Her best friend was Anne Frank. When their paths diverged, their fates changed forever
The friendship between Hannah Goslar and Anne Frank began in 1934 in a grocery store in Amsterdam, the city to which both their families, who were originally German, had moved. “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,” Goslar later recounted. The next day, she joined the kindergarten that Anne attended. “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.”
Hannah Goslar was born in 1928 in Berlin. Her parents were Hans Goslar and Ruth Judith Klee. Her father was an advisor to the minister of domestic affairs in the Brandenburg state of Germany, and her mother was a teacher. Her maternal grandfather, Alfred Klee, was the head of Berlin’s Jewish community. In 1933, after the Nazis came to power, her parents were fired from their jobs. The family left Germany – first for England, and later for Amsterdam, where they met the Frank family.
The Frank family often joined the Goslars for Shabbat dinners, and the families held a Passover seder and celebrated the Sukkot holiday together. From time to time, Anne’s father Otto would take the two girls to the office where he worked, and where the Frank family would later hide. “We would spill water on passersby and we played on the phone between the rooms,” Hannah said.
In her diary, Anne referred to Hannah as Hanneli: “Then Hanneli came to pick me up, and we went to school.… ‘Hanneli and Sanne used to be my two best friends. People who saw us together always used to say: “There goes Anne, Hanne and Sanne.”’
In 1940, Germany invaded Holland, and the country to which the friends had immigrated became a trap. Anne and Hannah’s paths separated when Anne and her family went underground in 1942. That same year, Hannah’s mother died in childbirth while delivering a stillborn baby. At that point, Hannah, her sister and her father were saved from deportation because they held Paraguayan and Honduran citizenship, which a relative had acquired for them.
In 1943, though, they were arrested and sent to the Westerbork transit camp. The girls were sent to an orphanage, where Hannah helped care for the youngest children. That year, Anne again wrote in her diary about Hannah: “Yesterday evening, before I fell asleep, who should suddenly appear before my eyes but Hanneli! I saw her in front of me, clothed in rags, her face thin and worn. Her 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!’ And I cannot help her, I can only look on, how others suffer and die, and can only pray to God to send her back to us.”
That month, most of the children in the orphanage were deported to their deaths. “The day of their deportation was one of the saddest days of my life,” Hannah said.
In 1944, Hannah and her father and sister were transferred to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp and housed in a subcamp there for prisoners designated for a possible prisoner exchange. Hannah’s father died in the camp. In early 1945, Hannah learned that Anne was in the adjacent camp, and they met on opposite sides of the fence. “It was not Anne, the nice little girl I knew in Amsterdam. It was a sad little girl. We both cried,” Hannah recalled. Anne later told her that she had hidden in her father’s office and that “we were turned in.”
Anne asked Hannah to help get her some food. “Three days later I returned with nothing, which was a lot – a small packet that had cookies, prunes, a lump of sugar and something to wear,” Hannah reported. When she tossed the package over the fence, another woman grabbed it and ran off with it. Anne cried and shouted. A few days later, Hannah managed to pass another package to Anne. That was the last time she saw her.
In April 1945, the prisoners were evacuated from the camp. Hannah, who was ill with typhus, was put on a train with her sister. It traveled for two weeks through combat zones until it was liberated by the Red Army. That July, the sisters returned to Amsterdam. Otto Frank, Anne’s father, came to see Hannah and informed her of Anne’s death. With Otto’s assistance, Hannah was later sent to a sanitarium in Switzerland to recuperate.
In 1947, Hannah’s uncle obtained an immigration certificate for her to come to Palestine; her sister Gabi subsequently made aliyah as well. Hannah studied nursing at Bikur Holim Hospital in Jerusalem. She worked as a pediatric nurse and cared for new immigrants, and during the War of Independence, she helped care for the wounded. After the war, she worked in the transit camps for new immigrants, most of whom had come from the Middle East and North Africa, and in communities along the Jerusalem corridor on behalf of the Health Ministry.
“In her diary, Anne asked why she was chosen to live while I was chosen to die. Ironically, the opposite happened. I am now a happy grandmother living in Israel, and she is the one who died,” Hannah wrote in her testimony. Hannah went on to marry Walter Pinchas Pick, and the couple had three children, 11 grandchildren and over 30 great-grandchildren. She passed away last month at age 93.