Letter by Robert Frank to his parents, 1904

Collection and Archive

The collection focuses on the history of the Frank family.

The largest part of the holdings of The Frank Family Centre that were transferred to Frankfurt in recent years stem from the 19th and 20th centuries. A small part will be on show in the permanent collection of the Jewish Museum. The remaining documents and objects will be available for research. The online collection being built up at the moment will enable digital access to the family history.

Collection of objects belonging to the Frank-Elias family

Page from a photo album of Stephan Elias, designed by his parents Helene and Erich Elias around 1924
Page from a photo album of Stephan Elias, designed by his parents Helene and Erich Elias around 1924 © Anne Frank Fonds Basel

The collection of The Frank Family Centre consists for the most part of everyday items from the house of Buddy and Gerti Elias, Anne Frank’s cousin and his wife respectively. These objects include paintings, furniture, porcelain, toys and books. Many of these items once belonged to the Frank-Elias family in Frankfurt. Alice Frank, Buddy Elias’ grandmother, managed to save some of their belongings when she fled to Basel. A sworn declaration with a three-page list of all the items from the Frankfurt household, which she was obliged to sign when she fled, confirms her ownership.

Additionally, there are some books from the Elias family. Alongside German, French and English literary classics there are children’s books from the siblings Robert, Herbert, Otto and Helene Frank, published around 1900, and children’s books from Stephan and Buddy Elias dating from the twenties and early thirties. Many of the books are marked with an inscription or dedication.

Only the children’s books and a few objects stem directly from Otto Frank, who first returned to Holland after being liberated from the Auschwitz concentration camp, and then lived in Switzerland.

Her daughter Helene Elias took another batch of household items with her. She had already emigrated to Basel in 1931. Helene’s brother, Herbert Frank, also transferred some of the family’s possessions to Basel, which included heirloom pieces from Alfred and Clara Stern’s family. When they died in the thirties these came into the possession of Herbert Frank via their daughter Antonia Stern, mainly books such as literary classics and historical volumes, which Alfred Stern had written or edited. In Herbert Frank’s luggage there were also autobiographical and historical family documents by and about the Sterns as well as some medieval works and prayer books.

Documents and photos from the family estate

A part of the collection was only rediscovered by the family in recent years. When Gerti and Buddy Elias wanted to clear out the attic of their house at Herbstgasse 11 in the year 2001, they found several thousand letters, postcards, personal and official documents and photos of their family from the 19th and early 20th century, alongside the old furniture and toys. Alice Frank had stored them there and more had been added over the years. After her death the documents remained forgotten for decades. Mirjam Pressler used this source as the basis of her book "Grüße und Küsse an alle. Die Geschichte der Familie von Anne Frank" (Greetings and kisses to all. The history of the Anne Frank family).

From the afterword by Gerti Elias, in: Mirjam Pressler, „Grüße und Küsse an alle“. Die Geschichte der Familie von Anne Frank, Frankfurt a.M. 2009, p. 417.

The attic "was packed with furniture, chests, boxes and suitcases that spurred my curiosity of course, in particular two white wardrobes in which I found wonderful things: sequined dresses, a top-hat, a tail-coat, evening gowns, furs, hats. I also discovered a box covered with a florid fabric. In it were letters, lots of letters, some jumbled, some lovingly tied together with silk ribbons."

Frankfurt postcard of the 13 years old Robert Frank to his parents Michael and Alice Frank, 1899
Frankfurt postcard of the 13 years old Robert Frank to his parents Michael and Alice Frank, 1899 © Anne Frank Fonds Basel

The family decided to give all the documents, photos and letters to Frankfurt. They form the core of The Family Frank Centre. This collection of documents is augmented by about two hundred letters and photos that the Historische Museum Frankfurt was given in the nineteen eighties and had exhibited. In early 2013 these family documents were passed over to The Frank Family Centre.

Altogether some 100,000 documents and 6,000 photos afford a moving picture of the life of the Frank family and their ancestors since the 19th century. Frankfurt am Main is the main focus, but the family network stretching from this trade metropolis to other places in Germany, France, the Netherlands and Switzerland can be traced as well. The documents testify to the family’s commitment to modern education and middle class culture around 1900, their affiliation to Germany and their active involvement in the First World War as well as the fate of these families caught up in emigration flight and persecution.

Documents held by the Anne Frank Fonds

The archive depot in the Jewish Museum’s extension building will hold the business archives of the Anne Frank Fonds (AFF) as well as the family documents. The AFF was founded as a charitable institution in 1963 by Otto Frank and made the universal heir. As the copyright holder of the Anne Frank writings, the business archives document the more than 70-years of international publishing history and the charitable and educational activities of the foundation.