Lately, I’ve been thinking about Victor Kugler, one of a handful of people who defied the Nazis by providing sanctuary to Anne Frank and seven others during the Second World War.
Everyone knows about Anne Frank’s famous Diary of a Young Girl, but few likely realize that Victor Kugler left Europe after the war to start a new life in a quiet Toronto suburb where he lived for 26 years.
Kugler was a friend and employee of Anne’s father, Otto Frank. I can only imagine how Kugler must have felt when, in December 1941, Otto asked him to take control of his company because Jews in the Netherlands were forbidden from owning businesses. A few months later, Kugler was one of four employees who agreed to hide Otto Frank and his wife Edith, their children Anne and Margot, as well as Fritz Pfeffer and the van Pels family: Hermann, Auguste and Peter.
Running the business, scrounging extra food and money for two years, keeping the secret (even from his own wife), and trying to remain positive, took an enormous toll on Kugler’s health. Disguising Kugler’s identity with the alias of Mr. Kraler, Anne wrote in her diary on May 26, 1944:
“Miep and Kraler carry the heaviest burden of the eight in hiding, Miep in all she does and Kraler through the enormous responsibility, which is sometimes so much for him that he can hardly talk from pent-up nerves and strain…”
According to The Anne Frank House, Kugler was arrested when the Nazis discovered the secret annex on August 4, 1944, and was eventually transferred to Amersfoort concentration camp. Seven months later, he escaped during a forced march and went into hiding.
When the war ended, Kugler returned ownership of the business to Otto Frank, the only one of the eight to survive the concentration camps. After the death of his first wife, Kugler married Lucie van Langen in October 1953 and emigrated to Canada in 1955.
Kugler lived a quiet life in Toronto, working for several years as an electrician and insurance agent and occasionally speaking to schoolchildren about Anne Frank. In the early 1970s, the Yad Vashem Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority honoured Kugler as “Righteous among the Nations.”
Victor Kugler is not forgotten in Toronto thanks to author Rick Kardonne who, in 2008, published the book Victor Kugler: The Man Who Hid Anne Frank (Gefen Publishing House). Kardonne combined his own research and interviews with material gathered by Eda Shapiro who died before she was able to complete a book about Kugler.
Victor Kugler died in 1981, at the age of 81, and is buried at Riverside / Sanctuary Park Cemetery in Etobicoke, Ontario. Kardonne’s book prompted a local organization, the Neighbourhood Interfaith Group, to raise funds for a memorial stone that commemorates Kugler’s heroism. The marker was placed on his grave in 2011.
4 thoughts on “Victor Kugler’s Quiet Toronto Life”
Thank you for this interesting blog. When I was younger I met some of the survivors of the camps. Some spoke at the schools and some at synagogues. I could not for the life of me understand the why. Mr. Kugler was indeed a hero and risked everything. He is owed a debt of gratitude for going out on a limb. My wife and myself did a small deed a long time ago for some children from Nicaragua. I wrote a small blog on it and if you get chance I would hope you would read it. It is funny but when we did took these children in it was based on the Anne Frank story. We felt obligated. We did not want any reward but the knowledge that it was the right thing to do.
Growing up I was told the Anne Frank story and that Victor was my great uncle. It is actually Lucie that we were blood related to and she married Victor after. My grandfather Antoon VanLangen (now deceased), immigrated to Toronto, Canada from Holland. I think Lucie was his sister. I’ll have to visit their grave someday in Toronto and pay my respects.
Thank you, awax, for continuing the legacy of Anne Frank.
It has been an adventure in seeking his background. There are not many of his kind in the world today.