The main characters

Margot Frank

Margot Frank is best known as ‘the sister of Anne’, forever standing in her shadow. The image that we have of her is mainly based on Anne's critical view. How did others see her and what is known about her life?

Margot Betti Frank was born in Frankfurt am Main on 16 February 1926. She was the first child of Otto and Edith Frank. As a proud mother, Edith wrote everything down in a baby book: from the presents she received to the first time Margot said ‘Mummy' and her first steps. According to Kathi, their maid, Margot was ‘a little princess': always neat and careful.

Margot started school in Germany. She was ‘very diligent!’, her teacher wrote on her first school report. Margot moved to the Netherlands when she was seven years old. Her parents felt that a regular Dutch primary school in their own neighbourhood would be best for her.

Margot's report cards show that she was quick to pick up the new language. At the end of the school year, she already scored 3 on a scale of 5. And by the end of primary school it was 4 out of 5. 

‘We never feel safe, because we border directly on Germany and we are only a small country.’

‘Stressful times’

After primary school, Margot went to the municipal Lyceum for Girls and there, too, she excelled. Her report marks were consistently high. She did well in science and math, scoring 9 on a scale of 10 in mathematics. According to her school friend Jetteke Frijda, Margot was 'the best at everything, but she remained modest. You could trust her, you could lean on her. Margot talked little about herself, she kept rather quiet.’

In her second year, 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.’ Due to the German invasion - two weeks later - this would remain the only letter she sent.

Margot receives a call-up for labour camp

From May 1940 onwards, the Nazis occupied the Netherlands. The antisemitic measures increasingly restricted the lives of Jews in the Netherlands. After the summer break of 1941, Margot had to leave the Lyceum for Girls and transfer to the Jewish Lyceum.

Hetty Last, a classmate of Margot’s at the Lyceum for Girls, remembered how Margot had been waiting several times with her bicycle at the Lyceum for Girls when the school went out. ‘I think she really missed her old school and her non-Jewish friends.’ When Jews were no longer allowed to play sports, Margot had to give up playing tennis and rowing.

Margot's first report card from the Jewish Lyceum, which she received on 3 July 1942, was no surprise. In her diary, Anne wrote: ‘Brilliant as usual. She would move up cum laude if that existed at school , she is so brainy!’ Two days later, Margot's life was turned upside down when she received a call-up to report for labour camp. Her parents feared for her life and decided to go into hiding the next day.

Dream profession: maternity nurse

From 6 July 1942 onwards, Margot, together with her parents and Anne, hid in an empty part of her father's business premises. She shared a room with her sister. A week later, the Van Pels family joined them and Fritz Pfeffer followed in November. Then there were eight people in hiding on two floors. From the moment Fritz Pfeffer joined them, Margot slept in her parents' room. This must not have been easy on a sixteen-year-old girl. 

Margot worked hard in the Secret Annex. In her diary Anne made an impressive list of what Margot was studying and reading: ‘English, French, Latin by correspondence, English shorthand, German shorthand, Dutch shorthand, Mechanics, Trigonometry, Soild Geometry, Physics, Chemicstry, Algebra, Geometry, English literature, French literature, German literature, Dutch literature, Bookkeeping, Geography, Modern History, Biology, Economics, reads everything, preferably on religion and medicine.’

In addition, Margot helped Fritz Pfeffer with his Dutch. Margot saw a future for herself as a maternity nurse in Palestine. 

Alone in the Secret Annex

From Anne’s diary, we know that Margot also kept a diary. ‘Margot and I got in the same bed last evening, it was a frightful squash, but that was just the fun of it, she asked if she could read my diary sometime, I said yes at least bits of it, and then I asked if I could read hers.’Margot’s diary has not survived. 

According to Miep Gies, Margot was very quiet and withdrawn in the Secret Annex. It became clear how alone she must have felt, when Anne and Peter fell in love. When Anne suspected that her sister also had feelings for Peter, Margot denied this. In a short note to Anne, she wrote: ‘I only feel a bit sorry that I haven't found anyone yet, and am not likely for the time being, with whom I can discuss thoughts and feelings.’

‘I shall remember the look in Margot's eyes all my life..’

‘Margot was crying softly’

The people in hiding managed to stay out of the hands of the Nazis for more than two years, but fate struck on 4 August 1944. Dutch police officers, headed by SS-Hauptscharführer Karl Josef Silberbauer, raided the Secret Annex and arrested the eight people in hiding and two of the helpers. According to Victor Kugler, who was present at the arrest, 'Margot was weeping silently.'

After the Westerbork transit camp, the eight people in hiding ended up in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration and extermination camp. The men and women were separated on the platform. 

Typhus

In Auschwitz-Birkenau, Margot and the other prisoners were forced to cut sods or carry stones. The camp management regularly organised 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 in the night of 1 November. After a gruelling journey, they arrived in the overcrowded camp. 

The conditions in Bergen-Belsen were terrible, there was little food and hygiene was poor. 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 really see both of them dying, as well as others.’

Margot Frank, like her sister Anne, succumbed to spotted typhus in February 1945, two months before the camp was liberated by British soldiers.

References
  1. Schnabel, Ernst, The footsteps of Anne Frank (London etc.: Longmans, Green and Co, 1959), p. 9.
  2. "Margot should also be mentioned". http://www.annefrank.org/en/Museum/Exhibitions/Temporary-Exhibitions/Margot-zusje-van-Anne/Margot-Frank-items/Interview-Jetteke-Frijda/ [13 November 2018].
  3. Anne Frank Stichting [AFS], Anne Frank Collection: Margot Frank to Betty Ann Wagner, 27 April 1940.
  4. AFS, Witness Archive: Interview with Hetty Last.
  5. Netherlands State Institute for War Documentation [NIOD], The Diary of Anne Frank: the revised critical edition (New York, NY: Doubleday, 2003), B-version, 5 July 1942.
  6. NIOD, The Diary of Anne Frank, A-version, 16 May 1944.
  7. NIOD, The Diary of Anne Frank, A-version, 14 October 1942.
  8. NIOD, The Diary of Anne Frank, A-version, 20 March 1944.
  9. Shapiro, Eda & Kardonne, Rick (ed.), Victor Kugler: the man who hid Anne Frank (Jerusalem: Gefen, 2008), p. 53
  10. Lindwer, Willy, The last seven months of Anne Frank (New York, NY: Pantheon Books, 1992), p. 104