Otto Frank, resident of the Hunt Community in Nashua, N.H., died on January 8, 2021, aged 95. He is survived by Edith, his wife of 62 years, sons Carl and Eric, daughters-in-law Helen and Paula, and grandsons Evan and Peter.
His age and the times that he lived through mark him as a member of “The Greatest Generation” or G.I Generation. For Mr. Frank, that label described how members of that era persevered during their lives. Celebrated for living during those uncertain times and in consequence acquiring a strong work ethic, frugality, along with understanding the meaning of sacrifice and honor.
For Otto Frank, that sacrifice began with leaving Germany in 1939, aged 13. Born in 1925, the only child of Oswald and Else, a prosperous Munich family, but as Jews in Hitler’s Germany, opportunities soon shrank. Thrown out of public school, Otto forcibly was separated from his parents and sent to an all-Jewish boarding school, training students in English and Hebrew. Otto’s father Oswald was sent to Dachau–a concentration camp, not yet the “death camp” it was to become–and forced to “trade” the family business and home for three immediate exit visas. Otto’s father was released, and left Germany first; Otto and his mother left slightly later–just a few days before World War II began–but, remarkably, the three met on the docksides of Southampton England, reunited for passage to America.
Arriving penniless in America, Otto, Oswald, and Else joined thousands of new immigrants in New York City. Otto’s father took on odd jobs; Otto’s mother cleaned houses to make ends meet; and Otto went to work, delivering groceries for a nickel a trip (sometimes up 4-5 flights of stairs). Otto also attended school in English, and due to his initial placement in Junior High school, he received his high school degree at the age of 19, a year later than his peers.
This was fortunate, because Mr. Frank was drafted by the U.S. army as the war in Europe was winding down. As a German-speaking “Alien” GI, he was trained in an elite military intelligence unit called the “Ritchie Boys” and immediately sent back to Germany to debrief German POWs. He remembered driving a Jeep in his former hometown of Munich after the surrender in what he described as a Wild West-type atmosphere. While in Germany, he visited his old home and other familiar haunts from the unique perspective of a member of the “winning’ team. After that, he trained in the 101st Airborne for the forthcoming invasion of Japan–which fortunately never happened.
The GI bill was Mr. Frank’s key to college (BS, Chemical Engineering, Clarkson, 1950), and later–partly because jobs were scarce for the newly educated GI’s–to graduate school (MS, Chemical Engineering, Princeton, 1952). As a chemical engineer, Otto had a successful career with several well-known corporations.
Work took Otto around the country, notably Wilmington, Delaware, where he met and married Edith Plunguian. Then, after several shorter residencies in California, Florida, and Buffalo, they settled in Morristown N.J., coincidentally in the same region where Edith had spent much of her youth. Mr. and Ms. Frank moved to Nashua N.H., six years ago.
Mr. Frank always downplayed his role in “The Greatest Generation.” For decades of legendary Thanksgiving Day gatherings, he presided over goose or duck meals. What mattered to Otto was the company of his extended family. He never dwelt on his past nor lived in a state of denial. Looking back, he would say, “I just played the cards I was dealt.”
Perhaps that is why Otto Frank lived to be 95. He just lived. … He worked; he read; he enjoyed intellectual discussions; he appreciated classical music and the opera; embraced all types of culinary experiences; he loved travel. Otto had no care for material possessions but valued rich life experiences. He lived a life celebrating what was around him. Otto accepted and never dwelt over anything out of his control.
Mr. Frank’s acceptance of life as is, qualifies him, in his own way, as a member of the greatest generation.
In lieu of flowers, contributions should be made to the Scholarship Fund at the Hunt Community, 10 Allds St, Nashua, N.H. 03060.
Memorial arrangements will be announced later.