Who reads Anne Frank’s diary, gets to know her mother Edith Frank only superficially. Who was Edith, what was she like as a mother and what happened to her during the war??
Edith Hollander is born on 16. She was born on January 1900 in Aachen, not far from the German-Dutch border. She is the fourth child in a wealthy Jewish family. Her parents run a family business, a trade in scrap and old metal, machinery and spare parts, steam boilers, other equipment and semi-finished products.
Edith grows up carefree until her older sister Bettina dies. The cause of death is not known. For the fourteen year old Edith it is a painful confrontation with death. But she is able to overcome the blow of fate: She finishes high school and then works for a few years in the family business.
Marriage with Otto Frank
Photos from that time tell of parties and dinners, of playing tennis with girlfriends and vacation trips to the sea. This image is also found in Anne’s diary: "We listen with open mouths to the stories of engagements with 250 people, private balls and dinners," she writes.
Edith meets Otto Frank at the engagement party of Hortense Rah Schott. Hortense is a friend of Edith and of Otto Frank’s brother Herbert. Edith meets Otto again when she takes a vacation trip to San Remo, Italy, with her family. The spark is ignited, and two months after this trip, the two marry in Aachen, Germany. The civil marriage ceremony takes place on 8. May 1925 and four days later, on Otto’s 36th birthday. birthday, the wedding ceremony in the Aachen synagogue.
The couple moves to a new development in Frankfurt am Main. There comes on 16. February 1926 her first daughter Margot is born. A good three years later, Anne. For Edith, it was a happy time: "For us, too, the years in Marbachweg were among the most beautiful," she wrote in a letter to the former neighbor girl in Frankfurt at the end of 1937.
The economic crisis and growing anti-Semitism
But then dark clouds gather over Germany: Due to the economic crisis, Otto loses his business bank, and increasing anti-Semitism foreshadows bad things to come. This anti-Semitism is fueled by Adolf Hitler, who blames the Jews for the problems in Germany. Hitler gets more and more followers, and his influence grows.
In 1933, when Hitler comes to power, Edith and Otto make a decision that is not easy for them: they leave their homeland and emigrate to the Netherlands. The family finds an apartment on the Merwedeplein in Amsterdam. Edith takes care of the household, her husband concentrates on his new business, a trade in pectin. Edith finds it difficult to settle in the Netherlands.
The violence of the November pogrom
Business is not going well either. In a letter to an acquaintance in Buenos Aires, Edith writes that Otto is exploring the possibility of founding a company in Great Britain. "Otto is working intensively on an English matter, whether it will succeed is uncertain, perhaps we will also move on."The "English thing" falls through in 1937. But due to the decision to sell not only pectin but also herbs and spices for the butcher’s store, business is a little better.
Edith’s relatives in Aachen experience the violence and destruction of the so-called "Kristallnacht" in November 1938 at first hand. The Nazis devastate thousands of synagogues and stores of Jewish owners, and they deport 30.000 Jewish men in concentration camps. Edith’s brother Julius is not arrested because he fought in the German army in World War I and was wounded in the process.
Walter, Edith’s other brother, is arrested and briefly locked up in a concentration camp. Eventually, both brothers manage to emigrate to the USA via the Netherlands. Edith’s mother, Rosa Hollander-Stern, arrives in the Netherlands in March 1939 and moves in with the Frank family.
Edith’s mother dies
Edith and Otto’s hopes of finding safe refuge in the Netherlands are dashed when Germany invades the Netherlands in May 1940. Desperate attempts to emigrate to the USA with the help of Julius and Walter fail.
In January 1942, Edith’s mother dies after a prolonged serious illness. In newspaper ads, Otto and Edith Frank express their gratitude for the condolences they receive.
Edith goes into hiding
When Margot arrives on 5. When Otto and Edith received a summons to report for work in Nazi Germany on July 1942, they decided to go into hiding the next day. They are prepared for this: An empty section in the back of Otto Frank’s company building is already set up as a hiding place. For more than two years Edith will endure there, with a rebellious Anne and a level-headed Margot.
In hiding, there are often conflicts between Edith and her daughter Anne. In Anne’s diary Edith is not spared. At the same time, Anne has realized that the quarrels have to do with the cramped circumstances. She now tries hard to keep the situation bearable: "I usually keep my mouth shut when I get angry, and she does the same, so things seem to be going much better."﻿
Edith was "an excellent mother
Otto later says that Edith suffered more from the conflicts than Anne . "Of course I was worried that there was not a very good understanding between my wife and Anne. In reality, she was an excellent mother who cared for her children above all else. She often complained that Anne was against everything she did, but it was a comfort for her to know that Anne had confidence in me."﻿
Edith has a hard time in the back house. The helper Miep Gies recognizes how desperate Edith is. "While the others were counting the days until the Allies arrived and hilariously joking around about what they were going to do first after the end of the war, Mrs. Frank confessed, deeply ashamed, that she simply could not believe in a good end."﻿
The hiding place is discovered
On 4. August 1944 Dutch policemen under the command of SS-Hauptscharfuhrer Karl Josef Silberbauer enter the hiding place and arrest the hiders and two helpers. Edith first has to go to prison in Amsterdam and then to the transit camp Westerbork.
As "punishment cases," Edith and her daughters must dismantle old batteries for recycling, a dirty and unhealthy job. According to fellow prisoner Rosa de Winter, Edith was "silent and already frozen …"﻿ in Westerbork;
At the beginning of September, the Nazis deport Edith and her family to the concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. Mother and daughters stay together and depend on each other more than ever before. When Margot and Anne are temporarily housed in another barrack because they suffer from scabies, Edith, with the help of two fellow prisoners, digs a hole under the barrack wall to slip them some extra food.
Edith is separated from her daughters
At the end of October Edith is separated from her daughters. Margot and Anne are taken to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Edith remains behind in Auschwitz-Birkenau. In Rosa de Winter she has a fated companion, because Rosa also had to part with her daughter. "We comfort each other and become friends, we prepare for the worst."﻿
Edith gets sick, develops a high fever and is transferred to the infirmary. Rosa de Winter describes how she sees Edith for the last time. "One morning, new patients come in. Suddenly I recognize Edith, she comes from another ward. She is only a shadow now. Die a few days later, completely exhausted."﻿
Edith Frank dies on 6. January 1945, three weeks before the liberation of Auschwitz.