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Anne Frank’s Childhood Friend Recalls Their Lives Before the War

Rosemary Giles
Photo Credit: Marcel Antonisse / ANP / AFP / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Marcel Antonisse / ANP / AFP / Getty Images

In the annals of history, few stories resonate as deeply as that of Anne Frank, the young Jewish girl who documented her life in hiding during the Second World War. Yet behind the pages of Anne’s diary lies another poignant tale, intertwined with friendship and shared struggles. This is the story of Hannah Pick-Goslar, a childhood friend and confidante of Anne. Later in life, Hannah recalled her memories of this childhood friend, showing what their lives were like before they were both arrested.

Hannah Pick-Goslar

Hannah Pick-Goslar lived in the same part of Amsterdam as Anne. They met for the first time in 1934, but their friendship was solidified when they attended the 6th Montessori School together. They also attended the Amsterdam Jewish Lyceum together before the Franks moved into the Secret Annex, where they would stay in hiding for over two years.

Hannah was arrested in June 1943 and taken to Westerbork transit camp with her father, grandparents, and younger sister.

Hannah Pick-Goslar in a black hat and black clothing pointing at something in a glass case.
Hannah Pick-Goslar (right) and her daughter Ruth look at items displayed during the opening of the “So now I’m fifteen” exhibition at the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, October 11, 2012 . (Photo Credit: Marcel Antonisse / ANP / AFP / Getty Images)

Anne wrote about her friend in her diary during this period, saying, “Dear God, watch over her and bring her back to us. Hanneli, you’re a reminder of what my fate might have been. I keep seeing myself in your place.” Hannah and her family stayed in Westerbork until February 1944, when they were moved to Bergen-Belsen camp located in northern Germany. There, Hannah would see her childhood friend for the last time.

Bergen-Belsen camp

Initially, she didn’t know that Anne was in Bergen-Belsen until she spotted Auguste Van Pels, one of the other occupants of the Secret Annex, through a fence in the camp. Hannah discovered that Anne was with her. Auguste arranged for the two to talk through the fence, with Hannah throwing a small package of food over to her friend. Sadly, another prisoner caught it instead and refused to give it to the rightful owner.

Hannah Pick-Goslar in a red jacket and black hat, points to a child in a large black and white photo on a wall.
Hannah Pick-Goslar points to a photo supposedly of her young self in the “Anne Frank. here & now” exhibition at the Anne Frank Zentrum in Berlin, November 3, 2006. (Photo Credit: Michael Kappeler / DDP / AFP / Getty Images)

Hannah, who was put in a better section of the camp, came back on two other occasions hoping to get a package across to her friend. Finally, on their last meeting, she was able to. This was the last time she would see Anne. Hannah survived the 14 months in the camp and would see the end of the war. She physically recovered before finishing school, and moved to Israel where she became a nurse. She lived the rest of her life there, dying at the age of 93 in October 2022.

Fast friends

The girls’ lives weren’t always so tragic, however, and that is what Hannah recounts in her book My Friend Anne Frank: The Inspiring and Heartbreaking True Story of Best Friends Torn Apart and Reunited Against All Odds. Like the Franks, Hannah’s family had also moved to the Netherlands after fleeing Germany in the early 1930s. The girls first met while grocery shopping with their mothers at a local store. It was at school that they became friends.

Anne Frank sitting behind a desk holding a pen, smiling.
Anne Frank sitting at a desk at the 6th Montessori School which her and Hannah attended together, 1940. (Photo Credit: Unknown Author / Collectie Anne Frank Stichting Amsterdam / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain)

Hannah remembers how scared she was to start school, but her mother made her go anyway. When she arrived, she spotted a familiar face, the girl she met at the grocery store earlier. What clicked most for the young Anne and Hannah was that they could speak German with each other instead of Dutch, of which they knew little. Hannah said, “We instantly rushed into each other’s arms like long-separated sisters, sentences in German flowing between us like a volcano of connection.”

Next-door neighbors

Not only did the girls attend the same school, but they were also neighbors. According to Hannah, “It took me less than a minute to swoop from my apartment and race up to Anne’s, which was a floor above ours.” They would walk to school together, study together, and play together. They even learned Dutch together, something that they quickly picked up once they put their minds to it. In an interview, Hannah remembered her friend as a “very spicy little girl,” who wasn’t particularly obedient.

Hannah Pick-Goslar holding up a phone shaped like a star while looking up at a small TV screen.
Hannah Pick-Goslar visits the just opened permanent exhibition “Anne Frank Here & Now” at the Anne Frank Zentrum in Berlin, November 3, 2006. (Photo Credit: Michael Kappeler / DDP / AFP / Getty Images)

The other children in their neighborhood soon joined them in games of hide and seek in the square, riding scooters, and playing hopscotch. While they lived in their “contained, protected world,”  the Nuremberg Laws were implemented, allowing and encouraging discrimination against Jewish people, like Anna and Hannah. This caused an influx of more German Jewish immigrants to the Netherlands, although Hannah recalled they weren’t received as warmly as she and her family had been.

The German invasion

Despite growing anti-semitism, Hannah’s family and the Franks still continued to follow their faith. She recalled in her book that their two families regularly held Shabbat dinners together with the girls sitting together at the table. Sadly this joy was short-lived, as Germany soon went to war, and invaded the Netherlands on May 10, 1940. Although the girls returned to school together, both of their families tried to find a way out of the country, fearing for their safety.

Hannah Pick-Goslar waters a tree in front of a crowd with the help of her grandaughter.
Hannah Goslar-Pick (right) and her granddaughter Tamar Meir (left) water a sapling from the chestnut tree that Anne Frank wrote about in her diary, March 26, 2012. (Photo Credit: Gali Tibbon / AFP / Getty Images)

Things got worse in the city, but Anne and Hannah still managed to do some ‘normal’ childhood things. One memory that Hannah had was Anne’s 13th birthday. Otto Frank rented a projector so that all the children could watch Rin Tin Tin, after which they played games, and ate various baked goods. The gift that Hannah remembers best was the diary Anne received, one that she had wanted for quite some time.

Gone to ‘Switzerland’

On July 6, Hannah was sent to borrow a scale from the Franks so her mother could make jam. When she arrived at their apartment, however, the bell was answered by the man who boarded there. He told Hannah that the Franks weren’t there as they had gone to Switzerland. After gathering her thoughts later, she went back to the house and was allowed to walk around it one last time. She recalled Anne leaving many of her important things, like her cat Moortje, behind, something that struck Hannah as strange.

Otto Frank in a suit opens the wooden bookcase door that leads to the Secret Annex while Queen Juliana watches.
Otto Frank, father of Anne Frank, shows Queen Juliana of The Netherlands the Secret Annex, June 12, 1979. (Photo Credit: Bettmann / Getty Images)

The one thing she looked for but couldn’t find was Anne’s diary – she wanted to read the notes Anne had compiled on each of their classmates – but it was nowhere to be found. Hannah wrote of her leaving the house, “I looked at her and [sister] Margot’s room one more wistful time, saying a silent goodbye and prayer for safe travels.”

More from us: Dutch Publisher Pulls Anne Frank Book After Report Discredits Findings

She was suspicious that her friend was really in Switzerland, but had no idea she was in hiding with her family. The next time they would see each other was at Bergen-Belsen.

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Rosemary Giles

Rosemary Giles is a history content writer with Hive Media. She received both her bachelor of arts degree in history, and her master of arts degree in history from Western University. Her research focused on military, environmental, and Canadian history with a specific focus on the Second World War. As a student, she worked in a variety of research positions, including as an archivist. She also worked as a teaching assistant in the History Department.

Since completing her degrees, she has decided to take a step back from academia to focus her career on writing and sharing history in a more accessible way. With a passion for historical learning and historical education, her writing interests include social history, and war history, especially researching obscure facts about the Second World War. In her spare time, Rosemary enjoys spending time with her partner, her cats, and her horse, or sitting down to read a good book.