Creativity Magazine

The Hardest Part Is Done

Posted on the 14 February 2013 by Shewritesalittle @SheWritesALittle


Just wrapped up research in Phase 1 for the show…the most difficult part. 

…Wanted to get it completed and out of the way as quickly as possible so as not to have to live in that mindspace for any longer than necessary.  Had decided to start at the end and work backwards, for this very purpose, which means I’ve just finished the timeline for Auguste van Pels’ last 8 months of her life.

…Not an easy job.  Precious little info on her specifically, then needing to delve into each place she was sent at the time of her sentence there, before moving onto the next.  It’s been four days of Concentration Camp horrors in my brain, which has led me to yelling at books (and the TV screen), and one phenomenal hangover…because one just can’t undertake the study of this kind of thing sober.  Or if they do, I don’t know how they expect to sleep that night.

So, for any who care to know: here is the timeline from the Attic to the end of Auguste van Pels (née Mrs. van Daan’s) life, gutted down from pages and pages of notes, to her main specifics. And I have to say that the first VERY OBVIOUS information it feeds to one, is that this woman was one hell of a fighter…epic in both physical and mental strength, with a constitution to endure.  There is absolutely no way a human being could survive half of her plight, as long as she did, without having had all that.


PART ONE (From Attic, forward)

I. July 13th, 1942 (Age 42)
Goes into hiding with Husband Hermann and Son, Peter (15 years old)

(A) July 14th, 1942
Thousands of Jews in Amsterdam are rounded up and deported to Westerbork Concentration Camp, then onto Auschwitz, based on command of results of the Wannsee Conference. Having gone into hiding 1 day before their originally planned date, saved Auguste for roughly 2 years, 8 months and 22 days.

2. August 4th, 1944 (Age 43)
Arrested with all in the Attic, and locked in holding cell for 4 days at Euterpestraat Gestapo Headquarters at Amsteweensweg, until transportation.

3. August 8th, 1944 (Age 43)
Transported to Westerbork Concentration & Holding Camp (Netherlands) (Total stay here: 26 days)

(A) Westerbork main transport hub for Dutch Jews. Established by the Dutch in 1939 as Political Detention Center. Nazi’s claim it in May, 1943. October 2-3 1943, Jewish male labor used to revamp it for Concentration Camp use. Transports leave every Tuesday morning, with usually 2,000 – 3,000 people per train, for the death camps, primarily Auschwitz.

4. September 3rd, 1944 (Age 43)
Transported with all from the Attic, to Auschwitz (Poland) on a 3 day train ride containing 1,019 Jews, in the last transport made from Westerbork to Auschwitz.

5. September 6th, 1944 (Age 43)
Arrive at Auschwitz. (Total stay here: 2 months, 20 days). Of the 1,019 in her transport, 549 were immediately selected for and sent to the gas chambers. All from the Attic, survived the selection, at which time, Auguste was separated from Hermann and Peter, never setting eyes on them again. She, along with all of the Frank women, then walked from the station to Auschwitz-Birkenau women’s camp, where they became 4 of the 39,000 held there. Auguste was then assigned to a work labor group where she remained for her time there. She would not know it, but Hermann would be killed in a gas chamber at the men’s camp a few weeks after their arrival. Otto Frank and Peter both witnessing his selection for the group.

(A) Auschwitz was ultimately made up of three camps, camp II (also known as Auschwitz-Birkenau) had the highest death-rated of all the camps in the Holocaust. Established June 14th, 1940, from converted Military barracks, taken over by the Nazis, April 27th, 1940, by Himmler, hiring Hoss as the Commandant. By Summer of 1943, 4 gas chamber/crematoriums are at full function. The crematorium’s are only able to keep up with 50% of the daily gassings, disposing of 4,415 bodies per day. Between 1.1 -1.5 million died here by War’s end, 90% of them: Jewish.

6. November 26th, 1944 (Age 44)
Transported to Bergen-Belsen (Germany) as 1 of 8 women. (Total stay here: 2 months 11 days). Anne and Margot are already here, and it is the last time they will see one another, by chance one day, and speak.

(A) Bergen-Belsen was established in April, 1943, with particularly poor living conditions. It had 1 latrine for 30,000 women, the barracks built to house 100, instead were forced to hold 1,000, making rampant disease the camp’s #1 killer. By Summer of 1944, death via lethal injections were being applied to attempt keeping the numbers and disease down. By the camp’s liberation 13,000 corpses, and 58,000 prisoners were found. Rampant Typhus would end up killing 14,000 of the survivors between April 15th, and June 20th of 1945.

7. December 20th, 1944
The second of the Attic member’s dies: Fritz Pfeffer, (née Mr. Dussel) in Neuenggamme (Germany.)

8. January 6th, 1945
Edith Frank dies in Auschwitz.

9. January 16th, 1945
Auguste would never know it, but this is the date Peter was selected from the men’s camp at Auschwitz and sent to the mining pits of the Mauthausen labor camp in Austria. It is 11 days before the date of Auschwitz’s liberation by the Russian Army.

10. January 27th, 1945
Otto Frank is among the 7,000 liberated from Auschwitz. The Netherlands are still at War, and he waits until March to begin his travels back to Amsterdam.

11. February 6th, 1945 (Age 44)
Transported to Buchenwald (Germany) (Total stay here: 2 months, 3 days). Auguste is immediately selected as part of a slave labor group called the Raguhn Labor Unit, with whom she works until it is later disbanded on April 8th, 1945.

(A) Buchenwald was established in the Summer of 1937, and in full operation on July 15th, 1937, primarily as a work camp for the Armament. This was also the site for the Euthanasia program, and medical experiments. It was liberated on April 11th, 1945…2 days after Auguste was sent to her final destination: Theresienstadt.

12. Sometime in early March, 1945
Margot first, then Anne Frank, dies of Typhus. Several weeks later, the camp would be liberated.

13. March 5th, 1945
Otto Frank begins his trek homeward to the Secret Annex in Amsterdam. He has already heard of his wife’s death but has hopes of Margot and Anne’s survival. it will take him nearly 3 months to complete his journey.

14. April 9th, 1945 (Age 44)
Sent to Theresienstadt (Czechoslovakia) (Total stay here: unknown). After the Buchenwald Raguhn Labor Unit was disbanded on April 8th, 1945, all survivors were forced into what would be known as the Buchenwald-Theresienstadt Death March. Auguste was among those sent, (a 380.75 mile journey) on foot with little clothing, and no provisions. Due to the War’s ending and lax recording on behalf of the officers in charge, it is not known for certain if Auguste ever reached her destination.

(A) Theresienstadt was established on November 24th, 1941 as a “model ghetto” and Concentration Camp. Of the over 140,000 Jews sent there, 33,000 died, 88,000 were deported and killed, 19,000 survived.

15. Sometime between April 11th and May 7th, 1945 (Age 44)
Auguste van Pels dies. It is estimated: sometime after the 2nd day of the Buchenwald-Theresienstadt Death March, and before the date of the actual camp’s liberation on May 7th, 1945.

16. May 5th, 1945
Peter dies in Mauthausen, 3 days before liberation.

17. June 3rd, 1945
Otto Frank arrives in Amsterdam, immediately seeking out and finding Miep Gies, one of their protectors while in hiding.


…Auguste van Pels was 1 of 6 million Jewish deaths (Nearly 2/3 Jewish population of Europe, and 1/2 of the world-wide Jews.)

…She was 1 of 14,000 German Jews who relocated to Holland, fleeing the Nazi regime.

…She was 1 of 140,000 Holland’s Jews killed (75% of its Jewish population. Only 5,200 of the deported 100,000 survived.)

…She hid in the Secret Annex for 2 years and 22 days.

…She spent an estimated 8 months under forced labor and incarceration in 5 Concentration camps, in 4 countries, after 4 train transports and a death march.

This is the last of the worst of my prep for this role. Wrapping my head around facts and figures I’ve heard about a million times, but then sizing it all down to one single human life and the journey that it took under such atrocious horrors, is devastating.

What this shows me, in no uncertain terms…and with no arguments to the contrary, is that this woman was ANYTHING but the weak, whining, flighty, little socialite she was so often projected to be, in Anne’s diary. This woman fought longer and harder than I can even concept…beyond any hope…beyond separation of her family…and through intense labor, physical struggles, and all the mind-fucks that this situation could possibly put you in.

…And all I can think of right now, after four days spent researching the last 8 months of her life, is how 1 day separated her from the first major transport out of Amsterdam toward Auschwitz at the beginning of her hiding, and 2 days longer at Buchenwald, would have seen her survive the War.

…Sometimes there are no words to express what you feel.

This is one of them.


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