Anne Frank's friend wrote a book about her: there is a lot of new information about the childhood of the legendary Jewish woman - ForumDaily
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Anne Frank's friend wrote a book about her: there is a lot of new information about the childhood of the legendary Jewish woman

In My Best Friend Anne Frank, the late Hanna Pick-Goslar talks about growing up with the future icon and their brief reunion in Bergen-Belsen during Anne Frank's last days, reports TimesOfIsrael.

Photo: IStock

One spring morning in 1934, two little girls were walking with their mothers to a corner grocery store in Amsterdam. The girls' mothers met and found out that they were both Jewish refugees who had recently fled Nazi Germany. Two little girls looked at each other shyly from behind their mothers' skirts, one of them was thin, with dark shiny hair, and the other was taller and blond.

The two girls were Anne Frank and Hanna Pick-Goslar. One was to become the most famous victim of the Holocaust, whose diary documented two years of flight before the Nazis found her family and she died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp at the age of 15. Another miraculously survived and reached Israel. In her new life, she had three children, 11 grandchildren and 33 great-grandchildren.

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The famous “Diary of Anne Frank”, a document denouncing Nazism, has been translated into many languages ​​of the world. This book immediately became a world bestseller - not only because of its piercing intonation, but mainly because it managed to combine millions of human tragedies associated with the Holocaust in the fate of one girl. Anne Frank and her family are considered among the most famous victims of Nazism.

Her diary, published after her death, is the most famous first-hand account of Jewish life during the war.

But back to the day after we met at the grocery store. The girls instantly became best friends, they both studied at the Sixth Montessori School in Amsterdam. Then they could not predict that their last meeting would take place 11 years later, no matter what, in Bergen-Belsen.

book of memories

Pick-Goslar has told her story in interviews and lectures for decades, but her memoirs have only recently been published for the first time in the memoir My Friend Anne Frank, written with the help of journalist Dina Kraft. She did not live to see its publication on June 6: Pick-Goslar died in October, six months after writing the book and two weeks before her 94th birthday. Kraft finished her work.

“It was a wonderful experience working with her. We had very tense interviews in which I asked her to delve into her memories.

Many Holocaust survivors, many trauma survivors, tend to tell their story. I asked her to dive deeper and look more intensely within herself, and that wasn’t always easy,” Kraft says of working with Pick-Goslar. “There were times when we finished an interview after a couple of hours, and she said: “I’m just tired, I need to lie down.” And I said: “I’m tired too,” because it was just tiring - we were discussing very difficult moments.”

It got to the point that Peak-Goslar came to Kraft in the morning and complained about bad dreams. Kraft also dreamed of them. Kraft says she was trying to step into Peak-Goslar's place and enter her senses.

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Pick-Goslar recalled life before the war as incredible with warmth and love, Kraft says. The girls were surrounded by a supportive family environment.

Childhood in exile

Although their parents had difficulty adapting, especially mothers. Hanna's mother was born and raised in Berlin, heavily influenced by German culture. Her father was a high-ranking official in the Weimar government, so they lived very close to the Reichstag.

In addition to being horrified that they had just been kicked out of the country they considered home, Hannah's family was heartbroken that their country was plunged into this terrible darkness.

But for Hanna and Ann it was a very good life.

“Hannah said Frank was very passionate. She had a lot to say, and she bore the surrounding adults with questions. She always challenged them, asked difficult questions, she was restless and impatient. The girls loved to play Monopoly,” Kraft says. “They moved furniture away in the house and did gymnastics together. Later, when the Germans invaded and they only had other Jewish girlfriends to play with, they started a club to play ping-pong and go out for ice cream.”

Anna was such a know-it-all that Hannah's mother had a phrase about her. She said, "God knows everything, but Anne Frank knows more!"

But Hannah really saw her as an ordinary child - she was just her friend, Anne Frank. She wasn't any kind of icon and seemed more ordinary than extraordinary.

In July 1942, Pick-Goslar found her friend's apartment empty. Like everyone else, she was told that the family had fled to Switzerland. Hanna didn't know they were actually hiding nearby.

Hannah went to school, but the Anti-Jewish Laws meant you couldn't sit on benches, go to swimming pools, ride the tram, ride a bike - and you couldn't go to school with non-Jewish children.

Hanna and Anna were lucky enough to enter the Jewish Lyceum, considered one of the most prestigious Jewish schools in Amsterdam during the German occupation. But in the fall of 1942, the deportations had already begun. So every day a new student and friend disappeared in the class, different teachers and administrators disappeared. They never found out if it was because someone went into hiding or because they were deported.

At this time something else happened. In October, when Hannah was 14 years old, her mother Ruth became pregnant. She was determined not to go to the hospital because there were rumors that people were being deported straight from the hospitals, so she gave birth at home with a Jewish doctor and a Jewish midwife. As a result, the child was stillborn, and Hannah's mother died the next day.

As more and more Jews were deported, Hannah was under protection for a time. Her family received a pair of South American passports and they were also on the so-called "Palestinian List". The idea was that they would eventually become part of a prisoner exchange between the British and Germans - German soldiers were to be exchanged for Jews who would be sent to Palestine (it was under the British Mandate).

But in the end, the Germans rounded up all the remaining Jews of Amsterdam, including those who had special stamps in their passports. By June 1943, Hanna's family was caught up in one of the last roundups of Jews in Amsterdam.


First they went to Westerbork, a transit camp in Holland on the German border. It was essentially a purgatory, and from there people were deported either to Auschwitz or Sobibór, where they were almost certainly killed, or, with luck, to Theresienstadt or Bergen-Belsen, which were concentration camps, but not death camps. Eventually, after several months in Westerbork, Hanna's family was deported to Bergen-Belsen.

For the first few months this was bearable and they were still being fed, albeit little. But by February 1945, the Russians were closing in from the east, and the Germans were trying to resettle people from the outer concentration camps into Germany. So Bergen-Belsen became incredibly crowded. There was less and less food and water, and typhus began to rage in the camp.

Around the same time, opposite the part of the camp where Hanna lived, a tent camp was set up. People saw other women speaking different languages ​​- Hungarian, Polish, Greek and, finally, Dutch. They were emaciated and bony.

The Germans forbade talking near the fence and filled it with straw so that people would no longer see each other. But the women found a way to communicate, and Hanna heard word that Anne Frank was on the other side of the fence. Of course, she didn't believe it, because she thought they were in Switzerland. Hanna decided to go find out for herself, even though it was extremely dangerous - she could have been shot.

Hanna recalls that she quietly crept up to the fence and said, “Hi, is there anyone?” Then she heard a voice from behind the fence, and by chance it was Auguste van Pels, one of those who were hiding with Anna's family. He called Anna to the fence.

The last meeting

Anna came from Auschwitz, so she was a shadow of her former self. She froze, starved and lamented that she was all alone in the world. She assumed that both of her parents were dead at this point. She did not know that only a week or two earlier her father had been released from Auschwitz.

Imagine two girls on opposite sides of this fence - two very beloved, pampered girls who knew no hardship, and who have now completely survived the most terrible days of the war, completely dehumanized and exhausted. So they stood - on opposite sides of the fence, best friends, crying about their fate.

Anna begged Hannah to bring her some food and Hannah immediately agreed, not knowing how she would go about it. She said she would be back in a couple of nights. And it was an amazing moment of female solidarity: the women in her barracks were so moved by the story of this reunion that they wanted to help - they collected what little they had and put everything in a sock.

Two days later, Hannah went out to the fence again. When she threw the sock, she suddenly heard footsteps, and then a scream - Anna's cellmate grabbed a package of food. She was desperate and couldn't stop crying, but Hannah said, "Just stop crying, I'll be back with food again."

So a few days later she returned again with a large amount of food collected in her barracks. This time, Anna caught the package. It turned out that this was their last meeting.

End of war

At the very end of the war, the Germans forced everyone who could still walk in Bergen-Belsen to take a couple of different trains. These trains were to go to Theresienstadt, where they would be killed.

Hannah was put on the train along with her younger sister, Gabi. It was a harrowing 13 day trip through the eastern German countryside. People were very sick and starving, without food or water.

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Hannah was so ill with typhus that she lost consciousness around the 13th day. When she woke up, people had already left the train. She asked what was going on and someone said, “Don't you know? The Russians liberated us."

Girlfriend's diary

For Hannah, reading the diary was a revelation. She felt like she was reunited with her old friend, which was a very strong feeling, but also very sad. She saw the girl grow into the young woman she still wished she knew. She was very grateful that Anna's diary was found, that so many people knew her story, and that her diary helped to learn more about the Holocaust.

“I think Hannah was a little upset by the popular version of Anne Frank. She often spoke of the famous diary passage that is repeated and painted on walls and on postcards: “Despite everything, I still believe that people are truly good at heart.” Hannah said that if Anna had lived through the hell of Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen, she didn't think Frank would have stuck to that statement any longer. I think she was concerned about some level of trivialization of her friend,” says Kraft.

Kraft says Hannah was very happy that Anna's voice never died and still lives on in her words, but she also wanted people to have a fuller and more contextual understanding of the massacre of millions of people called the Holocaust.

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