Spots of Light - Women in the Holocaust


Catharina Frank

The dance that Catharina Frank performed in Westerbork saved her life and that of her son.

Catharina was born in 1917 in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, to an affluent family in the textile business. She worked as a nurse for the Jewish hospital. In 1941, she married Jacques Frank. The couple went into hiding in Amsterdam but were discovered and transported to Westerbork transit camp. Catharina, six months pregnant when she reached the camp, gave birth to their son, Clarence, in May 1943. Jacques managed to see his son once before he was sent to Sobibór, where he was murdered.

Catharina, who had studied dance as a teenager, joined the camp’s entertainment team. Adolf Eichmann attended one of the performances. In the course of a selection held in his presence, he promised Catharina that she and her son would be sent to Terezin, and allowed to remain until the end of the war. Catharina and Clarence reached Terezin in the spring of 1944. An infant in the ghetto was an unusual sight and people thronged to see the cute little baby. As part of preparations for a visit by the Red Cross, artist Charlotte Buresova asked Catharina to model for a painting to be displayed in one of the ghetto’s administrative offices. During one of his visits to Terezin, Eichmann saw the painting and identified Catharina as its subject. Eichmann had Catharina and her son transferred to a private room, where they also received extra food from Danish deportees.

Catharina remarried after the war and died in 2003.