I often think that Edith Frank is a forgotten hero. She was stuck with so many people in such a small space while desperately avoiding being discovered. That would be challenging to anyone’s health. But Edith could not afford to lose her sanity, not even for one second.v
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, prominent in the Aachen Jewish community, along with Edith’s mother, Rosa Stern (1866–1942). The ancestors of the Holländer family had lived in Amsterdam since the start of the 18th century. They emigrated 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 final days of the 19th century. Were they hoping that Edith would be born 16 days early so that Edith would have been the first 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 and the cause of death is unknown. At fourteen, Edith herself, 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. They were married on 12 May 1925, in Aachen’s synagogue. Their first daughter, Margot, was born in 1926, whereas their second daughter, Anne, was born in 1929.
Anne did not have much sympathy for her mother during their tumultuous years in the annexe, and she only had a few kind words to say about her, particularly in the earlier entries. Anne felt that her mother was cold, critical, and uncaring, that they had very little in common, and that her mother did 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 in her diary, she tried attempts to look at her mother’s life as a wife and mother in an objective manner. As Anne got older and gained a clearer perspective, she began to regret her quick judgments of her mother. Anne had 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 ten 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.