The story of Emma van Essen-Frankenstein is a story of desperation. Her maiden name is also the name of a famous horror story, but Emma’s story is more horrific than that of her fictional namesake.
She was born in Salzderkilden, Germany on 18 March 1862. In May 1893 she married Dutchman, Abraham Levie van Essen, and I say Dutchman because the majority of Dutch Jews considered themselves Dutch more than Jewish.
The couple lived in Veenendaal in the Netherlands and on 25 February 1894, they had a baby son, Leenhart Hermann van Essen. None of them expected what fate awaited them after the Nazis occupied the Netherlands in May 1940.
Emma had 2 granddaughters. Veronie Suze Carola van Essen was born in Amsterdam on 3 August 1928, and Elly Vera Louise van Essen born in Amsterdam, 25 February 1926.
Veronie Suze Carola, the youngest granddaughter, attended the Protestant secondary modern on the Kerkewijk. Because she was Jewish, she had to leave that school in 1941. This was one of the Nazi laws that were brought in.
I don’t know why Leendert Hermann decided to go into hiding, but I can guess his reasons. They went into hiding on the Veluwe near Voorthuizen. They were caught. Their valuables possessions were confiscated by the SD. A young municipal official who supervised the house being emptied removed and preserved the mezuzah at the entrance. The mezuzah was exhibited after the war.
On 14 September 1942, Emma van Essen-Frankenstein left for Amsterdam, probably under Nazi orders. There, on 5 December 1942, at the age of 80, she took her own life. She would have had a good idea by then of what fate awaited her. All of her family were eventually murdered.
Abraham Levie van Essen was murdered in Auschwitz on 28 January 1944.
Leenhart Hermann van Essen was murdered in Auschwitz on 2 November 1943.
Rachel Julie van Essen-Lopes de Leao Laguna was murdered in Auschwitz on 27 August 1943.
Veronie Suze Carola van Essen was murdered in Auschwitz on 27 August 1943.
Elly Vera Louise van Essen was murdered in Auschwitz on 3 September 1943.
I know that suicide is often a taboo subject but I believe if that aspect of the Holocaust is not addressed, we will never really know the true extent of the horrors.