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Call out for letters from Anne Frank’s father

Max Margan: The Australian, June 3 2015

When Otto Frank published the wartime diaries of his daughter Anne, sparking worldwide admiration for the Dutch teen’s brave defiance of Nazi oppression in Amsterdam, he received letters from thousands of fans.

At least a handful of those were Australian, and Otto kept up correspondence with them. While the letters he received have been ­archived at Anne Frank House in The Netherlands, it seems some of those he sent to Australia might still be hidden in shoeboxes around the country.

Now Anne and Alan Slade, volunteers at the Sydney Jewish Museum, want to find those ­replies and they’re hoping someone will remember a family member receiving them.

Beginning in the 1950s, at least five Australian girls were in correspondence with Otto. Some continued communication into the 1970s.

Although only one of Otto’s Australian replies has been found, it is known from the content of the letters at Anne Frank House that he made a great effort to respond to them all.

“Apparently Otto Frank ­responded to every letter he ­received, handwritten and some of them typewritten,” Mr Slade told The Australian. “But Otto didn’t make copies of them, so we’ve only got half the story; what the girls wrote to Otto; but we don’t know what Otto wrote to the girls and that’s what we’re seeking to get.”

Levien Rouw, manager of Anne Frank House, said that for Otto it “had a special meaning to be in contact with teenagers who had read the diary, because that reminded him of his daughters — this is what he often mentions in the letters”.

Ms Slade, whose Jewish family fled Hungary for Australia in 1939 in fear of Nazi persecution, said she hoped the campaign to find the missing letters would become an international project.

“It looks as though it’s going to be a pilot program for all over the world, and it may become a worldwide program to search for Otto Frank’s correspondents,” she said.

Mr Rouw has identified the then Australian teenagers as Anne Finlayson and Elyse Wallace, both from Sydney, Bett Hatch from Fremantle, Carol ­Davidson from Victoria and Diane Munro from Brisbane.

While the identified writers may have since died, Ms Slade said she hoped the letters would have been handed down through the families. “It may be that they have passed away, but the letters are quite valuable so they might have kept the letters and a member of their family may have hung on to them,” she said.

If any of the missing letters are found, they will be exhibited at the Sydney Jewish Museum until 2016, before being sent to the Anne Frank House in Holland.

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