Matt Lucas learns his cousin lived with the Franks and is even named in Anne’s diary
search

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here
FEATURE

Matt Lucas learns his cousin lived with the Franks and is even named in Anne’s diary

Imagine discovering a member of your family had lived with the Frank family. That was one of many things the comedian discovered on Who Do you Think You Are last night

Louisa Walters is Features Editor at the Jewish News and specialises in food and travel writing

Comedian Matt Lucas was left speechless on last night’s episode of Who Do You Think You Are (BBC1) as he discovered that his cousin lived with Anne Frank and her family in Amsterdam before they went into hiding.

Pictured above in Golders Green synagogue, Matt, who lost his father when he was just 22, was very close to his maternal grandmother Margot, who passed away in 1999. He wanted to find out more about her: “It helps keep her alive for me and I really miss her”. He started his family history journey by visiting his mother to discuss a selection of family memorabilia including a letter dated June 1939 that his great grandmother Rose sent from Berlin to her daughter Margot, who had arrived in England, saying that she was not well enough to join her.

Matt Lucas’ maternal grandmother, Margot Hillel as a child – 1917

Matt headed off to Berlin to find out more about his maternal great grandparents Therese (known as Rose) and her husband Gustav, who was a doctor but had died when Margot was just 20. So, she too had lost a parent very young

Margot had wanted to become a doctor and went to medical school in Berlin, When Hitler came to power in 1933 he introduced laws that made it harder for Jews to gain an education so she had to abandon her university course.

Matt said: “I left my university early because my comedy career started to take off so I didn’t complete my degree and my grandmother was mortified. I took it almost as a lack of faith in me and my abilities but now maybe I can understand more why she would have been so opposed to that.”

Matt also visited Charlottenburg where Margot and her mother lived in the 1930s. He saw photographs of the devastation caused by Kristallnacht. Three months later, Margot left for England, leaving her mother, who had multiple sclerosis and couldn’t travel, behind.

Matt Lucas’ maternal great grandmother, Therese Hillel.

Some of Matt’s family escaped to the Netherlands in the 1930s. One of them was was his grandmother’s cousin Werner Goldschmidt, who he discovers rented a room from the Frank family in Amsterdam in 1942 and was living with them when they went into hiding. Matt is amazed by his family connection to such a famous family: “It’s the one story everyone knows. If you know no other story about the Jews in World War 2, you know the story of the Frank family.” Anne wrote about Werner in her diary and Matt was astounded to see the entry.

Anne Frank, photographed in 1942

“I read it (the diary when I was younger, and never realised she was talking about a relative of mine,” said Matt. “But to think he would have known Anne Frank and he was lurking around slightly unwelcome the night before they were going is a big surprise. Her book is one of the most important books ever written.”

Matt Lucas’ maternal grandmother, Margot, sitting on the right; maternal grandfather, Morris, sitting in the middle with Matt’s brother Howard Lucas on his lap; Diana Lobatto, Matt’s mother, sitting on the left of grandpa Morris, with Matt Lucas as a child on her lap.

Matt and his grandmother spoke often but her never talked about her childhood in Berlin. “My grandmother never talked about her cousins but I think she knew what happened to them,” he said.

“I’d been told in the vaguest terms that my family had died in the camps but I had never been told their names and I never knew the details. This is recent history and it feels that there is always a risk as a Jew that this could happen again. It is so important to tell these stories.”

 

Who Do You Think You Are is available to watch on BBC iPlayer

 

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...

Engaging

Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.

Celebrating

There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.

Pioneering

In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.

Campaigning

Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more:
comments