More than you know – closer than you think: State Center for Political Education North Rhine-Westphalia

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Something like this strange wooden table in the Active Museum in Siegen is no longer known today. But it’s easy to guess what it was for: it’s just the right height for children, and the top is a little beveled for writing. A storage area for pens and “pen holders”, with strips all around so that nothing falls down. Notebooks and books can be stored under the flap. Everything has been thought of!

This old piece of furniture comes from the possession of the Fries family, who rented the house of the Jewish Frank family with two children – not that of the famous Anne, but that of the unknown Inge.

Inge Frank was the baby of Paula and Samuel Frank. The couple ran a respected fashion store, in which at times more than 20 saleswomen, two decorators and several apprenticeships worked.

When little Inge was six years old – in 1928 – she started school like every child. Her parents gave her a leather satchel as a present. Now she did her homework at the little wooden desk. When she switched to grammar school in 1932, however, she had become too big for that. Perhaps the family put the desk in the attic.

In September 1933 a young couple moved into the Franks’ residential and commercial building. Soon the first children of Wilhelm and Ruth Fries were born, first Klaus, then Rosemarie. The married couples were friends, and you can imagine that Inge sometimes looked after the little neighbors’ children.

But when the National Socialists came to power, everything soon changed for the Frank family. Inge’s older sister Ruth fled to America with her husband Herbert in July 1938 under anti-Jewish pressure. In November of the same year, during the anti-Jewish pogroms, Samuel Frank and his 22-year-old son Manfred were arrested and both were deported with hundreds of other men to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp to force the family to flee. After the release, Samuel Frank was forced to go out of business. It had become impossible for the now 16-year-old Inge to go to school to do her Abitur. The parents worriedly looked for a perspective for Inge. Finally, in February 1939, she was able to begin training as a nanny in the Israelite children’s home in Cologne. In May 1939, her brother Manfred managed to get a seat on the famous ship “St. Louis ”, which finally let him and other refugees disembark in England after an odyssey to Central America, which was his salvation.

At home the families had to move closer together because the new “Aryan” owner of the business claimed living space for herself. On top of that, the Franks took in a niece in the spring of 1941, fifteen-year-old Doris Salomon. The apartment had become too small for the neighboring Fries family, because another child had been born in January, and Inge looked after them when they moved out. As a farewell, she gave the now “big” schoolchild Klaus Fries her little desk and the old satchel.

And what happened to the Franks, to the parents, Inge and Doris? They received the news that they had to meet at Siegen train station on Tuesday, April 28, 1942 for the transport to Dortmund, and they suspected that this was not going to mean anything good. As if in spite of it, Inge got engaged to her friend Heinz Lennhoff from Plettenberg the evening before. A few days later she was in the eastern Polish city of Zamość, where she had to do forced labor. Her last sign of life dates back to January 18, 1943, and she presumably died soon after – from exhaustion, from hunger or in one of the gas chambers in Sobibór or Bełżec.

But her little desk, and also her satchel, was used by all six children of the Fries family, and if they had suspected the harrowing story associated with these things, says Traute Fries today, they would certainly have handled them much more carefully.

Full history of the memorial

Website of the memorial

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Read Also:  This year already 162,000 deaths: not much excess mortality since World War II
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