We all know who Anne Frank is, as her diary is one of the most famous books ever published. But the story of her sister Margot is often overlooked. Margot Betti Frank was born in Frankfurt am Main on 16 February 1926.
Margot also kept a diary but that was never found. But we do know details about her via Anne’s diary and also via letters she sent to pen pals. Margot was 3 years older than Anne so she clearly must have been more aware of what was happening in the world around her.In her second year at secondary school, her English teacher made contact with students in the US. Margot started corresponding with Betty Ann Wagner. Her letter of 27 April 1940 shows that she was aware of the threat of war, “We often listen to the radio, for these are stressful times. We never feel safe because we border directly on Germany and we are only a small country.” Because of the German invasion, two weeks later, this would remain the only letter she sent. Margot’s deportation order from the Gestapo is what hastened the Frank family into hiding, according to Anne’s diary.
Anne wrote of her in her diary on 27 September 1942, “Margot doesn’t need any upbringing, since she’s naturally good, kind and clever, perfection itself.”
Margot was 16 years old when she and her family went into hiding. Just a year younger than my daughter is now, Like my Daughter, Margot, had rowing as a hobby. Margot was a member of the “Society for the Promotion of Water Sports Among Young People,” and her club, near the Berlage Bridge, was a short bicycle ride from the Frank family apartment in the River Quarter. Two photos released by the Anne Frank House two years ago show a side of Margot rarely seen, that of an athlete heartily laughing with her Dutch teammates during practice.
The photos were taken during the summer of 1941 and show Margot with her rowing team on the Amstel River, from which Amsterdam derives its name. In one photo she is featured prominently, while the other is a wide-angle shot of the team in two boats.
The photos taken by Margot’s gym and rowing coach, Roos van Gelder, showed the team and included Jewish and non-Jewish girls until Jews were banned from water sports in the fall. Because she too was Jewish, van Gelder could no longer coach sports, and the non-Jewish team members showed solidarity by quitting, according to the museum.
On 8 September 1940, Margot and her three teammates won first prize in a rowing match in Zaandam for style rowing.
Margot Frank and the others hiding in the secret annexe were arrested by the Gestapo on 4 August 1944 and detained in their headquarters overnight before being taken to a cell in a nearby prison for three days. According to Victor Kugler (one of the people who helped the Frank family), while being arrested, Margot was weeping silently. They were transported by train on 8 August to the Dutch Westerbork Transit Camp. They remained at the camp until the selection for Westerbork’s last deportation to Auschwitz on 3 September 1944.
In Auschwitz-Birkenau, Margot and the other prisoners were forced to cut sods or carry stones. The camp Nazi commander regularly organized selections: those who were deemed fit for work by the Nazi doctors were deported to Nazi Germany, while the sick or seriously weakened prisoners were murdered in the gas chambers. Margot and Anne were part of a group that was put on the train to the Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp on the night of 1 November 1944. After a horrific journey, they arrived in the overcrowded camp. The conditions in Bergen-Belsen were terrible. There was little food and poor personal hygiene. Infectious diseases broke out. Margot and Anne became infected with spotted typhus. Rachel van Amerongen-Frankfoorder, a fellow prisoner, would later recall, “They had those hollowed-out faces, skin and bone…You could see both of them dying, as well as others.” Margot Frank, like her sister Anne, succumbed to spotted typhus in February 1945. Two months after their death, British soldiers liberated the camp.
Today would have been Margot’s 97th birthday
A few years ago, I was asked to speak as a representative of the parents’ council at the graduation night of my oldest son. I ended the speech with a quote from Margot Frank:
“Times change, people change, thoughts about good and evil change, about true and false. But what always remains fast and steady is the affection that your friends feel for you, those who always have your best interest at heart.”