Tuesday 29 August 2023


'My Friend Anne Frank' by Hannah Pick-Goslar is the story of Hannah, childhood friend of Anne Frank, and the story of her war, a completely different one than Anne experienced. But before that it is the story of their friendship, having met at the age of 5, both German immigrants to Amsterdam, thrown together by circumstances but forming a bond that outlived Anne, and that meant Hannah spent much of her adult life educating children across the world about the Holocaust. It is both harrowing, for she experienced suffering that in some ways Anne was shielded from in hiding, but also heroic. Not only did she survive but she saved her young sister Gabi who was only a toddler when they were incarcerated; one by one the rest of her family died and they were left, and she devoted herself body and soul to caring for her sister. They spent nearly a year at Westerbork in the Netherlands and then over a year in Begen-Belsen, ending up on the lost train as the Germans tried to move prisoners as the allies advanced. She was a child, one of so many millions, forced to grow up too quickly, who experienced things that nobody ever should. This is from 1943, just after her mother has died in childbirth, one of so many losses she barely had time to grieve:

"My mother was my confident, my cheerer-on, she who knew me best. She had loved me and spoiled me in the small ways she could. I would have done almost anything for one more Wednesday afternoon crossing Dam Square to reach De Bijenkorf, our hands gliding over the silks and satins of dresses made in Paris, sipping our cups of warm hot cocoa for me, coffee for her. I missed her devotion to me, the intimacy we built over those years when I was the only child, fortunate in my devoted, doting parents. Where was I in this world that kept getting darker if she was not there to help me find my way? I'd sometimes creep into the bedroom she had shared with my father and open her wardrobe to hold her dresses to my face, eyes closed, imagining I could still feel her here with me. On my fourteenth birthday, one week after she died, I thought of the word 'motherless' and realised that's what I'd be for the rest of my life. People I knew - meaning the best but breaking my heart - said that I was 'quite the little mother' for Gabi. But I didn't want to be her mother. I wanted our mother back.
Papa told me that the lessons Mama had taught me through the way she lived her life were now part of me too, woven into my heart and there to tap, even if I did not understand that now." (p.108)

After liberation she went to Palestine, became a nurse and married, living to the ripe old age of 93. Surviving and thriving seems to me to be the only way to deal with such inhuman treatment and horrifying experiences, and I was very much left with the feeling that her childhood full of family love and friendship fortified her, gave her resources to draw on and she was certainly an amazing woman.

Also this, the moment she and Anne become friends:

"We went into a classroom where there were lots of children looking extremely busy. Some sat at small desks, playing with wooden blocks; others traced letters or sat on mats working on their writing. I spotted a girl with glossy dark hair that was almost black. I couldn't see her face as her back was turned to me. She was playing on a set of silver bells. In that moment, she turned around and looked at me. In a flash, we recognised one another. It was the girl from the corner grocery store? We instantly rushed into each other's arms as if we were long-separated sisters, sentences in German flowing between us like a volcano of connection. My clenched stomach released; my anxiety vanished and I smiled.
'My name is Annelies. You can call me Anne,' said the girl."


  1. It puts into stark context the 'woes' of people stuck at airports with their holidays 'ruined'.

  2. Thanks for your enthusiasm and energy in writing this blog

  3. Sounds like a book I would have enjoyed; but you've told us so much, that her mother died, that she lived, that her sister lived etc, that the story seems all told. Shoot. WWII is what I read the bulk of the time, sorry I missed this one.

    1. Does the fact that you know Anne Frank is dead make her diary not worth reading? This is Hannah's story, it was the Holocaust, surely I have not 'spoiled' the story by saying that people died.


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