I often think that Edith Frank is a forgotten hero. Stuck with so many people in such a small space, desperately avoiding being discovered. That would be challenging to anyone’s health. But Edith could not afford to lose her sanity not even for a second.
She was born in the German city of Aachen, close to the Dutch border, on 16 January 1900. Aachen is only a 20 minutes journey from Maastricht in the Netherlands
She was the fourth child in a wealthy Jewish family. Her parents ran a family business, trading in scrap metal, machinery and parts, boilers, other appliances, and semi-finished products.
Her father, Abraham Holländer (1860–1928) was a successful businessman in who was prominent in the Aachen Jewish community together with Edith’s mother, Rosa Stern (1866–1942). The ancestors of the Holländer family lived in Amsterdam at the start of the 18th century, emigrating from the Netherlands to Germany around 1800. Edith’s maiden name, Holländer, is German for “Dutchman”
I wonder how excited Edith’s parents must have been in the dying days of the 19th century. Were they hoping that Edith would be born 16 days early, so that Edith would have been the 1st child born in the 20th century?
Edith had three siblings: Walter, Julius, and Bettina. Edith had a carefree childhood until her older sister Bettina died. The cause of her death is unknown. At only fourteen, Edith was harshly confronted with death. She still managed to get on with her life: she finished high school and worked in the family business for a few years.
In 1924, Edith met Otto Frank and they were married on May 12, 1925 in Aachen’s synagogue. Their first daughter, Margot, was born in 1926 whereas their second daughter, Anne, was born in 1929.
Anne has not much sympathy for her mother during their tumultuous years in the annex, and she only has a few kinds words to say about her, particularly in the earlier entries. Anne feels that her mother is cold, critical, and uncaring, that they have very little in common, and that her mother does not know how to show love to her children. I don’t think that Anne realised the anxiety her mother must have had trying to keep her family safe. Then again what teenage girl gets along with her mother?
However in Anne’s later entries of her diary, she tried attempts to look at her mother’s life as a wife and mother in a more objective manner. As Anne gets older and gains a clearer perspective, she begins to regret her quick, petty judgments of her mother. Anne has more sympathetic feelings for her mother.
According to Otto, Edith suffered more from their arguments than Anne did. ‘Of course, I was worried about my wife and Anne not having a good relationship. However, she truly was an excellent mother, who put her children above all else. She often complained that Anne would oppose everything she did, but she was comforted to know that Anne trusted in me.’
Edith Frank died on 6 January 1945, three weeks before the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, and 10 days before her 45th birthday. The cause of death was malnutrition ,basically murdered by starvation.
It gives me comfort to believe that Edith is now celebrating her birthday with her family in heaven. And if the stars sparkle more brightly tonight I will know she had a good birthday. Happy birthday Edith Frank.