Margot Frank—The Forgotten Sister

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.

Margot Frank (right) with her Amsterdam rowing team in 1941; photo altered to spotlight Margot
Margot Frank—outer boat, in black top behind the rower in white—on the Amstel River in Amsterdam during the summer of 1941

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.”


The Survival Story of Ben Bril

It’s hard to believe that the only time the Olympics were held in the Netherlands, was nearly 100 years ago at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics. One of the competing Dutch athletes was Ben Bril.

Ben (Barend) Bril was born on 16 July 16 1912, in Amsterdam, the host city for the 1928 Summer Olympics. He was one of seven children to Jewish parents Klaartie Moffie and Abraham Bril, who worked as a fish monger.

He grew up in one of the poorest parts of Amsterdam as the second youngest of seven children. It was a hard upbringing, according to Steven Rosenfeld, a relative of Bril’s through his wife Celia and has written a book about his life: Dansen om te overleven (Dancing to Survive). They lived in tenements, he didn’t sleep in a bed, he slept on straw, they didn’t have a toilet, he had to carry buckets down to the street,” Rosenfeld says.

Bril competed as a boxer in the 1928 Summer Olympics at age 15 in his home town, finishing fifth in the flyweight class, just out of medal contention. In his Olympic competition, after a first-round, he defeated Myles McDonagh from Ireland, before losing to Buddy Lebanon of South Africa.

McDonagh was 23. Bril had just turned 16 that day. He was the youngest ever boxer to take part in the Olympic Games.

For the young Bril, fighting was a part of daily life. There were scraps with friends, of course, and clashes with rival groups from different communities in the tightly packed city. Politics, discrimination and Bril’s Jewish faith were the reasons for 1928 being Bril’s only Olympic matches. He was not chosen for the 1932 squad, because the head of the boxing committee was a member of the NSB, the Dutch Nazi party. Bril boycotted the 1936 Berlin games being held in Nazi Germany, on his own accord.

As he got older, Bril found work in a butcher’s shop and used his new job to help develop his sport. Bril reached a milestone in his career by winning the gold medal at the Maccabi Games in 1935. He won the Dutch title in his division eight times. Years before it became mandatory for Jews, the proud champion Ben Bril had himself photographed with a Star of David on his boxing kit.

In 1934, Bril went with a Dutch Jewish group to compete in Germany.

The Nazis had been in power for a year. The state had already begun to discriminate officially against Jews. The atmosphere was hostile and daily life was being made increasingly difficult.

Bril was appalled by what he saw.

“We saw brown uniforms everywhere, swastika flags, the word ‘Jew’ on Jewish people’s businesses,” Bril told a Dutch newspaper many years later.

“I said then, as long as this regime is in power, I will never go to Germany.”

In May 1940 Germany invaded the Netherlands. Initially little changed, but gradually life for Dutch Jews became more restricted, and increasingly under threat.

There were restrictions on which public spaces Jewish people could enter, and in particular an attempt to force bars and cafes to ban Jews from their premises, which often ended in violence.

This sparked the creation of several Jewish defence groups, some centred around sports clubs like the one of which Bril was a member. On 11 February 1941, Dutch Nazis marched into the Jewish district of Amsterdam. A previous incursion two days earlier had resulted in attacks on Jewish homes and businesses.

In 1942, Bril, who was Jewish, was arrested by Jan Olij, the son of Sam Olij, a former 1928 Olympic teammate. He was first sent to the Vught Transit Camp, a concentration camp in Southern Holland with deplorable conditions, located Southeast of his home in Amsterdam. Once deported to Northern Germany and interned at the Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp, Bril was able to get a job, and then a promotion to the position of Blockälteste, which put him in charge of his barrack. Looking to survive, he was selected to box at the camp, where he let known German boxers defeat him. Four of his brothers and a sister died in the camps.

There is one moment that stands out from Bril’s life during the war beyond all others. It was a moment fraught with danger, but one in which he acted instinctively. It came at the Nazi concentration camp at Vught, and we can hear about it through Bril’s own words because he told the story to Braber in the 1980s.

“A boy had attempted to escape, but they caught him,” said Bril.

“They placed him on a rack, and he was to get 25 lashes of a whip. Suddenly the commander called out: ‘Boxer – step forward!’

“I had to carry out the punishment, but I refused. The commander said that if I didn’t I would get 50 lashes, so I took the whip but when I hit him, I aimed to strike too high.

“The commander got mad: ‘Not so!’ he cried. He grabbed the whip and started beating like mad. I walked back to my line.”

Why Bril suffered no consequences for his refusal to carry out the order is not known, but those who witnessed it were under no doubt as to what they had seen.

“Ben Bril was the only man I saw during two and a half years in concentration camps or heard of, who risked refusing to carry out a formal order of the SS,” according to historian Braber who quotes the head of Vught’s Jewish administration as testifying after the war.

In January 1945, from Bergen-Belsen, the family were included in a prisoner exchange that saw them taken first to Switzerland, then to a United Nations camp in Algeria, before making it back to Utrecht.

Bril didn’t return to the ring as a fighter after the war, but he couldn’t leave boxing.

He became a senior official in the sport, acting as a referee and judge at fights around the world, all the way into the 1970s.

Bril went to the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 1964 (where he once again showed his character by leaping into the ring to protect a fellow referee who had been punched by a competitor), Mexico City in 1968 and Montreal in 1976.

He missed the 1972 Games in Munich, and its own tragic story, only because of a dispute with the boxing authorities in the Netherlands.

Ringside or on the canvas, he played a small role at the start of the careers of some of the greats, officiating in fights involving world champions Joe Frazier, George Foreman and Sugar Ray Leonard.

Thank you, Michele Kupfer Yerman for pointing out the story to me.


Holocaust in Colour

Two prisoners of the Buchenwald concentration camp. 1945

Generally, I don’t care for colourized photographs, especially not those from the Holocaust. However, I did come across a few striking depictions of that dark era.

A former prisoner holds a human bone from a large pile of other bones from the Buchenwald concentration camp’s crematory. 1945.

An emaciated 18-year-old female Russian prisoner stares into the camera during the liberation of the Dachau Concentration Camp in 1945, her face hollow from hunger.

Above is a young woman whose face has scars and plasters because of a beating by the SS guards. But despite being unable to open her eyes fully from the swelling, she is photographed smiling two days after the British military entered the Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp in April 1945.

After the liberation, SS guards are lined-up for execution by American troops at Dachau.


The Execution of a Sadist

The beautiful beast and the hyena of Auschwitz were just some names used for Irma Grese. She was born to Berta Grese and Alfred Grese, both dairy workers, on 7 October 1923. Irma was the third of five children (three girls and two boys). In 1936, her mother died by suicide after drinking hydrochloric acid following the discovery of Alfred’s affair with a local pub owner’s daughter.

Holocaust survivor said this about Grese: “She was one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen. Her body was perfect in every line, her face clear and angelic, and her blue eyes the gayest, the most innocent eyes one can imagine. And yet, Irma Grese was the most depraved, cruel and imaginative pervert I ever came across.”

According to professor Wendy A. Sarti’s research, Grese had a sick fondness for striking women on their breasts and for forcing Jewish girls to be her lookout as she raped inmates. As if this wasn’t enough, Sarti reported that Grese would sick her dog on prisoners, whip them constantly, and kick them with her hobnailed jackboots until there was blood.

After the war, several Holocaust survivors provided extensive details of murders, tortures, cruelties and sexual excesses engaged in by Irma Grese during her years at Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. They testified to her acts of pure sadism, beatings and arbitrary shooting of prisoners, savaging of prisoners by her trained and half-starved dogs, to her selecting prisoners for the gas chambers.

On 13 December 1945, in Hamelin Prison, Grese was led to the gallows. British Army Regimental Sergeant-Major Richard Anthony O’Neill was an assistant to the executioner, Albert Pierrepoint. “We climbed the stairs to the cells where the condemned were waiting. A German officer at the door leading to the corridor flung open the door and we filed past the row of faces and into the execution chamber. The officers stood at attention. Brigadier Paton-Walsh stood with his wristwatch raised. He gave me the signal, and a sigh of released breath was audible in the chamber, I walked into the corridor. “Irma Grese,” I called. The German guards quickly closed all grilles on twelve of the inspection holes and opened one door. Irma Grese stepped out. The cell was far too small for me to go inside, and I had to pinion her in the corridor. “Follow me,” I said in English, and O’Neil repeated the order in German. At 9:34 a.m. she walked into the execution chamber, gazed for a moment at the officials standing around it and then walked on to the centre of the trap, where I had made a chalk mark. She stood on this mark very firmly, and as I placed the white cap over her head she said in her languid voice, Schnell [Quickly]. The drop crashed down, and the doctor followed me into the pit and pronounced her dead. After twenty minutes the body was taken down and placed in a coffin ready for burial.”

I am not sure if there ever was a film made about Irma Grese, but if a movie would be made I think Elisabeth Moss should play her, the resemblance is uncanny.


Margot and Anne Frank

On October 30, 1944, Margot Frank and her younger sister Anne were put on a transport from Auschwitz to Bergen Belsen. By November 1944, Bergen Belsen received approximately 9,000 women and young girls. Margot and Anne were murdered there in February 1945. I deliberately say murdered because they were ill and received no treatment—to me, that is murder.

On October 30, 1944, Margot Frank and her younger sister Anne were put on a transport from Auschwitz to Bergen Belsen. By November 1944, Bergen Belsen received approximately 9,000 women and young girls. Margot and Anne were murdered there in February 1945. I deliberately say murdered because they were ill and received no treatment—to me, that is murder.
The story of Anne is well-known through her diary. It is believed that Margot kept a diary, but it was never found. I think her diary would probably tell an even more compelling story, she was three years older than Anne, and she would therefore had a better comprehension of what was going on in the world around them.

About Margo, Miep Gies said, “I didn’t have any relationship with Margot. She was there, and that was all.” Anne says more or less the same about her sister in her diary. Describing Margot at the table, she wrote “Eats like a little mouse, doesn’t say a word.”

I often wondered if they had remained in Auschwitz instead of being moved to Belsen-Bergen, would they have survived? I realize the irony of that statement, but it could have been a possibility.

“I have often been downcast but never in despair; I regard our hiding as a dangerous adventure, romantic and interesting at the same time. In my diary, I treat all the privations as amusing.” —Anne 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.” —Margot Frank


Remembering Simon Walvisch and his family.

Simon Walvisch was born in Amsterdam, 1 on 9 March 1882.He was murdered in Auschwitz, on 1 October 1942. Reached the age of 60 years

Occupation: Tobacconist

He was a son of Jacobus Mozes Walvisch and Schoontje Zeeman. He married Rosette Abram, a daughter of Simon Abram and Judith Presser, on 29 June 1904 in Amsterdam. About four months later, on October 23, 1904, twins were born: Judith and Jacob Walvisch. However, both children died soon after birth: Judith died on November 13, 1904 and Jacob three days earlier, on November 10, 1904. After the twins, two more children followed: on April 12, 1906, Schoontje was born and on July 21, 1907 Judith. She was called Jute.

Simon’s wife Rosette Abram, however, died on December 30, 1923, and she is buried at the Jewish Cemetery in Diemen.

Less than a year later, on September 18, 1924, Simon Walvisch married Nathan Melkman’s widow, Susanna Swart, a daughter of Jeremias Swart and Saartje Leuw.

In her first marriage to Nathan Melkman, Susanna had a daughter, Flora Melkman, who was born on September 21, 1919 and who was adopted as a stepdaughter into Simon’s family after the marriage of Simon Walvisch and Susanna Swart. On October 22, 1925, another daughter was born from Simon Walvisch’s second marriage to Susanna Swart, viz. Sophia Walvis.

Flora’s father, Nathan Melkman, died on August 21, 1920, aged just 27. He is buried in the Jewish Cemetery in Diemen.

Simon Walvisch was murdered on 1 October 1942 in Auschwitz together with his second wife Susanna Swart and their joint daughter Sopiha Walvisch.

Simon’s children from his first marriage to Rosette Abram also did not survive the Holocaust either ; Schoontje was married to Samuel Sluijser and had two children with him, viz. Maurice and Rosette. The entire Sluijser-Walvisch family was murdered on 9 July 1943 in Sobibor.

The youngest daughter from Simon and Rosette’s first marriage was Judith Walvisch, called Juutje. She was married to Jeremias Swart and had two children with him: Ronny and Alfred. Ronny was murdered on 11 June 1943 in Sobibor together with her mother via the Kindertransport from Vught. Her husband Jeremias eventually ended up in Bergen Belsen where he died on December 17, 1944.

Flora Melkman, the daughter of Susanna Swart and Nathan Melkman, married Dorus Abraham in 1941. Both were murdered on September 30, 1942 in Auschwitz.

Three generations of one family murdered. Why??

I could have taken any name of the 559 Dutch Jewish citizens who were murdered on October 1,1942 in Auschwitz, but the fact that Simon’s whole family was murdered just got to me.


Johnny & Jones—They Were Murdered…But Not Their Music

The one thing that always baffled me is the vehement hate the Nazis had for Jazz music. It was considered “Entartete Musik”—degenerate music, a label applied in the 1930s by the Nazis to Jazz and also other forms of music.

I wrote a piece about Johnny & Jones before, this is not so much a follow-up as it is more of an enhancement to the previous blog. I felt it was important to remember those who were murdered for their art and their religious background.

In the 1930s, the Amsterdam duo Nol (Arnold Siméon) van Wesel and Max (Salomon Meyer) Kannewasser, alias Johnny & Jones, were extremely popular— thanks, in part, to their first single hit, “Mister Dinges Weet Niet Wat Swing Is.” They were cousins and they accompanied themselves on the guitar. The musicians sang their swinging Jazz songs with smooth lyrics in a semi-American accent. Their careers come to an end when the two Jewish musicians were arrested by the Germans during World War II, and they were killed in the Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp.

In 1934, The Bijko Rhythm Stompers performed in De Bijenkorf, the group consisted of Bob Beek, Max Kannewasser, Max Meents and Nol van Wesel. This was the first time that the collaboration between Max (Salomon Meijer) Kannewasser (24 September 1916/Jones) and Nol (Arnold Simeon) van Wesel (23 August 1918/Johnny) can be traced.

In 1936, Johnny & Jones started performing as a singing duo. They were discovered during a performance in the café/restaurant, Van Klaveren on the corner of Frederiksplein and Weteringschans. Shortly afterwards they quit their jobs at De Bijenkorf and entered the artistic profession. They became the first teenage idols soon after in the Netherlands.

They could be heard regularly in 1938 on VARA radio. They then performed as an interlude with “The Ramblers.” They recorded records for the record-label Decca, which was started in November 1938 with the song “Mister Dinges Does Not Know What Swing Is.” This song was their greatest success.

Initially, at the start of the war, Johnny & Jones were able to perform without much problem. For example, in February 1941 they performed at Amersfoort with “The Ramblers,” but by the end of 1941, this was forbidden for Jewish artists.

With growing pressure to go into hiding, their final performance was for a wedding reception of one of Arnold’s colleagues from de Bijenkorf (Dutch department store), Wim Duveen.

He was married to Betty Cohen at the main synagogue in Amsterdam in 1942. Salomon, in 1942, had married Suzanne Koster, a woman from the Dutch East Indies (Surabaya) and Arnold had married Gerda Lindenstaedt, also in 1942, a German refugee who had come to Holland in 1939.

The young men went into hiding with their wives at the Jewish nursing home Joodsche Invalide. The staff would hide them in an elevator between floors during inspections. When they were not hiding, they performed for staff and patients. Disaster struck on 29 September 1943 when the home was raided and its inhabitants sent to Westerbork.

Johnny & Jones were put to work there processing parts of crashed aircraft, including Plexiglas (source: Leo Cohen, a fellow prisoner in Westerbork). They found a place at the camp in the revue (consisting of excellent artists). Since only German-language performances were allowed, Johnny & Jones had to learn German and they had to have it well-mastered. Only then could they perform in March 1944 during a camp revue.

In August 1944, the two singers were allowed to leave the camp, with permission of the commandant, not only for their work disassembling parts but also to record songs in Amsterdam. In the NEKOS studios, they recorded six songs about their life in Westerbork, including “Westerbork Serenade.“

Ik geloof ik ben niet helemaal in orde
Ik ben met mijn gedachten er niet bij
Opeens ben ik een ander mens geworden
Mijn hart klopt als de vliegtuigsloperij
Ik zing mijn Westerbork serenade
Langs het spoorwegbaantje schijnt het zilveren maantje
Op de heide
Ik zing mijn Westerbork serenade
Mit einer schoene Dame, wandelend tezamen zij aan zijde
En mijn hart brandt als de ketel in het ketelhuis
Zo had ik het nooit te pakken bij mijn moeder thuis
Ik zing mijn Westerbork serenade
Tussen de barakken kreeg ik het te pakken op de hei
Dieser Westerbork liebelei

Dieser Westerbork liebelei
Daarna ging ik naar de saniteter
Die vent zei d’r is heus niets aan te doen
Maar je voelt je heel wat stukken beter
Na ‘t geven van de allereerste zoen (en dat moet je niet doen)

Ik zing mijn Westerbork serenade
Langs het spoorwegbaantje schijnt het zilveren maantje op de heide
Ik zing mijn Westerbork serenade
Mit einer schoene Dame
Wandelend tezamen zij aan zijde
En mijn hart brandt als de ketel in het ketelhuis
Zo had ik het nooit te pakken bij mijn mammie thuis
Ik zing mijn Westerbork serenade
Tussen de barakken kreeg ik het te pakken op de hei
Dieser Westerbork liebelei

Below is the translated text of the song.

I think I’m not quite right
I’m not there with my mind
Suddenly I became a different person
My heart beats like an aeroplane junkyard

I sing my Westerbork serenade
The silver moon shines along the railway track
On the heath
I sing my Westerbork serenade
With a pretty lady, walking together cheek to cheek
And my heart burns like the boiler in the boiler house
I never hit me quite like this at Mother’s place
I sing my Westerbork serenade
Between the barracks, I threw my arms around her
Over there
This Westerbork love affair.

And so I went over to the medic,
The guy said there’s nothing you can do about it

But you feel a lot better
After giving the very first kiss (and you shouldn’t)

Chorus repeats

A fellow artist who met them at the time wondered how Jews were allowed to walk freely in Amsterdam, without a yellow star. They told him about their temporary freedom. He suggested that they go into hiding but they refused. It was a camp rule, “Those who escaped risked the lives of their families,” who would face deportation. So they returned.

In September 1944, they were deported with their wives to the Theresienstadt Ghetto. They did not stay long. On a transport from the ghetto, the duo were separated from their wives. Salomon and Arnold were deported from camp to camp: Auschwitz, Sachsenhausen, Ohrdruf, Buchenwald and finally, after a 10-day train journey, they wound up in Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp, where they died of exhaustion shortly before its liberation. Nol van Wesel died on 20 March 1945 at the age of 26 and Max Kannewasser died on 15 April 1945 at the age of 28.

Salomon’s mother-in-law, Marie Louise Koster, recalled seeing their bodies dragged out of the sick barracks onto a van, to be cremated. She was in the so-called Stern Lager (Star Camp) with her husband Willem and her daughter Sonja. Salomon’s wife Suzanne survived Mauthausen and Auschwitz and lived in the United States until 2018. Gerda was killed in Auschwitz in 1944. Neither had children. Arnold’s parents were killed in Auschwitz in 1942. Salomon’s parents had died before the war. Their cousin Barend Beek went via Westerbork to Auschwitz and was killed in a subcamp of Stutthof on 11 December 1944.

They may have been murdered—but their music lives on.

Johnny & Jones, playing for the union crowd of NVV, Breda, 1938.


Anne Frank in Auschwitz

On September 3,1944 ,Anne Frank and her family were put on transport from Westerbork to Auschwitz. It would be the last train to leave Westerbork.The train arrived 3 days later in Auschwitz. The women selected from this transport, including Anne, Edith, and Margot, were marked with numbers between A-25060 and A-25271

Anne Frank’s final diary entry dates from 1 August 1944, 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 comes from the testimonies of others.

Janny Brandes-Brilleslijper was one of those others.She had also been on that same transport and was in Auschwitz when Anne was there, but also in Bergen Belsen. Janny was the last person to see Anne alive.

She said about the 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.”


Herta Bothe—The Sadist of Stutthof and the Lenient Sentence

Herta Bothe was a German concentration camp guard during World War II. She was imprisoned for war crimes after the defeat of Nazi Germany and was subsequently released from prison early on 22 December 1951 as an act of leniency by the British government. She was 6ft 3in, which must have been quite intimidating for the prisoners.

In September 1942, Bothe became the SS-Aufseherin camp guard at the Nazi German Ravensbrück concentration camp for women. The former nurse took a four-week training course and was sent as an overseer to the Stutthof camp near Danzig (now Gdańsk). There she became known as the “Sadist of Stutthof” due to her merciless beatings of female prisoners. On other accounts he was also known as the “Sadist of Bergen-Belsen.”

At the age of 24, she accompanied a death march of women from central Poland to Bergen-Belsen. At the Belsen trial, she claimed that she had stuck prisoners with her hand as a means of discipline but never used an instrument to do so, nor did she claim to have killed anyone. She was sentenced to ten years in prison and is still alive today. In a rare interview she said:

“Did I make a mistake? No. The mistake was that it was a concentration camp, but I had to go to it, otherwise, I would have been put into it myself. That was my mistake.”

That was an excuse former guards often gave. But it was not true. Records show that some new recruits did leave Ravensbrück as soon as they realised what the job involved. They were allowed to go and did not suffer negative consequences.

The Allied soldiers forced her to place the corpses of dead prisoners into mass graves adjacent to the main camp. She recalled in an interview some sixty years later that, while carrying the corpses, they were not allowed to wear gloves, and she was terrified of contracting typhus. She said the dead bodies were so rotten that the arms and legs tore away when they were moved. She also recalled the emaciated bodies were still heavy enough to cause her considerable back pain. Bothe was arrested and taken to a prison at Celle.

At the Belsen Trial, she was characterized as a “ruthless overseer” and sentenced to ten years in prison for using a pistol on prisoners. Bothe admitted to striking inmates with her hands for camp violations like stealing but maintained that she never beat anyone “with a stick or a rod” and added that she never “killed anyone.” Her contention of innocence was deemed questionable as one Bergen-Belsen survivor claimed to have witnessed Bothe beat a Hungarian Jew named Éva to death with a wooden block while another teenager stated that he saw her shoot two prisoners for reasons he could not understand. Nevertheless, she was released early from prison on 22 December 1951 as an act of leniency by the British government.

Bothe died on March 16,2000 at the age of 79.



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Hans and Ruth Abraham—A Positive Holocaust Story

Millions were murdered during the Holocaust, and each of these victims represents a tragic and sad story.

However, although very few, there were some positive Holocaust stories, but even with the positivity, there was an underlying negative story, because it tells of their disrupted lives.

Hans Leo (Henry in later life) Abraham and his sister Ruth Abraham were the children of Siegfried (born in Ehringshausen on 19 July 1899) and Gerda Abraham – Schwarzstein (born in Berlin, on 26 February 1911). Hans was born on 23 September 1933. He and his parents came from Hamburg, Germany and fled to Amsterdam in 1935.

Father Siegfried had worked as a stockbroker in Hamburg, but after emigration became an electrician in the Netherlands. Ruth was born on 24 September 1938, in the Netherlands. The family lived on the Amstelkade in Amsterdam. After the German invasion of the Netherlands, their lives were once again put in danger. Wealthy friends from Hamburg sent them Haitian passports in May 1942. As foreigners, the family was deported in 1944 first to Westerbork and then to Bergen-Belsen. They were selected to be part of a prisoner swap in January 1945, taking them first to Switzerland and then to Algeria by 31 August 1945. They remained in the UNRRA camp at Jeanne d’Arc in Philippeville until the war ended. The family eventually emigrated to the United States in 1946.