Ilserl Fränkel

Ilserl with Grandmother

Big Family Photo

Ilse 'Ilserl' Fränkel was born on January 23, 1931, in Linz-on-the-Danube, Austria. Her parents were Martha and Emil Fränkel. Emil Fränkel was the "sole owner of a company engaged in the production of fruit juice and liqueurs" and though Martha's occupation around this time is not addressed, it is likely she was a stay at home mother (85).

Her little sister, Dorothea 'Dorly' Fränkel, was born July 10, 1938, also in Linz-on-the-Danube, Austria. Only a month after Dorly's birth, the family fled to Prague, Czechoslovakia to escape the Nazis, who had occupied Austria in March of 1938.

A lot of information about the Fränkels and therefore Ilserl is, unfortuantly, lost to time or crammed in a forgotten corner of an archive somewhere. The information available comes from Helen Waldstein Wilkes' book Letters from the Lost in which Helen has translated and presented the letters sent from the Fränkels and the rest of Helen's extended family in Czechoslovakia to the Waldsteins in Canada. Of course, these notes are all penned by the adults, leaving Ilserl voiceless. What can be gathered from the bits and pieces are as follows:

  • Ilserl was around the age of nine when her family left Austria for Czechoslovakia (40, 86)
  • She had friends in Prague and was able to speak Czech with them (75)
  • She and Helen had been close before Helen's family left for Canada (114)
  • She was apparently a quiet girl (114, 162)
  • She studied hard despite the exclusion of Jews from formal education (162)
  • She began learning English in early 1940 (167). That would be her third language.
  • She was apparently "very reasonable" about being excluded from school and having to have private tutors (185)

On March 6, 1943, the Fränkels were deported to Theresinstadt (268). They would stay in that 'camp-ghetto' until October 19, 1944, when the family of four was collectivly sent to Auschwitz, the Holocaust's most notorious death camp (268). Ilserl would have been thirteen at the time. It is unclear how or when she died, whether she survived for months after her arrival or was killed soon after disembarking from the cattle cars. It is possible we will never know. But what is clear is that a young girl, whose life was uprooted and radically altered at a very young age by people who wished her harm simply because of her religious and cultural affiliation, was murdered by the Nazis in the last year of the Holocaust. 

Ilserl, Martha, and Dorly

The photo shown here is likely the last photo ever taken of Ilserl, her sister, and her mother. It is undated, but Dorly looks to be around 2, which means Ilserl would have to be around 9 or 10. That would put the year of the photo [most likely taken in Prague] around 1940, four years before the family was sent to Auschwitz.