Ahead of Anne Frank's 90th birthday, trove of her father's letters to be digitized

/ AP

Auschwitz exhibit to open in New York

Yarmouth, Mass. — Ryan Cooper was a 20-something Californian unsure of his place in the world when he struck up a pen pal correspondence in the 1970s with Otto Frank, the father of the young Holocaust victim Anne Frank. Through dozens of letters and several face-to-face meetings, the two forged a friendship that lasted until Frank died in 1980 at the age of 91.

Now 73 years old, Cooper, an antiques dealer and artist in Massachusetts, has donated a trove of letters and mementos he received from Frank to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington ahead of the 90th anniversary Wednesday of Anne Frank's birth on June 12, 1929.

He wants the letters to be shared so that people can have a deeper understanding of the man who introduced the world to Anne Frank, whose famous WWII diary is considered one of the most important works of the 20th century.

Trending News

"He was a lot like Anne in that he was an optimist," Cooper said of Otto Frank at his house on Cape Cod recently. "He always believed the world would be right in the end, and he based that hope on the young people."

Ryan Cooper holds a 1972 portion of a diary that he wrote when he visited Otto Frank, the father of the famed Holocaust victim and diarist Anne Frank. AP

As the German army occupied the Netherlands, the Franks hid in the attic of Otto Frank's office in Amsterdam. But they were eventually discovered and sent to concentration camps, where 15-year-old Anne, her elder sister and her mother died — among an estimated six million Jews killed by the Nazis.

Otto Frank was the only family member to survive, living to see the Soviet army liberate the notorious Auschwitz camp in Nazi-occupied Poland in 1945. He had his daughter's diary published two years later and dedicated his days to speaking about the atrocities of the Holocaust.

But in his letters and conversations in person, Frank focused less on his family's ordeal and chose instead to counsel Cooper through his own everyday struggles. For Cooper, those ranged from losing his mother, to questioning his Jehovah's Witness upbringing to worrying about his career and romantic relationships.

"Some of the letters really have nothing to do with Anne," Cooper said. "In a lot of ways, I feel like I was adopted by Otto. He made me feel like I had a family during a period of real isolation."

In one letter, Frank urged Cooper to draw inspiration from Anne's optimism under vastly more dire circumstances.

"I want to remind you of her ardent wish 'to work for mankind' in case she would survive," Frank wrote on Jan. 9, 1972. "I can see from your letter that you are an intelligent person and that you have self criticism and so I can only hope that Anne will inspire you to find a positive outlook on life."

anne-frank-letters-digitize-01.jpg
Ryan Cooper stands next to a photo of Otto Frank, the father of the famed Holocaust victim and diarist Anne Frank. AP

The letters also show the toll Otto Frank's life work had on his physical and mental health, said Edna Friedberg, a historian at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

In one of the later letters to Cooper, Frank's second wife, Elfriede "Fritzi" Frank, wrote about how her husband struggled to maintain his health during a series of public appearances and interviews ahead of the 50th anniversary of Anne Frank's birth.

"You can surely imagine that all this is very emotional for him and takes a lot of his strength," she wrote on March 21, 1979. "But you cannot prevent him for doing what he thinks is his duty."

Otto Frank died the following summer.

anne-frank-letters-digitize-03.jpg
In this June 7, 2019 photo, Ryan Cooper shows photos of Anne Frank that he kept in a scrapbook. AP

As Anne Frank's 90th birthday approaches, Friedberg said it's important to remember the sacrifices Otto and others made to keep her legacy alive. Her writings were preserved by Miep Gies, Otto Frank's secretary who helped the family while they were in hiding. She returned the documents to him after the war.

"Otto Frank never had to publish that diary. As a parent in mourning, he could have kept this to himself," she said. "But he gave it as a gift to humanity because he saw that it spoke to something bigger. He took that charge, and ran with it for the rest of his life."

The museum will digitize and eventually make Cooper's collection available online. It totals more than 80 letters, including his correspondence with Gies and others who aided the Frank family during the war, and a number of modest family keepsakes. Those include Otto Frank's coin purse and a photo of Anne.

First published on June 11, 2019 / 4:34 PM

© 2019 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

anne-frank-letters-digitize-02.jpg anne-frank-letters-digitize-01.jpg anne-frank-letters-digitize-03.jpg

Letters from Anne Frank's father to be digitized

An antiques dealer and artist who struck up a correspondence with Otto Frank is making a donation to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

6M ago

Americans taking on Thailand in first World Cup match

The U.S. women open up group play today

13M ago

Study: Nitrates in drinking water linked to cancers

Environmental Working Group says the chemicals could be to blame for over 12,000 cases of cancer in the U.S. each year

26M ago

Internal Trump campaign poll finds Biden leading in key states

The poll by campaign pollster Tony Fabrizio found Biden doing well across a broad swath of the country

42M ago

8-year-old boy rescued after drifting out to sea on unicorn float

"The float was right there, in easy reach and then just in the blink of an eye, it was beyond the breakers," a volunteer rescuer said

56M ago

Internal Trump campaign poll finds Biden leading in key states

The poll by campaign pollster Tony Fabrizio found Biden doing well across a broad swath of the country

42M ago

Pentagon chief urges military to maintain "apolitical nature"

Patrick Shanahan's comes after White House officials tried to obscure the USS John S. McCain from President Trump's view

1H ago

House votes to enforce subpoenas for Trump administration officials

The full House is voting on whether to to pursue court enforcement of their subpoenas

updated 9M ago

New York could become first state to fully decriminalize sex work

The bill aims to eliminate criminal penalties for sex workers, who are often targets of street violence and arrests

2H ago

10 states file suit to block T-Mobile merger with Sprint

Deal to combine two of the largest wireless carriers would cost subscribers at least $4.5 billion per year, states claim

1H ago

Letters from Anne Frank's father to be digitized

An antiques dealer and artist who struck up a correspondence with Otto Frank is making a donation to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

6M ago

Americans taking on Thailand in first World Cup match

The U.S. women open up group play today

13M ago

U.S. envoy to meet Sudan leaders after deadly crackdown on protests

Global outcry over military junta's violent reaction to pro-democracy movement has done little to change the prospects for Sudan's beleaguered population

57M ago

Study: One-sixth of marine life at risk from climate change

The study argues losses could be offset by a reduction in carbon pollution

2H ago

David Ortiz has more surgery in Boston after shooting

Ortiz, 43, is expected to stay in intensive care for at least 48 hours

2H ago

Kendall Jenner's alleged stalker deported back to Canada

John Ford was arrested for trespassing at Jenner's home twice; one time he was found in her swimming pool

3H ago

Highest-grossing movies of all time, ranked

What's the highest-grossing movie of all time? It might be one of your favorites

Jun 4 27 photos

Brand new full-length "Frozen II" trailer released

The new trailer, much like the earlier teaser, looks ominous, with Elsa in a precarious situation

6H ago

Kim Kardashian West shares first close-up image of new baby

The photo shows little Psalm sleeping on a blanket

20H ago

Billy Porter wears curtain dress to Tonys

Pink tulle spilled out from underneath the embellished red dress, which was custom made for Billy Porter for the Tony Awards. The outfit was crafted from a curtain used in "Kinky Boots"

20H ago 01:12

Letters from Anne Frank's father to be digitized

An antiques dealer and artist who struck up a correspondence with Otto Frank is making a donation to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

6M ago

Amazon tops Apple and Google as world's most valuable brand

Ecommerce giant tops ranking for the first time, with tech players dominating the list

1H ago

10 states file suit to block T-Mobile merger with Sprint

Deal to combine two of the largest wireless carriers would cost subscribers at least $4.5 billion per year, states claim

1H ago

Amazon to end its U.S. restaurant delivery service

A 4-year-old business that failed to take off amid fierce competition from Uber Eats, DoorDash, GrubHub and others

3H ago

Reports: 10 states moving to block Sprint/T-Mobile merger

New York Attorney General leading charge to stop $26 billion deal to combine two of the largest wireless carriers

4H ago

Study: Nitrates in drinking water linked to cancers

Environmental Working Group says the chemicals could be to blame for over 12,000 cases of cancer in the U.S. each year

26M ago

Study: One-sixth of marine life at risk from climate change

The study argues losses could be offset by a reduction in carbon pollution

2H ago

Canada to ban single-use plastics as early as 2021

Inspired by an earlier EU move, Canada's government may ban items like plastic bags, water bottles, straws and earbuds

4H ago

"Zombie snake" found in U.S. can roll over and play dead

To deter predators, the snake goes belly up and opens its mouth to "play dead," but it's all just a very dramatic act

4H ago

Unknown mass larger than Hawaii discovered on moon

Scientist think it could be leftover metal from a previous asteroid strike

5H ago

Study: Nitrates in drinking water linked to cancers

Environmental Working Group says the chemicals could be to blame for over 12,000 cases of cancer in the U.S. each year

26M ago

"Elderhood" author on why older people are happier

We should "look at the final third of life with the same concern, curiosity, creativity, and rigor as we view the first two-thirds," Dr. Louise Aronson writes

2H ago

Jon Stewart to House: "You should be ashamed of yourselves"

"Accountability appears to not be something that occurs in this chamber," Stewart admonished at hearing on 9/11 responders bill

1H ago

Target's expanded paid family leave includes part-time workers

As labor market tightens, the retailer offers new family-care perks to all its 360,000 full-time and part-time employees

4H ago

Researchers test vaccine they hope could stem Alzheimer's

University of New Mexico researchers have tested their experimental Alzheimer's vaccine in mice

8H ago

Gun seller United Sporting goes bust, partly blaming Trump's election

The 85-year-old company anticipated that increased weapons sales would follow a victory by Hillary Clinton in 2016

59M ago

Amazon tops Apple and Google as world's most valuable brand

Ecommerce giant tops ranking for the first time, with tech players dominating the list

1H ago

10 states file suit to block T-Mobile merger with Sprint

Deal to combine two of the largest wireless carriers would cost subscribers at least $4.5 billion per year, states claim

1H ago

Amazon to end its U.S. restaurant delivery service

A 4-year-old business that failed to take off amid fierce competition from Uber Eats, DoorDash, GrubHub and others

3H ago

Canada to ban single-use plastics as early as 2021

Inspired by an earlier EU move, Canada's government may ban items like plastic bags, water bottles, straws and earbuds

4H ago

Judge declares mistrial on 8 charges against Kellen Winslow Jr.

The judge also denied a defense motion to dismiss the undecided allegations involving the alleged rapes of a hitchhiker and an unconscious teen

1H ago

David Ortiz has more surgery in Boston after shooting

Ortiz, 43, is expected to stay in intensive care for at least 48 hours

2H ago

Kendall Jenner's alleged stalker deported back to Canada

John Ford was arrested for trespassing at Jenner's home twice; one time he was found in her swimming pool

3H ago

Husband's DNA found on faucet with missing mom's blood, prosecutor says

Fotis Dulos and his missing estranged wife Jennifer had been involved in a contentious divorce and custody battle

2H ago

David Ortiz back in Boston after shooting in Dominican Republic

The baseball star is continuing to receive treatment after he was shot in the back at nearly point-blank range Sunday night

4H ago

Unknown mass larger than Hawaii discovered on moon

Scientist think it could be leftover metal from a previous asteroid strike

5H ago

Tonight is the best night of 2019 to see Jupiter

NASA has a message for space lovers this month: Look up

18H ago

Trump criticizes NASA moon plans he approved

In a tweet, the president disparaged NASA's moon mission plan that his administration had endorsed

Jun 7

NASA to allow private astronauts on space station

NASA's plan could make way for visits by private-sector astronauts to the International Space Station as early as next year

Jun 7

NASA opening access to space station

CBS News space consultant Bill Harwood joins CBSN to discuss NASA's announcement that commercial astronauts will be allowed to travel to the International Space Station starting next year.

Jun 7 06:04

Tony Awards 2019: Red carpet looks from your favorite stars

See Broadway stars walk the red carpet at Radio City Music Hall in New York City at the 73rd Annual Tony Awards

Jun 9 39 photos

Jayme Closs case: Recently released evidence photos

At Jake Patterson's sentencing hearing, prosecutors showed a select few evidence photos to the court and asked that Patterson be sentenced to life in prison for the murders of Jayme Closs' parents and the 13-year-old's kidnapping

Jun 8 14 photos

Summer music 2019

It's summertime – time for music at festivals and venues across the country

Jun 8 35 photos

11 photos of former NICU babies show how far they've come

These babies proudly hold photos of their former selves to celebrate their amazing progress since graduating from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

Jun 5 11 photos

Evidence photos in the disappearance of Jodi Huisentruit

Jodi Huisentruit, the morning news anchor at Iowa's KIMT-TV was reported missing on June 27, 1995. Mason City Police are still at work trying to solve this case 23 years later.

Jun 1 26 photos

Popular

Boy pays off classmates' lunch debts

After a boy in Napa, California, had a conversation with his mom about kids who couldn't afford school lunches, he decided to use his own allowance to pay off his entire grade's school lunch debt.

updated 7M ago 01:36

Biden, in Iowa, trades insults with Trump

Former Vice President Joe Biden hit the campaign trail in Iowa as President Trump slammed him as being "mentally weak." CBS News' Ed O'Keefe joins CBSN from Iowa with more on the latest developments.

updated 25M ago 06:12

Warriors' Kevin Durant injures Achilles tendon

The Golden State Warriors' star forward Kevin Durant injured his Achilles tendon during Game 5 of the NBA Finals against the Toronto Raptors. It was his first game back since missing nine weeks with an injury to his right calf.

updated 15M ago 00:32

GOP Rep. on capitalism & climate change

Georgia Republican Congressman Rob Woodall spoke to CBSN Tuesday following a House Budget hearing focusing on the risks posed by climate change. Woodall told CBSN's Reena Ninan about the hearing as well as why he hasn't read the Mueller report.

1H ago 12:38

Tackling a mistake – the smart way

Ever make a mistake and feel like it’s the end of the world? Well, New York Times Smarter Living editor Tim Herrera has some advice for you in his latest newsletter titled: "So You’ve Made a Huge Mistake. What Now?" He joins CBS This Morning co-host Tony Dokoupil in the Toyota Green Room to discuss how to tackle your misstep head on.

2H ago 08:23