On this day 41 years ago. Otto Frank passed away, aged 91.
On may 15 1945 he wrote the following letter while on board the Monowai steamship. This was exactly 5 years after the Dutch army had capitulated to the Germans.
“The closer we get to home the greater our impatience to hear from our loved ones. Everything that’s happened 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 and 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 [Otto’s brother]. Are you in touch with Julius and Walter? [Edith Frank’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 news about the girls”
We all know Anne and Margot’s history but we know little about their Father Otto.
During WW1 he enlisted in the German army 1915. He was part of a ‘Lichtmesstrupp’, a unit that analysed where enemy artillery fire came from.In 1917 he was promoted in the field to lieutenant and served at the Battle of CambraiIn
In 1933 due to the rise of Nazism in Germany he moved his family to the Netherlands, eventually settling in Amsterdam. In 1937 he had plans setting up a business in Great Britain, but the plans never worked out.
He tried to obtain a Visa for the USA but this was denied.
In July 1942 the Frank family and other went into hiding in the secret annex in the company building on the Prinsengracht.
On 4 August 1944, Dutch police officers headed by SS-Hauptscharführer Karl Josef Silberbauer unexpectedly raided the Secret Annex. The hiding place had been discovered. Otto and the other people in hiding were arrested.
In September,1944 Otto Frank was separated forever from his wife and daughters.
After the separation on the Auschwitz-Birkenau platform, Otto was at first as put to work outside the camp in the ‘Kommando Kiesgrube’, a gravel mine,whichl was used for construction projects. Then, he was transferred to the ‘Kommando Strassenbau’, building roads outside the camp. When the frost made working outdoors impossible, Otto ended up with less exhausting work like peeling potatoes. Otto felt greatly supported by Peter van Pels, who would sometimes be able to get some extra food through his job in the camp’s post office. He was also helped by other friends in the camp. When at one point, Otto lost hope after he had been beaten, his fellow inmates, with the help of a Dutch doctor, made sure that he was admitted to the sick barracks. When the Soviet troops came closer, the camp command cleared Auschwitz. Anyone who was able to walk, had to come along this march, which turned out to be a death march Otto stayed behind walkin the sick barracks. He was too weak to travel, weighed only 52 kg and was in no condition to join.He expected to be shot but was liberated by the Soviet troops on January 27,1945.
As soon as Otto regained his strenghth, he wanted nothing more than to return to the Netherlands. Since the war was still raging in large parts of Europe, he had to make a long detour. In Odessa (then in the Soviet Union, today in Ukraine) he got on board of the ‘Monowai’, a ship that was heading towards Marseille (France), with hundreds of other survivors.
During this journey he found out that his wife had died in Auschwitz.
His hope that Anne and Margot might have survived were quashed in July 1945, when he met with the Brilleslijper sisters, who had been imprisoned in Bergen-Belsen with Anne and Margot. They told him about their miserable last months and about their deaths due to illness and exhaustion.
Otto Frank married former Amsterdam neighbor and fellow Auschwitz survivor,Elfriede Geiringer in Amsterdam on 10 November 1953, and the couple moved to Basel, Switzerland, where he had family, including relatives’ children, with whom he shared his experiences.
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