Hannah Pick-Goslar: Author Whose Friendship With Anne Frank Started in Kindergarten

From a New York Times obit Richard Sandomir headlined “Hannah Pick-Goslar, a Presence in Anne Frank’s Diary, Dies at 93”:

Hannah Pick-Goslar, whose close friendship with Anne Frank was memorialized in what became “The Diary of a Young Girl,” the record of Anne’s life in hiding from the Nazis, died at her home in Jerusalem.

The two girls’ friendship began when they were in kindergarten in Amsterdam in 1933. Twelve years later, Mrs. Pick-Goslar (then Hannah Goslar) spoke to her friend for the final time through a barbed-wire fence stuffed with straw at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp and tossed her scraps of food in a sock.

Published in 1947, after Anne Frank’s death, “The Diary of a Young Girl” has sold millions of copies around the world. It inspired a 1955 Broadway play, “The Diary of Anne Frank,” which won the Tony Award for best play and the Pulitzer Prize for drama, and a 1959 film of the same name.

Mrs. Pick-Goslar’s memoir, “My Friend Anne Frank,” written with Dina Kraft, will be published next year on June 12, which would have been Anne Frank’s 94th birthday.

The two girls’ friendship was also the subject of a book, “Memories of Anne Frank: Reflections of a Childhood Friend” (1999), by Alison Leslie Gold, and a Dutch film, “My Best Friend Anne Frank” (2021).

Hannah was an occasional figure in Anne’s diary. In her entry from Nov. 27, 1943, Anne told of having a waking nightmare about Hannah, whom she called Lies.

“I saw her in front of me, clothed in rags, her face thin and worn,” Anne wrote. “The eyes were very big and she looked so sadly and reproachfully at me that I could read in her eyes, ‘Oh, Anne, why have you deserted me? Help, oh, help me, rescue me from this hell!’”

A month later, Anne wrote with worry about Hannah.

“And Lies, is she still alive?” she wrote. “What is she doing? Oh, God, protect her and bring her back to us. Lies, I see in you all the time what my lot might have been. I keep seeing myself in your place.”

By then, Hannah, along with her sister, Rachel, her father and her maternal grandparents, had been taken to the Westerbork transit camp in the Netherlands. (Her mother had died giving birth to a stillborn daughter in 1942.) They would be deported, except for her grandfather, who died at Westerbork, to Bergen-Belsen in February 1944.

In early 1945, Hannah learned that some of the women in a group of prisoners who had been moved to Bergen-Belsen from the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp might be from the Netherlands.

One day, Hannah stood at the barbed-wire fence that divided parts of the camp.

“Is anybody there?” she called out. She got a response from Auguste van Pels, whose family had gone into hiding with the Franks. She told Hannah that Anne was alive and brought her to the fence.

Hannah soon heard her friend’s familiar voice, weakened by illness and malnutrition. At best, she could discern a shadow of her through the fence.

Anne told Hannah that she had nothing to live for, that she no longer had parents. (Her father would survive, but she sensed, correctly, that her mother, Edith, had died in Auschwitz.) She asked for food.

Hannah solicited scraps of bread from other women in her barrack and stuffed it into a sock. She threw it over the fence. But another inmate stole it.

“Anne was crying and crying,” Hannah recalled years later.

A few days later, Hannah put together another small care package, which Anne received.

“It ended up being their final meeting,” Ms. Kraft, Mrs. Pick-Goslar’s co-writer, said in a phone interview. “Hannah talked about the incredible solidarity of the women in her barracks who retained their humanity by helping Anne.”

Anne and her older sister, Margot, died soon after.

Hannah Elisabeth Goslar was born on Nov. 12, 1928, in Berlin. Her father, Hans, a journalist, was director of the government press office of the Prussian government before the Nazis came to power. Her mother, Ruth (Klee) Goslar, was a teacher.

Faced with antisemitism in the early days of the Third Reich, the family moved briefly to London and then to Amsterdam. Germany invaded the Netherlands in May 1940.

After kindergarten, Hannah and Anne were classmates again at a Montessori school and later at a school for Jewish students. They played in the office and warehouse where the Franks, the van Pels — Auguste; her husband, Hermann; and their son, Peter — and Fritz Pfeffer, a dentist friend of Mr. Frank’s, would later hide, in an annex, until they were discovered and arrested in 1944.

In June 1942, Anne wrote that Hannah “is a bit on the strange side.”

“She’s usually shy — outspoken at home, but reserved around other people,” Anne added. “She blabs whatever you tell her to her mother. But she says what she thinks, and lately I’ve come to appreciate her a great deal.”

The next month, soon after Anne’s sister received a notice to report for a work camp in Germany, the Franks knew it was time to hide.

One day, soon after the Franks had abandoned their home, Hannah and a friend came calling for Anne. A lodger there told the girls that the family had fled to Switzerland. That’s where Hannah thought they were, until her heartbreaking encounter with Anne at Bergen-Belsen.

In the waning days of the war, the Germans put Hannah, her sister and many other prisoners on what has come to be called a “Lost Train,” which meandered for 10 days but never reached its destination, believed to be the Theresienstadt camp in Czechoslovakia. When it was liberated by the Red Army, Hannah weighed only 66 pounds.

She recuperated in the Netherlands and then with an aunt and uncle at their home in Switzerland. In 1947, she emigrated to what would become Israel; her sister arrived two years later.

Hannah became a pediatric nurse and in 1950 married Walter Pinchas Pick, a colonel in the Israeli Army who specialized in military intelligence and was later a senior editor of the Encyclopedia Hebraica.

In addition to her son Chagi, Mrs. Pick-Goslar is survived by a daughter, Ruth Meir; another son, Yochanan Pick; her sister, Rachel Moses; 11 grandchildren; and 31 great-grandchildren. Mr. Pick died in 1985. Her second husband, David Cohn, died in the 1990s.

For many years, Mrs. Pick-Goslar spoke widely about the Holocaust — and she had a cleareyed sense of who Anne Frank was.

“Today everyone thinks she was someone holy, but this is not at all the case,” she told The Associated Press in 1998. “She was a girl who wrote beautifully and matured quickly during extraordinary circumstances.”

“Not everyone wants to hear about the Holocaust,” she added. “It’s easier to read Anne’s diary.”

Richard Sandomir is an obituaries writer. He previously wrote about sports media and sports business. He is also the author of several books, including “The Pride of the Yankees: Lou Gehrig, Gary Cooper and the Making of a Classic.”

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