Anne Frank wrote what is probably the most famous diary in the world.
Anne Frank wrote what is probably the most famous diary in the world. Anne Frank Fonds Basel

Anne Frank and the Basel connection

From Basel and later from Birsfelden, Anne Frank’s father, Otto, worked to ensure that what is probably the most famous diary in history was read all over the world.

Andrej Abplanalp

Andrej Abplanalp

Historian and communications chief of the Swiss National Museum.

Anne Frank’s diary is world-famous. What is less well known is that the publication of the book was organised in large part from Basel. Anne’s aunt Leni Elias and her husband, Erich, had settled in Basel in the early 1930s. After the Great Depression of 1929, they left Germany in search of a better life. When World War II broke out and the Nazi regime launched its persecution of the Jews, contact with Leni’s brother Otto and his family – his wife Edith and their daughters, Margot and Anne – broke off completely. It wasn’t until May 1945 that a sign of life was received in Basel. Otto got in touch with his sister.
Portrait of Otto Frank, 1961.
Portrait of Otto Frank, 1961. Wikimedia
Anne Frank in a photograph dating from 1941.
Anne Frank in a photograph dating from 1941. Wikimedia
Anne’s father had been deported from Amsterdam, together with the whole family. He was the only one to survive the concentration camp. After being freed by the Russians, Otto Frank was not just seriously ill, but had lost everything: his family, his business, his belongings and even his citizenship. He was left with nothing. Back in the Netherlands, a former employee gave him his daughter Anne’s diaries. After the family had been arrested and deported, she found the diaries in the place where the family had been hiding, and took them away for safekeeping. Otto Frank was moved to the core by his daughter’s thoughts, hopes and fears. At first he didn’t want to publish the diaries. But friends and acquaintances finally managed to convince him to look for a publisher for his daughter’s legacy. Perhaps he also wanted to see Anne’s dream of becoming a writer come true. In 1947 Anne Frank’s diary was brought out by a Dutch publishing house. The first print run was 3,000 copies.
First edition of Anne Frank’s diary, which was published in Dutch in 1947.
First edition of Anne Frank’s diary, which was published in Dutch in 1947. Swiss National Museum
In 1952 Otto Frank moved to live with his sister, Leni, in Basel. He lived in a small room in the attic and continued to work on telling people about Anne’s diary. A year later he married Fritzi Geiringer. The two knew each other from Amsterdam, where they had been neighbours, and had met again in Auschwitz. Fritzi actively supported Otto in his work. There was plenty of work for them both to do, and the task became ever more global. Between 1955 and 1957, 15 editions of the work were published worldwide. The young Jewish girl’s record of her thoughts and her life was now being read in countries as far afield as Japan, Norway and Canada. In the USA, the play The Diary of Anne Frank made it even more popular. And as more and more people heard the story, the number of letters that Anne’s father received also increased. Otto and Fritzi answered many of these letters, first in his sister’s attic room and later in Birsfelden, where the couple moved in 1961. Some of these letters became a regular exchange of correspondence.
Fritzi and Otto Frank at an event in Wisen (Canton of Solothurn), 1978.
Fritzi and Otto Frank at an event in Wisen (Canton of Solothurn), 1978. Ricabeth Steiger
In 1963, Otto Frank and his wife Fritzi founded the Anne Frank Fonds. Based in Basel, this foundation administers the licensing of and income from the diaries, and continues to work to promote their worldwide distribution. Right up to his death in 1980, Otto Frank devoted himself to his daughter’s diaries. It’s also thanks to his initiative that the work became one of the world’s most widely read books.

Anne Frank and Switzerland

09.06.2022 06.11.2022 / National Museum Zurich
The diary of Anne Frank is world famous. It’s less well known that the journey to global publication began in Switzerland. While Anne, her sister and her mother were killed in the concentration camp, Anne’s father was the only family member to survive the Holocaust. Otto Frank moved to live with his sister in Basel in the 1950s. From there, he made it his task to share his daughter’s diary with the world whilst preserving her message on humanity and tolerance for the coming generations.

Further posts

Address & contact
Swiss National Museum
Landesmuseum Zürich
Museumstrasse 2
P.O. Box
8021 Zurich

Design: dreipol   |  Realisation: whatwedo
Swiss National Museum

Three museums – the National Museum Zurich, the Castle of Prangins and the Forum of Swiss History Schwyz – as well as the collections centre in Affoltern am Albis – are united under the umbrella of the Swiss National Museum (SNM).