On 3 September 1944, Anne Frank and her family were put on a transport from Westerbork to Auschwitz. It would be the last train to leave Westerbork. The train arrived three days later at Auschwitz. The women selected from this transport, including Anne, Edith, and Margot, were marked with numbers between A-25060–A-25271.
Anne Frank’s final diary entry was on 1 August 1944, just three days before her arrest. Therefore, the only information we have about what happened to Anne Frank in the six months between the arrest and her death in the Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp came from the testimonies of others.
Janny Brandes-Brilleslijper was one of the others. She had been on that same transport and was not only in Auschwitz when Anne was there but also in Bergen-Belsen. Janny was the last person to see Anne alive. She said about their arrival in Auschwitz, “We were stripped in an icy room with the wind billowing through it. Five women under one trickle of water. No towels. Tattooed, shaved…we were totally confused and unable to understand anything.”
Upon arrival at Auschwitz, the SS forcibly split the men from the women and children, and Otto Frank was separated from his family. Those deemed able to work were admitted into the camp, and those deemed unfit for labour were immediately killed. Of the 1,019 passengers, 549—including all children younger than 15—were sent directly to the gas chambers. Anne Frank, who had turned 15 three months earlier, was one of the youngest people spared from her transport. She was soon made aware that most people were gassed upon arrival and never learned that the entire group from the Achterhuis had survived this selection. She reasoned that her father, in his mid-fifties and not particularly robust, had been killed immediately after they were separated.
Janny worked as a nurse in the Nazi camps where she provided clothing, medicine, and food to fellow prisoners. She saw Anne Frank, two or three days before she died of typhus in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in the spring of 1945.
“During the final days, I saw Anne standing there, wrapped in a blanket, with no tears left to cry. Well, we hadn’t had tears for some time. And then, a few days later I went to look for the Frank girls and learned that Margot had fallen from her bunk. Just like that, onto the stone floor, dead. The next day, Anne died as well.”
Janny had been in the Jewish resistance, in Amsterdam during the war, forging identification papers to help other Jews escape the Nazis, before she and Anne were deported from Amsterdam.
She died of heart failure in Amsterdam on 15 August 2003 at the age of 86.
Mariette Huisjes of the Anne Frank House said this about Janny.
“Anne was sick and hallucinating and had thrown away her clothes because she was afraid of lice. Ms Brandes-Brilleslijper gave her clothes and some food. She mostly helped young people in the camps in those difficult times.”
So horrific. We fortunate folk can hardly imagine what they endured. I visited Bergen-Belsen 31 years ago (1991), and an eerie stillness was still there so quiet.
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