Past Auction

Important Otto Frank Archive to be Auctioned at Doyle New York

Mon, Nov 05, 2012 at 10am EST |
New York
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Father of Diarist Anne Frank

  • Father of Diarist Anne Frank
  • Documents and Correspondence between Otto Frank, retailer Nathan Straus, and actor Joseph Schildkraut
  • Archive to be Featured in Doyle New York's November 5 Auction of Rare Books, Autographs & Photographs

A highly important Otto Frank archive will highlight Doyle New York’s auction of Rare Book, Aurograph & Photographs. German-born Holocaust survivor Otto Frank (1889-1980) was the father of Anne Frank (1929-1945), known to the world through her poignant diary. Comprising approximately 100 items, the archive contains documents and correspondence between Otto Frank, retailer Nathan Straus and actor Joseph Schildkraut. The collection was assembled between 1955-1980, with several documents dated 1936-1941.

This remarkable archive contains two distinct groups of material: the earliest items comprise primary documents given to Schildkraut by Nathan Straus reporting the efforts of Otto Frank, his brother-in-law Julius Hollander, and Frank's close American friend Straus to gain exit visas for the Frank family from Holland in 1941. The second portion of the archive contains the personal correspondence between Otto Frank and Joseph Schildkraut, the actor who portrayed Frank in the play and film versions of The Diary of Anne Frank.

The twenty-five year correspondence was initiated by Frank in 1955 and continued until Franks' death in 1980. Joseph Schildkraut died in 1964 and the last fifteen years of the correspondence is between Frank and Schildkraut's wife, Leonora. A remarkable archive highlighting the meaningful relationships forged out of Frank's Holocaust experience, and the power of that story once expressed through Schildkraut's masterful stage performance as Otto Frank in The Diary of Anne Frank.

The contact that initiated this collection took place in the fall of 1955 when Nathan Straus was "Deeply touched by [Schildkraut's] magnificent performance - moving, beautiful and real" as he described the play in an included telegram to Otto Frank. As the friendship between Straus and Schildkraut developed, Straus gifted the actor important primary documents in order to aid his performance as Frank. Included are eight original and carbon copies of documents from the period of 12 October - 18 November 1941 that directly report Otto Frank's efforts to gain exit visas from Holland to Cuba via New York's National Refugee Service.

The documents contain, in part: the listed names of those seeking visas (Otto Frank, his wife Edith, his children Margot and Annelies, and mother-in-law Rosa Hollander); an outline of the costs and processes of obtaining Cuban visas; an original letter from Augusta Mayerson, the director of the Refugee Service, to Nathan Straus regarding the responsibilities to be undertaken by Julius Hollander (Edith Hollander's brother who lived in the United States) once the Franks arrive; an original letter from Mayerson in which she states that she is "afraid that he is rather optimistic" in regard to Otto Frank's hope to reach a neutral country such as Spain or Portugal and that she will write to the Amsterdam Committee "to explain the situation more fully"; and an original letter from Julius Hollander to Nathan Straus expressing his "deepest gratitude" to him for his help, financial and otherwise, in aiding the Franks and reporting that he has been "advised not to pay for the Cuban Visas before I would be informed by my brother-in-law that exit permits would be granted ... I will not fail to inform the office of the National Refugee Service about the answer of Mr. Frank."

The Franks were unsuccessful in obtaining exit visas for the entire family and a single visa issued to Otto Frank in December 1941 was cancelled. Straus and Hollander continued their efforts to aid and eventually locate the Franks, who went into hiding in Amsterdam in July 1942. Around this time Hollander would receive erroneous information that suggested the Franks had safely reached Paris and he attempted to reach them there for three years. Hollander was informed in January 1946 that only Otto Frank had survived the ordeal and was again living in Amsterdam.

A letter of historical importance is an original typed letter signed "Otto" dated 30 June 1941 from Frank to Nathan Straus. Referring to Straus by his nickname "Charley", Frank writes "It is a pity that for the present all efforts will be useless as the AMERICAN CONSULATE at ROTTERDAM is leaving and nobody knows as yet if things will be handled further or not. So we have to wait. Bad luck, but cannot be helped. Let us hope that conditions will get more normal again. As soon as I hear that there are chances still I shall let you know and you certainly will be informed still better than I am about the possibilities which remain."

Also of note is a letter from Straus to Schildkraut in which he encloses an original photograph of Margot Frank (present) and a portion of an Otto Frank letter in German written to him from Amsterdam in 1936 in which Frank reports that his children are healthy and comments on how depreciation of the Guilder has led to to increased fascism and anti-semitism in Amsterdam.

The correspondence between Frank and Schildkraut began in February 1955 when Schildkraut was selected to play Frank in the Garson Kanin-directed stage version of The Diary of Anne Frank. In the first letter, the only in English, Frank expresses his desire to be helpful to Schildkraut in preparing his role and that "for me it is not a play, but a very essential part of my life". Responding to Schildkraut's questions, Frank next wrote a poignant letter to Schildkraut in which he wrote [translated from the German]:

"My fate, during the period of hiding and after was, when compared with other fellow sufferers, a privileged one. Both through being able to stay as long as I did with my own family ... also in the Concentration Camp many of my comrades suffered more than I, since I was never subjected to personal torture. Again my behavior after I learned of the fate of my loved ones must never be looked upon as heroism. Thousands of others received the same dreadful news and had to find a way to live with it. It is part ofmy nature to look at life from a positive point of view and that explains, perhaps, why I have tried to rebuild my life as normally as I possibly could." 

This lengthy archive includes approximately fifty letters between Frank and Schildkraut or his wife Leonora and also includes a transcript of a letter written from Otto Frank to Anne in 1939, several annotated pictures, a monogrammed hankerchief gifted to Schildkraut that was carried on stage, etc.

The first portion of the archive, being the 1941 documents, contains many documents which are very similar to those recently discovered in YIVO's "Otto Frank File" (including some signed originals and carbon copies). The Schildkraut archive adds dimension to that discovery and provides invaluable insight to the life and experience of Otto Frank. Any items relating to the Franks' experience are extremely scarce on the market and the Schildkraut archive presents a major research opportunity for a collector or institution.

Read about the sale of this archive in The New York Times. 

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