Anne Frank's relative recalls family history

October 11, 2011 3:20:28 AM PDT
She was the symbol of more than 1.5 million children who died in the Holocaust during World War II. The story of Anne Frank has been passed on through her diary first published more than 60 years ago.

Frank's relative, 81-year-old Dorothy Fairfield Jenkins of Houston, has long kept the family story close to her heart and last week traveled to Amsterdam for the first time.

Until last week, Jenkins had never been to the annex Anne Frank's family hid in for two years before being discovered by the Nazis.

"It's a tiny little room," Jenkins said. "I cried quite a bit, it was very emotional."

Jenkins was invited to speak at the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam for the opening of an exhibit on Frank's mother, Edith. Anne's mother, Edith Hollander, and Dorothy's mother, Irene Hollander, were first cousins and very good friends.

"The Hollander family was a very close-knit family," Jenkins said.

Dorothy was born just a year after Anne Frank.

"A lot of times I think, you know, it could have been me," Jenkins said.

Her immediate family fled Germany to Peru before World War II and eventually ended up in the United States.

"My grandmother got out but two sisters of hers did not," Jenkins said.

But more than a dozen other relatives did not survive the Holocaust, including Anne Frank, Anne's sister Margot, and mother Edith. Otto Frank survived and went on to see his daughter's story was shared with the world.

"She represents what basically happened to everybody but everybody didn't leave it in writing," Jenkins said.

Her son and grandson were among the family members by her side last week. Her grandson, Ben, met a concentration camp survivor who was a friend of Anne Frank's sister, Margot.

This family journey for Jenkins was a lifetime in the making, and now her connection to Frank has never been stronger.

"She always said she believed in the goodness of the human being, in spite of all the badness that surrounded her. But she kept up hope. We always have to have hope," she said.

Jenkins says one of her sons has taken particular interest in their family ancestry and has collected and donated many pictures and family letters to the museum in Amsterdam.

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