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Hear My Story: Sister Nancy Linenkugel

Hear My Story - Sister Nancy Linenkugel

A routine language arts lesson teaching the Diary of Anne Frank turned into a deeply meaningful, if unlikely, friendship. Sister Nancy Linenkugel recalls her experience as a young teacher, seeking to answer her students’ questions about the life and writing of Anne Frank. It led her to write a letter to Otto Frank, Anne’s father. From the other side of the globe, and from different faith traditions, a friendship was born, leaving an impression on the sister that has stayed with her for decades.

“I was so taken by the goodness of Otto Frank. The thing I remember most about him is that he said, ‘Do not hate. If you hate, nobody will know you hate them. But you’ll be miserable.’ And I always thought that was the most wonderful thing.”

– Sister Nancy Linenkugel

Millions have read the Diary of Anne Frank, and marveled at the insights of the teen writer, who never lived to see her writing published. The Nazis murdered Anne, her sister, and their mother. Only Anne’s father, Otto, survived. When he was reunited with his daughter’s diary, he was hesitant to publish it. He was eventually convinced to do so, and her words have since touched the hearts of people the world over. One such group was in the classroom of Sister Nancy, a young nun teaching in a Cincinnati classroom in the 1970s. Her students, like many, identified with Anne and wondered if it was true that her father survived the Holocaust. They leaned in in a spirit of curiosity, with questions about life in the secret annex. Sister Nancy couldn’t answer their questions, so she set out to find someone who could. She ended up writing a letter addressed to Otto Frank, and publishers of the diary forwarded Sister Nancy’s inquiry to him. What unfolded was a cascade of personal correspondences between Sister Nancy, her students, and Mr. Frank. The young nun and the Holocaust survivor cultivated a friendship through the course of regular letters, and Sister Nancy eventually made a trip to Switzerland, where she was able to meet Otto and his second wife, Fritzi. The experience left an indelible mark on her, which she lovingly saved in the pages of a scrapbook, donated to HHC in 2018. Despite all he had been through, Sister recalls Otto’s insistence on treating others with dignity and kindness. Sister Nancy travelled to the Nancy & David Wolf Holocaust & Humanity Center to share her recollections with us, 50 years later. It was a delight to meet her, and hear about her personal journey, sparked by a student’s question. We’re so thrilled to be able to share this story with you.

Episode Resources

Learn more about The Nancy & David Wolf Holocaust & Humanity Center

Take the character strengths survey for free

Anne Frank Center USA

Anne Frank House, and more about Otto Frank

This episode made possible with generous support from the Cynthia & Harold Guttman Family Center for Storytelling 

Our gratitude to Margaret & Michael Valentine for their ongoing support of this series. 



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