Study Guide

Otto Frank in The Diary of Anne Frank

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Otto Frank

Like Father, Like Daughter

Anne sees her father, Otto Frank, as a kindred spirit. Like Anne, Otto is a perpetual student, inhaling books, history, and news, and he encourages these interests in Anne. Also like Anne, he is a clown, frequently trying to amuse those around him and lighten up the mood of the Annex. But unlike young Anne, Otto seems to be basically even-tempered and eager for peace in every situation. In the claustrophobic and tense living situation, Otto often serves as the peacekeeper between the Franks, van Daans, and Dussel.

As much as Anne adores her father, she occasionally voices her concern that her father doesn't recognize her for the mature young woman she feels herself to be.

I model myself after Father, and there's no one in the world I love more. He doesn't realize that he treats Margot differently than he does me: Margot just happens to be the smartest, the kindest, the prettiest and the best. But I have a right to be taken seriously too. […] I'm no longer satisfied with the meaningless affection or the supposedly serious talks. I long for something from Father that he's incapable of giving. […] It's just that I'd like to feel that Father really loves me, not because I'm his child, but because I’m me, Anne. (10/30/1943.5)

Anne turned out to be right to some extent: her father didn't realize the depth of her emotion or maturity. As he said after the war:

It took me a very long time before I could read it [Anne's diary]. And I must say, I was very much surprised about the deep thoughts that Anne had, her seriousness, especially her self-criticism. It was quite a different Anne than I had known as my daughter. She never really showed this kind of inner feeling. She talked about many things, criticized many things, but what her real feelings were, that I could only see from the diary. (Source)

Their fiercest rift, which actually leads to much growth in Anne, is over Peter van Daan. When Anne asks her father if he approves of her relationship with Peter, he initially gives a somewhat grudging yes. You can almost hear him thinking that her romance with Peter might just be the only one she ever has.

But then he changes his mind:

Why didn’t Father support me in my struggle? Why did he fall short when he tried to offer me a helping hand? The answer is this: he used the wrong methods. He always talked to me as if I were a child going through a difficult phase. It sounds crazy, since Father’s the only one who’s given me a sense of confidence and made me feel as if I’m a sensible person. But he overlooked one thing: he failed to see that this struggle to triumph over my difficulties was more important to me than anything else. I didn’t want to hear about "typical adolescent problems," or "other girls," or "you’ll grow out of it." I didn’t want to be treated the same as all-the-other-girls, but as Anne-in-her-own-right, and Pim didn’t understand that. (7/15/1944.6)

Why? If Otto "settles" for Peter as Anne's "final boyfriend," then he would be admitting that Anne is going to die—an unbearable thought. It is also giving in to the idea that the Nazis ultimately would win their war against the Jews—another horrific thought. Refusing to support Anne's relationship with Peter, then, would mean Otto is refusing to accept either of those dreadful outcomes. We will never know exactly why Otto changed his mind, but we think these are plausible explanations. What do you think?

As the only member of the Annex who survived the Holocaust, Otto Frank bore the burden of history. After Anne's death, he fulfilled his daughter’s wish to have her words published.

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