In 1957, 12-year-old Cara Wilson-Granat wrote a letter to Otto Frank, father of Holocaust victim and world-renowned diarist Anne Frank, and was surprised to receive a response from him.
She replied to Frank’s letter, and the correspondence blossomed into a decades-long connection.
On April 5, the Anne Frank Center at the University of South Carolina, and the University of South Carolina Libraries, will host Wilson-Granat, who is now an author and inspirational speaker, at The Letters of Otto Frank along with panelists Ryan Cooper and John Neiman, who also corresponded with Otto Frank.
The University is home to the nationally recognized Anne Frank Center, which tells the story of the young Jewish girl who documented her family’s two years of hiding in Nazi German-occupied Amsterdam during World War II. The journals of Annelies Marie “Anne” Frank were later published as The Diary of a Young Girl, also known as The Diary of Anne Frank.
Wilson-Granat said she was amazed to find out that Otto Frank was alive and that she could write to him. She says her first letter was quite ebullient.
“I introduced myself and told him I loved reading his daughter’s words, that I saw myself in her story, that I fought with my sister just as Anne had. It was a joy to be able to communicate with him, and I didn’t expect anything in return.”
Wilson-Granat, who has written two books, Tree of Hope and Strength from Nature, was already on the path to becoming a writer before she began her correspondence with Frank.
“The first letter I received back from Otto Frank was a letter of encouragement, a letter encouraging me to be a writer, and of course that had an influence on me,” she says.
Wilson-Granat was struck by one exchange the two had through the many years they corresponded.
“Once I wrote to him and said, ‘I don’t know how you have so much hope.’ And he wrote back and said, ‘You can’t give up hope. If you think the world will end tomorrow, plant a tree today.’ During our friendship, he had two trees planted in my name because he knew it would mean a lot to me,” she says.
Reaching out to well-known people is something Wilson-Granat still does to this day.
“I like to let people know I appreciate them and their work. Whether I hear from them or not, I feel good that I did it,” she says. “My expectation is that any response from them would be a gift, a surprise if anything comes back. When I get letters from people reaching out to me, I always respond, but it’s hard to keep up with all of them. I don’t know how Otto Frank kept up with the thousands of letters he received.”
The April 5 event is free and open to the public. It will take place at 6 p.m. in the UofSC Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library Program Room. The Hollings Library is accessed through Thomas Cooper Library.