Anne Frank Home
Anne Frank's childhood friend and Holocaust survivor Hanneli Pick-Goslar visited the Scholastic Web site in May 1997 and May 1999. During this project, students had the opportunity to ask Hanneli questions about everything from her close friendship with Anne to how she survived living in a concentration camp.
Below are Hanneli's answers to questions from students.
Click the following categories to see specific questions and answers
from the interview:
Growing Up with Anne
What did you think of Anne when you first met her? How long were you friends with Anne?
I was a little girl, so I don't remember. I think I liked her. We had met once before kindergarten, and then when we saw each other in class we ran to each other's arms. Both of our families had moved from Germany to escape Hitler, and we lived next door to each other.
Anna and I met for the first time in 1934 when both our families came from Germany to Holland. We met in a grocery store. My mother and Anne's mother started to speak German because both ladies didn't know how to speak Dutch. Mrs. Frank came with her younger daughter and it came out that she's half a year younger than I am. When my mother brought me to kindergarten the next day, I didn't know the language or anybody and I saw only Anna's back. She was making music with bells. Anna turned around and ran into my arms and I ran into hers, and from then on we were friends.
What kinds of games did you and Anne play?
We played hopscotch, marbles, and jump rope... all the same things you play now.
Did Anne tell you her secrets like she told Kitty (her diary)?
Anna would sit in class between lessons and she would shield her diary and write and write. Everybody would ask her "what are you writing?" And, the answer always was "it's none of your business."
Could you tell us what your memories are of Anne Frank? What was her personality like?
Anne was a very spicy little girl. She was just "normal" like everyone else. Margot, her older sister, was the really special one. Margot was very good-looking, a very good student, and also very obedient. Anna and I were exactly the other way around. My mother would describe Anna she would say, "G-d knows everything, but Anna knows everything better."
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Was Anne as outgoing and humorous as she portrays herself in her diary?
One story is that Anna would like to sit in front of everyone. She'd take her shoulder out of its socket (don't try this at home!) and then you'd hear "k-nock k-nock" and everyone would say "wow," and Anna would be very happy because she'd have drawn attention to herself.
When you went to Anne's house and they told you she had left, did you think you would ever see her again?
Yes. It was only the beginning then. We didn't think it would be so bad. We were only children. We didn't think of such things. We had never heard the name "concentration camp" or the name "Auschwitz." Auschwitz was just a village in Poland it didn't mean anything. You heard about people going to a work camp in the east. And, so it didn't sound like anything. We thought they were going to work. But, we should have known because if they take people out of hospitals, it must've meant something. But we didn't know and we wouldn't have believed it if they had told us what was going to happen.
Was it hard for you when Anne left you without telling you? How did you feel?
When I heard from Anna's tenant that they left for Switzerland, I was happy for her because I hoped they would make it. But, I knew it was hard for Jewish people to get to Switzerland. In order to get in, you had to pass through two borders one in Belgium and one in France. Both countries had been invaded by Germany. When you finally reached the Swiss border, only non-Jewish refugees were allowed in, so we were very concerned that the Franks wouldn't make it.
Would you rather have had Anne with you in the same camp or in another one so you wouldn't have seen her suffer?
I was glad to see her, but I had hoped she was safe in Switzerland, so it was very sad.
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The Impact of War
How long was the war going on before you were deported to a concentration camp?
The war started in Holland on May 10, 1940. I was taken June 20, 1943.
When did the war really start for you? When did you begin to see the hatred clearly?
The war, for me, started when the Germans set up laws against the Jewish people. This started around the end of 1941 and the beginning of 1942. We were forced to wear yellow stars; we had to carry identification cards with a "J" for Jew; we weren't allowed on public transportation; we had to give in our bicycles (bicycles are the major form of transportation in Amsterdam); we weren't allowed to shop in any store only in Jewish-owned ones and only between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. At 8 p.m. we had to be home until 6 in the morning. We weren't allowed any nice things like going to the swimming pool and tennis courts. Even sitting on park benches was forbidden. The benches in the park were written "Not for Jewish people," or "Forbidden for Jewish people and dogs." They opened schools for Jewish children. Christians were not allowed to go to Jewish doctors, lawyers, etc. My father had to register the amount of money he had. I remember my mother gave our radio away because the BBC (British radio) was forbidden.
Did you ever have to go into hiding, and if you did, who helped you?
No, I did not go into hiding. We couldn't because my mother was pregnant and it wasn't fair to Christian friends who would hide you. After my mother died, my father wanted my sister and I to hide, but I didn't want to. Our names were on his identification card, and if the Germans found him without us and saw our names on his card, he'd get a worse punishment then if we were with him.
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Also, to go into hiding you needed a lot of money for food. The people hiding you could not afford to feed you. You had to give them money for food. You couldn't use food-ration cards because you're non-existent when you're hiding.
How old were you when you got caught by the Nazis?
I was caught by the Nazis in June 1943, so I was fourteen years old.
What do you think was the scariest part of the Holocaust?
The gas chambers were very scary, but I didn't know that they existed when I was at the camps.
How did you and your family deal with all of the hardships you were going through and still be able to live through it all?
That's a hard question! Maybe because I was young, and when you're younger you see things as more hopeful for the future!
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Surviving a Concentration Camp
How did you get sent to the camp?
On June 20,1943, the SS came and closed the whole area, almost no Jews were left in Holland. They came with trucks and Dutch police. They went door to door, looking for Jewish people in hiding. If you were Jewish, you had 20 minutes to come down with your backpack.
We had a Christian neighbor who loved my little sister, and when we were taken she went to the SS and asked if she could keep the little girl. The SS officer said, Aren't you ashamed to want to help the Jews? She said no and then fainted. She sent us little packages, and put a book in it about the nurse Florence Nightingale. I often wonder if that's why I decided to become a nurse.
What were your living quarters in Bergen-Belsen like?
At the end, when people came from death marches to Bergen-Belsen, the beds were changed from two stories to three stories high, and we had to sleep two in a bed, instead of just one. There were no benches to eat on. There was only cold water to wash clothes and hair. So the warm, brown water that was supposed to be coffee, we used to wash our hair because it was the only warm water we could get.
What did you take with you to the camps?
I was a little girl and didn't know what to take. Thank God, I took winter clothes. It's very cold in Germany and I was prepared. I left my mother's jewelry at home. That was so silly. I could've taken it and I would have it today. Or, I could've exchanged it for food.
Were you required to work in the concentration camp?
Only for five days and not very hard. I had to make braids for cellophane bags. It was not very hard work. I was free to take care of my little sister.
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What kept you alive in the concentration camp?
I had to stay alive because I had to take care of my little sister. My father had been able to get passports and papers to be exchanged against German prisoners of war. Our exchange was to be to Palestine. But in the end we weren't exchanged. Because of the passports and papers, we were in a better position than all the other Jewish people who were sent to concentration camps.
When was it most difficult to keep going and stay positive during your time in the labor or concentration camps?
The most difficult time was when my father died. I didn't know when the horror would end. It was the worst time in the camp. I had already been in for two months. I had no mother and no father and the camp was so bad. Every day more and more people died.
There was a big disappointment because we thought we were going to be exchanged the next day. We were at Bergen-Belsen, a transfer camp, because we had Palestine exchange papers, which meant that maybe we would be allowed to go to Palestine. The conditions were a little better in this camp than others because it was an exchange camp. The night before my father died, we were told that we were being exchanged. My father died thinking that his daughters were going to be free. But, the next day, after my father died, they changed their minds, and we remained at Bergen-Belsen.
How long were you in the camp?
From June 20, 1943, until April 11, 1945, and then ten days in a train until liberation. We were taken three days before liberation out of Bergen-Belsen. The Germans still took us even though they knew the English were very near. The English were so close, we could hear them. The Germans were taking us to be gassed.
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When you were in the camp, did you think life would ever return to "normal"?
Yes. I hoped the whole time. If you have no hope, you can't survive. We never thought it would take so long. I was in the camp for 22 months.
Was your faith in God the factor that gave you hope and kept you going?
I had to keep going the whole time because I had to protect my little sister.
How old were you when you were freed?
I was sixteen and a half when I was freed.
How many of your family members were in the death camps? Did anyone survive?
I started with my grandparents, my father, and my little sister. At the end, only my sister and I survived.
We weren't killed because we had Palestine Papers, which meant we could be exchanged against German prisoners of war. We also had a passport from Paraguay. Because of the papers and the passports, we weren't sent to death camps like Auschwitz and Sobibor, but to Bergen-Belsen, which we were told was an exchange camp. Unlike the other prisoners, we didn't get numbers on our arms, we didn't get shaved, they didn't take the luggage we brought from home. They didn't divide families. People died from hunger, from typhus, but they were not killed. We could meet with each other.
My sister had three miracles happen to her. First, when we came to camp in Holland, she got a bad ear infection. She luckily got an operation, or she would have died. Then, when we got to Bergen-Belsen, she got better because it was drier there, which was better for her ears. The second miracle was that during the first few days at Bergen-Belsen, I got jaundice, which is a contagious disease. I needed to go to the hospital, but I was alone with my little sister and I had no one to look after her. A religious Jewish lady heard that I didn't know what to do with my sister. Her name was Mrs. Abrahams. She had seven children already, and still she said, "If you really don't have anyone to take care of your sister, I'll do it because your father always helped other people. The third miracle was that when I got out of the hospital, there was a distribution of a glass of milk twice a week to children under three years old. My sister was three and a quarter. Luckily, there was a rabbi who knew my father from Berlin, and it was his wife's job to distribute the milk. He said if there is any left, give to this little girl my sister. The lady could've drunk it herself, given to her own children, or exchanged it for clothing, but she gave it to my sister. Two glasses of milk a week, for a girl her age, is the difference between life and death.
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When you were in the privileged area of the camp, did you ever help or want to help the people in the unprivileged area?
We couldn't help them because we were closed into our area. The people from Auschwitz were put on the other side and we weren't allowed to speak with them. We got infected by lice that they brought from Auschwitz.
Have you visited a concentration camp since WW II?
Yes. I have visited concentration camps three times only the ones that I was in: once with my late husband, and twice to help make two films about Anna The Last Seven Months of Anne Frank and Anne Frank Remembered. Seeing those camps years later they were so different. You needed a lot of imagination to picture it as it was. In fact, they burned Bergen-Belsen down shortly after the liberation because of the typhoid and the lice.
What have been the long-term effects of your camp imprisonment?
I still have nightmares. When my kids were small, I was always worried when they went away that they wouldn't come back. When my husband was in the army, I would worry if he didn't call.
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Were you scared to throw the package over the fence?
Yes, sure I was. A German was in a watchtower at the top of the fence. He wouldn't have asked a lot. He just would have shot me. I wasn't allowed to come near the fence. Not only me, but Anna too.
How did you convince the other Holocaust prisoners to give up their food so you could give it to Anne?
I didn't convince anybody to give up their food because nobody had any. At that time I got two little packages of food from the Red Cross. This is the one and only time during my whole two years in the concentration camp that I received food. This happened just at the time that I was speaking to Anna through the fence. So, when I told people that I had a very good friend who was in much worse condition than our bad condition, four or five people gave me a little something. A Swedish bread, dried prunes, a sock, and that was it.
Did you know when you gave Anne the food that it was going to be the last time you saw her?
I thought we'd be liberated and be together. One day before you are liberated you don't know it's going to be tomorrow. You hope and you don't know which will happen quicker that the English will save us or that we will die.
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Life After the War
What did you have to do to pull your life back together after the war?
I was sick for a long time after the war. I was liberated on the 23rd of April in a German village by the Russians after ten days in the train. And there we had to live for two months. Then, the Russians allowed Americans to register us and take us out at the end of June 1945. We came back to Amsterdam in July 1945. When we got back, we were examined and I had to go to the hospital. I was first at a hospital in Holland. That's when I saw Otto Frank and learned that Anne had died. Then, I went to a hospital in Amsterdam for almost all of September. On December 5, 1945, I was sent to Switzerland. First I stayed at a sanitarium in the mountains, and when I was well, I went to Basel for one year to go to school. I was one year in Basel. In May 1947 my uncle got me a certificate to go to Palestine. I came to Palestine on May 30. For the first three months in Palestine, I was at a home for children. I was eighteen, so I worked half of the day. For the other half of the day I had Hebrew lessons, which I needed in order to be a nurse. In October 1947, I went to Jerusalem to be educated as a children's nurse.
Are any of your "ping-pong club" childhood friends still living?
Only Jopi Jacqueline Sanders.
How did you learn of Anne's and Margot's deaths?
After the war, when I had to stay in a hospital in Holland to recover, Mr. Frank came to see me. I was so happy to tell him that I spoke with his daughter. I told him that maybe she is still alive. But he said that no, both of his daughters were dead. I was SO sorry, so very sad to hear this.
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How often did you keep in touch with Mr. Frank after the war?
I always stayed in touch with Mr. Frank until his death. We were always corresponding. I used to call him Oom Otto Uncle Otto. He visited us also several times in Israel with his second wife.
How did you recover from your losses after the war?
I had no choice but to go on especially for my little sister. When your young, it's easier. I married, had children, and lived in the new free Palestine. It must've been harder for older people. As an older person, it comes back to you.
Have you ever been back to Germany or Holland?
Yes, I was in Germany to make films about Anne Frank and I was in eastern Germany to speak to kids about the Holocaust. I was in Holland with my late husband visiting and also for a film about Anne Frank. I'm going to Holland again on September 17 to open the renovated Anne Frank House.
Do you believe you are a more compassionate person as a result of your experiences?
I try to be compassionate, but I'm not sure it's the result of war.
What do you feel is most important for people to be educated about in terms of the Holocaust?
To think about why did it happen at all. We were just children. They started to make a war on us took our freedom without any reason. People should know about the cruelty it was unnecessary. It's important to understand what happened so it doesn't happen again. People need to understand that discrimination doesn't lead to anything good. I always say that the only thing Anne Frank did was that she was born Jewish, and for that she had to die. She could've given a lot to mankind.
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Do you believe we can learn and understand the pain that you went through by watching Schindler's List?
You can learn a little, but it takes imagination because the Holocaust was so bad and poor.
How do you respond to people like David Duke, who deny the Holocaust existed?
You can't have a discussion with these people. I don't even try to speak with them.
History often repeats itself. How can another Holocaust be prevented?
I really don't know. Look at Kosovo. Maybe we have to try more. We should know that if people are different religions and races, we need to respect each other. Children need to learn tolerance from a young age.
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The Diary & Remembering Anne
How did you react when you found out that Anne died?
I was very, very sad. The whole time I hoped she was alive. I saw her alive so near to the end, I just assumed she made it. When I first saw Mr. Frank, I told him that Anne was alive, but he knew she wasn't. He told me she died.
Do you know of any other diaries written by children during WW II?
Some diaries were found, but years later. Anne's was the first discovered and her father immediately published it. One of the diaries that was found later on was written by a boy by the name of Moshe Flinker. He was in Belgium. He died too.
Is Anne as famous in your country as she is in the rest of the world?
Anne is popular in Israel. There's even a stamp with her face on it. Every year, on Holocaust Day in early May (27 Ijar in the Hebrew calendar) there are films all day about the Holocaust and there are always some about Anne Frank.
What was your reaction to the things that Anne wrote about you in her diary? Did you feel that the Anne in the diary was a different person from the one that you knew?
Sure, Anna was a different person in the diary. She was much more mature. I really didn't know the Anna in the diary before. I didn't know that she was so deep, so able to observe things and people around her. Her father said the same. The things she wrote about me, maybe they weren't so nice in the revised edition, but at my age now, I can laugh at the things she wrote. Maybe she was probably right. If I can convince just one person that Anna's diary is real, then okay, they should laugh at me.
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What do you feel about Anne's dream that she wrote about in her diary on November 27, 1943, in which you were the one dying and not her?
Anna's dream gives me the motivation to talk about her life today, and to tell people her story. Anna wanted to be famous and now I can do that for her. Today, I'm alive, a proud grandmother, and I feel obliged to tell about her. I'm happy that through this, people can learn about the Holocaust. When you read only the diary, you don't learn about the Holocaust, only what happened before.
How does it make you feel that Anne has got so much publicity over the diary?
I'm happy that people hear about the Holocaust. I don't care how they know. Through Anne, lots of people learn about what the Germans did to the Jewish people.
At any special time, do you feel Anne's presence?
I often feel Anne's presence with me because I go around speaking about her very often.
Hanneli, do you have any final words for the audience?
I think that people have to try and live in peace together. If you want to learn more about me, you can read my book. It's called Reflections of a Childhood Friend: Memories of Anne Frank by Alison Leslie Gold. It's published by Scholastic. There's another book by Anchor Books called The Last Seven Months of Anne Frank.
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