Margot Frank - the forgotten sister of Anne Frank
Evidence of Margot's diary
exerpt from Anne's diary:
"Last night Margot and I were lying side by side in my bed. It was incredibly cramped, but that's what made it fun. She asked if she could read my diary once in a while. 'Parts of it,' I said and I asked about hers. She gave me permission to read her diary as well."
October 14, 1942
Margot Frank 1926 - 1945
Margot Betti Frank was born in Frankfurt, Germany to Jewish parents, Otto and Edith Frank in 1926. She was the eldest daughter of this couple and the elder sister to Anne Frank, famous for her diary describing a life in hiding from the Gestapo during WWII.
We all know about Anne Frank and her diary, published posthumously by her father, Otto, after the war. It is the eyewitness account of eight Jewish people who hid from the Nazi Gestapo in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. For years, the diary has been the required reading material for eighth graders throughout the world and especially here in U.S. public schools.
Through Anne's diary, we learn, first hand of the horrors of Hitler's Nazi regime which tried to take over the world and eliminate all Jewish persons through the Final Solution, better known today as the Holocaust.
More importantly, we also learn through Anne's diary, the yearnings and dreams of a fourteen year old girl, forced into hiding, just as she was blossoming into a young teenage girl. We all can relate to her joys, sorrows, and dreams as she 'grows up' in hiding.
Anne Frank stands for all young girls who wanted just to be with their friends, go to school, talk about boys and boyfriends, go to dances and parties and basically grow up as normal teenage girls. And, we find out about all this through Anne's diary, one of the most famous primary sources we have left behind from the war.
But, what about Anne's older sister, Margot? There is very little known about her or her feelings during this awful conflagration and her time in hiding as well. We do know, from Anne's diary entries that Margot also kept a diary during her time in hiding, but that diary has never been found, presumed destroyed by the Gestapo when they raided the attic where the Franks and four others hid.
Otto Frank, Margot's and Anne's father and the only survivor of those in hiding, has said how sorrowful he felt that Anne's diary received all the attention, and Margot's diary was never found. Margot was his daughter also, and he would have liked for her diary to have been published also.
Margot, also was a young teenage girl, just sixteen years old, when her family went into hiding. She wrote her feelings, yearnings, sorrows, and joys, I am sure in her diary also. Although, Anne was the extrovert in the family and Margot was the introvert, both would have experienced some of the same feelings and dreams all teenage girls have.
And, because of that, the Anne Frank House and Museum in Amsterdam, the Netherlands has recently opened an exhibition just about Margot Frank, because for so long she has been 'the forgotten sister' of Anne Frank.
Margot's early life
When Margot was born, the Franks were living in Frankfurt, Germany in the outer suburbs of the city. Otto Frank was a businessman and Edith, his wife, a homemaker. Three years later, Anne, was born and the family was complete.
As a youngster, Margot attended the Ludwig-Richter School in Frankfurt until 1933 when Adolph Hitler became Chancellor of Germany. With his election into office came harsh anti-Jewish measures throughout all of Germany. Hitler used the Jewish as the scapegoats for all that was wrong with Germany and its low functioning economy.
At this time, all Jewish children were expelled from all non-denominational schools. Because of the rising tide of anti-semitism in Germany, the Frank family immigrated to the Netherlands. A total of 63,000 Jewish persons left Germany that year.
The Franks eventually settled in Amsterdam in the Netherlands as Otto Frank had a business partner there and so had work he could do. He and his partner owned a pectin factory. Pectin is a substance used to make jellies and jams jell and Otto Frank worked in the office management part of the business.
Margot, after the move to Amsterdam, was enrolled in an elementary school on Amsterdam's Jekerstraat, close to their Amsterdam South address. She studied there with excellent academic grades until 1940, when Germany invaded the Netherlands and established anti-Jewish laws in the Netherlands. Margot was forced to attend a Jewish Lyceum.
Margot has been described by surviving classmates as studious, intelligent, with excellent academic marks, virtuous, reserved and deeply religious. She was also described as shyer and more tolerant in nature than Anne.
Margot, who was closer to her mother, became involved in Amsterdam's Jewish community at the urging of her mother. She took Hebrew lessons, attended synagogue and in 1941. she joined the Dutch Zionist club for young people.
Margot mentioned many times that after the war she wanted to immigrate to Palestine (Israel) to study to become a maternity nurse and eventually to study medicine.
It was Margot's deportation order from the Gestapo in 1942, that forced the Frank family into hiding. The day after receiving the order, the Franks disappeared from their Amsterdam home and went into hiding on the attic floor of Otto Frank's business office. They were joined by their friends the Van Pels and their teenage son, Peter, and later by a Jewish Dutch dentist, Fritz Pfeiffer. Eight in all were cramped in a tiny attic. There they had to live silently during the day and could only move around and talk after six in the evening when the offices were closed.
It was during this time that Margot, also, kept a diary about their life in hiding.
Letter from Margot to Anne
from Anne's diary:
"I'm just sorry I haven't found anyone with whom to share my thoughts and feelings, and I'm not likely to in the near future . . . I think I need to feel very close to a person before I could share my thoughts. I'd want to have the feeling that he understood me through and through, even if I didn't say much. For this reason, it would have to be somebody I felt was intellectually superior to me . . ."
Margot's time in hiding
During hiding, Margot, more introverted, was more closed up and didn't openly express herself as Anne did. What little we know about Margot, we get from Anne's diary. Anne describes her sister as "tidy, quiet and gets good grades."
It was during hiding that Otto Frank organized the studies of Margot, Anne, and Peter, the Van Pels' son, and taught them quietly during the day. We know from Anne's diary what Margot studied and in what she had interests.
An entry in Anne's diary lists the interests of everyone who was in hiding. This is the list Anne made about Margot:
- correspondence courses in English
- French and Latin
- shorthand in English, German and Dutch
- English, French, German and Dutch literature
- modern history
- reads everything, preferably on religion and medicine
Quite a list of interests. Margot certainly was an intelligent and studious teenager.
Anne's description of Margot in her diary is that she is, "naturally good, kind and clever, perfection itself. A paragon of virture."
During her time in hiding and being a teenage girl, precocious Anne was many times admonished by her mother to behave more like Margot, the quiet, reserved child. As a child, Anne had looked up to Margot for her good attributes and behavior, but as a teenager, Anne shows us in her diary that she was a bit jealous of Margot's fine attributes as Anne was trying to forge her own individual personality, and ,therefore, resented her mother's remarks that she should behave more like Margot.
Because of this, Anne, then, was closer to and identified more with her father, Otto, and Margot was closer to and identified more with her mother.
Although Peter Van Pels and Margot were the same age, it was Anne and Peter who developed a girlfriend-boyfriend relationship while in hiding. Anne writes about this in great depth in her diary.
We also have a few letters written between Margot and Anne during their time in hiding. One of those letters from Margot to Anne, Anne copied into her diary. You can see a part of the letter in the text in the colored box to the right. We know from the letter that Margot was never jealous of Anne, but wished for someone to be able to confide in all her hopes and dreams.
Although quiet and reserved, she experienced the same feelings and dreams all girls do at sixteen years of age
The Franks are found
The Franks and the others in hiding were discovered and arrested by the Gestapo in August 1944. They were then sent by train to the Dutch Westerbork concentration camp and declared criminals by the camp officials for hiding from Margot's deportation order. They were detained in the Punishment Block and sentenced to hard labor in a battery dismantling plant. They worked there for six weeks.
They were selected for Westerbork's last deportation to Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Poland in September 1944. In October 1944, Margot and Anne were transferred to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
It was here, during the winter of 1945, that both Margot and Anne contracted typhus, and in March 1945 both died from typhus in the camp. Margot was nineteen years old when she died two days before Anne. Both girls were buried in a mass grave at the camp. Today, a tombstone marks the area where they were buried.
Otto Frank was the only one of the eight in hiding to survive the war. When he returned to Amsterdam, after the war, Miep Gies, who had found Anne's diary after they were arrested and had saved it, gave it to Otto Frank. After reading it, he had it published and it has been a world-wide best-selling book since its publication.
Because Margot's diary did not survive the war, we only have a glimpse of Margot, provided by Anne's diary, what Otto Frank and previous classmates have said of her along with the few letters she and Anne exchanged. Although we don't have as full picture of Margot as we do of Anne, nevertheless, Margot's feelings and dreams as a young girl are just as important as Anne's and Margot deserves to be remembered also as a valiant girl who stood up to the hate, cruelties, and murderers of the Nazi regime.
By defying her deportation order and going into hiding from the Nazis with her family, Margot showed the same courage, bravery and determination as Anne and the rest of her family and friends. Although more quiet, reserved and reticent, Margot also shines today as a fine example of courage in a time of fear, death, and defeat. As with Anne, Margot's spirit lives on. The Nazis may have killed Margot's body, but her spirit lives on in her writings, no matter how brief, and no matter how overshadowed by Anne's diary.
Today, the Anne Frank House and Museum has opened a new and much deserved exhibition, just about Margot, so that she no longer is 'the forgotten sister' of Anne Frank.
Update: March 2015. Through recently discovered documents from WWII, it has been determined that Margot and Anne died a bit earlier than originally thought. They both are believed to have died in February 1945 instead of March 1945. "One day they were here and the next day they were not," said a camp friend of the girls.
Copyright (c) 2013 Suzannah Wolf Walker all rights reserved
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