Thursday, April 25, 2013

Remembering Margot

Jetteke Frijda was Margot's best friend. They were at the same school, first the Girls' High School and later the Jewish High School. In July 1942 Margot suddenly disappeared. Jetteke heard that the family had fled to Switzerland. It wasn't until after the war that Otto was able to tell her what had really happened. Jetteke Frijda also went into hiding in the summer of 1942. She was not betrayed and survived the war.

"I first met Margot Frank at the Girls' High School. That was in 1938 when we were both 12 years old. At first I didn't have much to do with her but later we went a lot together, especially when we went to the Jewish High School. I knew, of course, that Margot had come over from Germany but she never spoke about it. She spoke fluent Dutch. Only if you listened very carefully could you hear a slight accent. Margot was sweet and kind. She was good at everything but also very modest. you could trust her; you could rely on her. Margot never spoke much about herself she was closed. What did we do? together? I can't really remember anymore, it was more than sixty years ago. I do remember that once, when I had 'flu and croaked " I'm dying, I'm dying," Margot said to me "You won't die that quickly.""

"Anne was a frivolous child who always sought attention and always wanted to be the first at everything. She was three years younger than Margot and that was quite an age difference. Margot looked upon Anne as her little sister, someone she had to protect. She must have been irritated by her occasionally but she never let it show."

"I didn't get on very well with Margot's mother, I found her distant. Her father was completely different, he was a very nice man. He showed me the office on the Prinsengracht once. I really found it very interesting, because I was shown around by the boss himself! He showed me the premises and told me everything about Opekta, the product that he sold. We used Opekta at home every day. I can see myself being shown around and I must have been into the secret annex too."

"My father was professor and member of the Academic Support Fund, a committee for academic refugees from Germany. We had a lot of contact with the refugees because my parents met these people, arranged accommodation, food and clothes for them. It's because of this that we had an idea of what could be expected when the German army occupied the Netherlands. In the thirties there was also anti-Semitism in the Netherlands, but it was hidden. I was at school with children whose parents were in the NSB (Dutch wing of the nazi party) but didn't notice anything in particular. These children didn't shout 'You're a Jew so get lost,' but you knew that they were anti-Semitic."

"In May 1940 the Netherlands were occupied by the Germany army. In the Autumn of 1941 all Jewish children had to attend Jewish schools. Margot and I went to the Jewish High School. It was the first time in our secondary education that we had boys in our class. It was a class of six girls and nineteen boys. The attention we received was wonderful! Of course, I had a boyfriend. Whether Margot had one I don't know. She was very reserved. Outside school there wasn't much to do because we always had homework and we had to be indoors by eight o' clock. Jews weren't allowed to ride bicycles anymore so we had to walk everywhere. From one day to the next something new was forbidden. I felt very threatened and had the feeling that I would suffocate from fear even though it wasn't as bad then as it was to become later."

"On a summer's day Margot Frank had suddenly disappeared. I went to their house on the Merwedeplein straightaway because I wanted to know what had happened. I heard from a neighbour that the Franks had fled to Switzerland. The door was slightly open and all there things were still there. I went into Margot's room and looked around. I took a book from the shelf to remember her by. It was a book about Dutch poets. Margot and I were both very interested in literature. Then I left quickly because what I had done was dangerous. I was wearing a Star of David and I was looking around the house of a Jewish family that had fled."

"In August 1942 I went into hiding. I moved hiding places five times. I was in an orphanage in the Veluwe region, in Zeist, in Amsterdam, sometimes for a few days, sometimes for months on end. My hiding situation was completely different from that of Margot. I could still walk the streets because I didn't look particularly Jewish. Once I took a short walk with a women where I was hiding and she introduced me to someone as her niece. 'Yes,' said the person, 'you can see that you look alike.' Thank goodness I was never arrested then I would really have been in trouble. Although I had forged papers I didn't know much more than my false surname. It would really have been better if I had learnt my new identity off by heart, but I could never bring myself to do it. My hiding places were all different. In some places I didn't have to do anything at all but in others I had to perform household tasks, such as in the orphanage. There I wasn't allowed to talk to anyone. Later I heard it was because they were afraid that someone who worked there would betray me. For the last year I was in hiding with a very religious family. There, I had to help a lot in the house and they tried to convert me."

After the war Otto Frank was so busy with Anne Frank's diary. I told him then: 'I think it's a pity that nothing is mentioned anymore about Margot. She is also worthy of being mentioned.'

"After the liberation I contacted my family straight away. They were very good to me. I hoped that Margot had survived the war. I started work in the Public Reading Room in The Hague. One day I heard that there was someone looking for me. It was Otto Frank. He told me that his wife and daughters had perished in concentration camps. He had met my father in Auschwitz. He cried. I don't remember how I reacted anymore, so much happened in those days; people who came back, those who didn't... Then I heard that my father had been murdered. I just had to accept it. I had always known that it was a possibility. You just accepted what happened and it didn't seem to surprise you. During the war I was very afraid and humiliated. After the war I had no security anymore. I had no friends, no furniture, no house, nothing. I had to start all over again. Only when you have experienced that can you imagine what it's like. We didn't talk about emotions then as we do now. Emotions were pushed away much more."

"After the war Otto Frank was so busy with Anne Frank's diary. He was very impressed with what readers of the diary had written to him. I told him then. 'I think it's wonderful what you are doing for Anne, but I think it's a pity that nothing is mentioned anymore about Margot. She is also worthy of being mentioned.'"

1 comment:

  1. Not much is written about Margot. This is a wonderful post in her memory.