945, by the Soviet army. On 21 May the ship travelled with the Jewish survivors from Odesa to Marseille, where it arrived on the 27th of May.


While aboard the Monowai, Otto Frank wrote the following letter:

“The closer we get to home the greater our impatience to hear from our loved ones. Everything that’s happened in the past few years! Until our arrest I don’t know exactly what caused it, even now, at least we still had contact with each other. I don’t know what’s happened since then. Kugler and Kleiman and especially Miep and her husband and Bep Voskuil provided us with everything for two whole years, with incomparable devotion and sacrifice, despite all danger.

I can’t even begin to describe it. How will I ever begin to repay everything they did? But what has happened since then? To them, to you to Robert (His brother). Are you in touch with Julius and Walter? (Edith’s brothers) All our possessions are gone. There won’t be a pin left, the Germans stole everything. Not a photo, letter or document remains. Financially we were fine in the past few years, I earned good money and saved it. Now it’s all gone. But I don’t think about any of that. We have lived through too much to worry about that kind of thing. Only the children matter, the children. I hope to get news from you immediately. Maybe you’ve already heard the news about the girls?”

By this time Otto had discovered that his wife, Edith, had died at Auschwitz.

This letter broke my heart. We know so much about Anne through her diary but to a lesser extent about Margot. None of us could ever imagine the pain Otto Frank felt when he heard the news about his daughters.


The sad thing is that Anne Frank’s diary would never have been published if the US had not cancelled the Frank family’s visa in December 1941, just after Germany had declared war on the US. I am not accusing the US government, but it is sad nonetheless.

An even sadder item is that Otto Frank was accused of tampering with Anne’s diary. Sometimes, I don’t understand the mindset of people that would accuse a man who lost everything. To me, he is a hero who, despite everything, kept his sanity and ensured that the story of his daughter—and the rest of his family—would be told.

Otto Frank died of lung cancer on 19 August 1980 in Basel.


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New Zealand History



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