Dominic Green Dominic Green

The Anne Frank story continues

Hannah Pick-Goslar, a survivor of the Holocaust and Anne’s friend in Amsterdam, movingly describes their snatched conversations in Belsen before Anne disappeared forever

Childhood friends in Amsterdam: Anne Frank (left) and Hannah Pick-Goslar. [Courtesy of Anne Frank Fonds, Basel]

The first time a friend told me that Hitler had the right idea about the Jews I was six. Most of my classmates agreed, and quoted their parents in evidence – from which I conclude that anyone who suggests that they don’t understand how the Holocaust happened is either a fool or a liar. It was a team effort by popular demand. If the Germans had won the war, no one would have felt bad about it. But the Germans lost. How awkward.

Anne was freezing, starving and dressed in rags. ‘They took my hair,’ she said. Then she disappeared

It became necessary to convince non-Jewish Europeans that mass-murdering Jewish Europeans was wrong. It was a hard sell. Images of old men with sidelocks would only affirm that the Jews were weird and foreign, just as everyone had said before it became crass to say it. Piles of dead bodies were tasteless – which was also what everyone had said about the Jews. When we consider how Anne Frank became the universal face of ‘Holocaust remembrance’, we should remember who’s doing the remembering and what they choose to forget.

‘I still believe that people are really good at heart,’ Frank told herself in her diary. That was before she was deported to Auschwitz, where she was shaved, stripped, tattooed and assigned to slave labour. Transferred from there to Belsen, she died of starvation and typhus in February or March 1945. Her childhood friend, Hannah Pick-Goslar, was reunited with her in Belsen, survived, and became a widely travelled Holocaust educator, dying last year aged 93. She did not believe that Anne would have felt the same about people’s good-heartedness after seeing Auschwitz.

Ghosted by the journalist Dina Kraft, My Friend Anne Frank is Pick-Goslar’s autobiography. I was ready to assume that the book was another child-centred narrative reminiscent of Roma Ligocka’s memoir The Girl in the Red Coat orJohn Boyne’s The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.

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