I watched my friend Anne Frank spend last days freezing in rags with shaven head… her haunting final words never left me | The Sun

IN February 1945, Hannah Pick-Goslar was one of thousands of people living in Bergen-Belsen, a Nazi concentration camp in Germany, when she received the news that her childhood friend Anne Frank had arrived. 

Hannah, who died on 28 October 2022, just shy of her 94th birthday, couldn’t believe her ears as she had believed that Anne and her family – father Otto, mother Edith and older sister Margot – had escaped to Switzerland three years earlier.

She had visited Anne's house on Monday 6 July, 1942 only to be told she wasn't there – and as shocked and confused as she was, had concluded she was happy for her friend.

She imagined Anne reunited with her grandmother, going for walks in meadows under the shadow of the Alps and, come winter, sitting in a warm kitchen, snowflakes falling outside, sipping mugs of hot chocolate.

However, the reality was that Anne and her family hadn’t escaped to Switzerland.  

Like thousands of other Jews they had gone into hiding and concealed themselves in a secret annex in a building that once housed Otto Frank’s business, until they were betrayed and discovered in August 1944. 


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Upon their discovery they were sent via train to Auschwitz-Birkenau and in early November, Anne and Margot were transported to Bergen-Belsen where they died of typhus fever. 

Anne was just 15, and tragically their deaths happened weeks before the camp was liberated. 

Their mother Edith had died at Auschwitz from starvation – and although Anne and Margot believed that their father had also died, he miraculously survived. 

After the war he found the diary that Anne wrote during captivity and published it for the world to read.

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Hannah and Anne in their classroom at the 6th Montessori school in Amsterdam in 1938. Hannah is on the far left, seated towards the back, and Anne stands in a white pinafore to the left of their teacherCredit: Penguin Random House
Pictured in Merwedeplein, Amsterdam, circa 1935, from left to right: Sanne Ledermann, Hanneli Goslar, unknown, unknown, Anne Frank (1929 – 1945), Margot Frank (1926 – 1945), unknown, unknownCredit: Getty

Anne and Hannah's families met in Amsterdam in 1934 after emigrating from Germany because Hitler came to power. 

The girls went to the same school, lived next door to each other and soon became best friends.

Hannah, who lived with her father Hans and mother Ruth, remembers: “I was instantly dazzled by Anne, this first friend, though I quickly understood that we were very different.

“Anne was always writing and carried around a notebook but wouldn’t ever let anybody read what she’d written.” 

The families spent a lot of time with each other, sharing Shabbat dinners and Jewish holidays.

Anne was always writing and carried around a notebook but wouldn’t ever let anybody read what she’d written

Hannah’s sister Gabi was born in 1940 and the family were classed as protected Jews because of Hannah’s father’s previous role as a deputy minister for domestic affairs.

But they too were eventually sent to Westerbork transit camp in the Netherlands before arriving at Bergen-Belsen in February 1944. 

As protected Jews they were kept separate from the other inhabitants of the camp in marginally better conditions. 

Here, in an exclusive extract from My Friend Anne Frank by Hannah Pick-Goslar, we reveal details of the best friends' heartbreaking final meeting at Bergen-Belsen. 

A WOMAN who had known my family back in Amsterdam came to find me. 

I would never, ever have dreamt what she told me. 'Anne Frank was among the Dutch women and girls on the other side of the fence.'

I was confused as I had believed that Anne was living the life in Switzerland. 

I was determined to see her and decided to try and slip out at night to where she was housed.

I was thrilled I found someone to bring Anne to me so quickly. 

But Margot… Margot was here too? And she was sick? I glanced around nervously, crouching as the lights from the guard towers swept the camp. 

My heart was thumping so loudly I’m almost surprised I could hear the small, quiet voice that called out: ‘Hanneli? Hanneli, is that actually you?’ 

‘Yes, yes, Anne, it’s me!’ I answered. 

We both instantly broke into tears, the same cold rain falling on us on opposite sides of this cursed fence. 

We didn’t have much time, so through tears I managed to ask: ‘How is it that you are here? Why aren’t you with your grandmother in Switzerland?’ 

She told me they never went to Switzerland. That story was all a ruse. 

I noticed her voice was fainter, weaker. 

It was not the boisterous, confident chirp I knew. 

Anne quickly explained where they had been. ‘We were in hiding in my father’s office, upstairs in rooms behind a secret door. We were there for over two years. Two years I never stepped outside,’ she said, her words now rushing out. 

In hiding, she told me, they had been safe from the Nazis, from deportation and the camps. 

But in August someone betrayed them, a terrible shock. They were arrested and sent to Westerbork then to Auschwitz. 

‘They took my hair,’ she said, her voice still full of disbelief. 

I felt the sting of her indignation. Her silky dark hair. She was forever brushing it, experimenting with curlers; it was her favourite feature. 

And she was freezing, she told me, dressed only in rags. 

I shuddered thinking of her totally exposed to the freezing wind and rain blowing around us. 

Margot was sick with typhus, too ill to move from bed, she reported. 

She told me the terrible news that her parents were dead. 

Surely gassed to death, she said. It was too much to comprehend. 

Anne’s voice belonged to a world away from here, where we never went hungry and slept in warm beds, tucked in by loving parents. 

But in that voice I knew so well, she was saying that people at Auschwitz were gassed to death, including her own parents. 

How could that be possible? 

There was so much more I wanted to ask but I knew it was dangerous to linger. A guard could spot us at any time. 

Instead, we continued to share our news of the dead and the living in rushed whispers. 

My voice cracked when I told her my mother had died in childbirth. 

She only knew my newborn brother had died; she had not been told about my mother. I told her Papa was extremely ill but I didn’t have time to tell her how scared I was for him. 

I told her that my grandfather had died of a heart attack when we were still at Westerbork. 

‘But Gabi is fine. And my grandmother is here too,’ I said.

‘I have no one,’ she said, words that landed like a knife. We were both sobbing now. 

Two terrified girls under a rain-soaked night sky, separated by this barrier of straw and barbed wire. 

How had it come to this? 

‘I’m absolutely starving. Do you have food? Can you bring me some?’ Anne asked. 

‘Yes, I’ll try,’ I said, wondering as the words came out how I possibly would. 

‘I’ll come back, in just two more nights. Wait for me,’ I instructed her. 

She said she would. But that would be the last time I ever spoke to her properly.

We said a rushed, sad goodbye. I looked around, carefully scanning the periphery of the fence for guards.

‘I have no one,’ Anne said, words that landed like a knife. We were both sobbing now

‘It’s Anne, it’s really Anne,’ I told the small group of women who gathered to hear more. 

‘But she’s freezing with nothing but ragged prison garb to wear, and more ravenous than any of us here in the Sternlager Camp.’ 

I told them more about Anne, how she was the most dynamic, confident person I knew. 

My friends in the barracks giggled when I explained how my mother would tease: ‘God knows all, but Anne knows better.’ 

But now she was so diminished, so entirely changed, I explained. 

I noticed how they looked at me – with such empathy and sorrow in their eyes. 

I imagined they may have been thinking of their own best friends lost in the mix of this terrible war, wondering where they might be. 

Seeing Anne reminded me that I was a 16-year-old girl. 

I should be in school learning my favourite subjects like history and geography and laughing with Anne and my other girlfriends at some silly thing one of us had said. 

But instead, here I was walking through a concentration camp to see my ailing father to ask him if Jews really were being gassed to death. 

This is an edited extract by Natasha Harding taken from My Friend Anne Frank by Hannah Pick-Goslar (Rider, £22) and will be published on June 8. 

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