Yesterday I visited the House of Anne Frank, during my 9-hour stopover in Amsterdam en route to Cairo.
I expected to be moved. But it came as a surprise that the story which made me blink back tears was not that of Anne, but rather her father Otto.
Otto Frank ran a business selling jars of spices. He occasionally brought his daughters to his warehouse overlooking the canal. Anne didn't like the creepy dark of the warehouse, "Why spices?" she said. "If we're in the food business, might as well make something tasty like candy!"
In 1942, during the German occupation, a "work summon" came for Margot, Anne's older sister. Otto took his family into hiding two days later, in the attic annex above his warehouse. His henchman created a secret bookcase to hide the annex entrance stairs.
Otto continued to run the business from hiding, giving orders to his two assistants. He transferred the company to their name, but they consulted him every day on business decisions.
In 1944, two years into hiding, the Franks are betrayed. The Germans search the attic and confiscate the valuables, but leave Anne's journals scattered on the floor.
The Franks are sent to separate concentration camps. Margot dies in March 1945 of typhoid, one month before the liberation. Anne says, "I have no one left to me now," not knowing that her father is still alive. She dies a few days later.
Otto lives through the end of the war. He comes back to the warehouse, and learns that his wife is dead. He asks everyone if they have news of his daughters. He takes out an ad in the newspaper, week after week.
A couple of months go by. One day, Otto is sorting the day's mail with his assistant Miep. Suddenly he goes completely silent. Miep turns to look at him. He's very pale. He hands her a letter, "Read this."
It says, "I hereby notify you that Margot Frank and Anne Frank are dead. I was a nurse in camp XXX along with them."
Miep pushes back her chair and stands up. She opens the desk drawer and with both hands takes out a pile of bound journals and loose leaf papers.
"These are Anne's journals," Miep says. "This is the legacy of your daughter."