Hannah’s Best Friend: Memories of Anne Frank

Hannah Pick-Goslar met Anne Frank in 1933 in the Netherlands, where she had fled with her family from Nazi Germany. They became best friends, but were soon to get separated due to the outbreak of war and the exclusion and persecution of Jews. They met once again for the last time – at Bergen-Belsen. Hannah and her sister survived as the only members of their extended family.

Hannah_PickHannah Pick-Goslar was born to a religious Jewish family in Berlin. Her father, a soldier in World War I, worked for Otto Braun, Prime minister of Prussia (between 1920 and1932). When the Nazis came into power in 1933 the family fled from Nazi Germany to Amsterdam, Netherlands, where in 1940 Hannah’s sister was born. In Amsterdam her first friend and best friend was Anne Frank. They lived in the same neighborhood, went to the same school and spent their afternoons together. As the time passed by the anti-Jewish laws got stricter. When Anne Frank’s sister was about to be sent to a “working camp in the East” the family went into hiding, while Hannah thought they had fled to Switzerland. Hannah and her family were the last ones to be sent away to a transit camp.

Their Paraguayan Passport got them on an exchange list to Palestine, which bought them more time to stay at home. In 1943 Hannah, her sister, father and grandparents were sent to Westerbork, a transit camp in the Netherlands. From Westerbork they were sent to Bergen-Belsen, and not to Auschwitz or Sobibór, like most of the prisoners in the camp due to their foreign passport. In Bergen-Belsen, Hannah’s sister got very sick but thanks to the wife of her fathers’ friend, she recovered. Hannah and her sister were placed in a camp for prisoners with foreign passports. At that camp there was a fence and behind it was the “less privileged” camp. It was not allowed to talk to the prisoners on the other side. One day Hannah learned that Anne Frank, her old friend, was in the other camp and they managed to talk. Hannah tried to help Anne and shared food with her. The following day Hannah and her sister were taken to another camp, but on the way the Russian army attacked the train, and they fled away to a little village nearby until the end of the war. She met Anne’s father after the war in the hospital where she was placed, and learned that Anne did not survive the war. Otto Frank took care of the sisters and helped them to cross the border to Switzerland, where their uncle was living and in 1947 Hannah immigrated to Israel. Hannah and her sister are the only members of the family who survived. Their father and grandmother died in Bergen-Belsen and the grandfather in Westerbork.

An interview is available for further readings on Hannah Pick-Goslars’ life and her recollections of Anne Frank, her best friend: Read more.

A Train to Life

Yad Vashem is built around the stories of people. Henry Foner is one of them. Born June 12th, 1932 as Heinz Lichtwitz in Berlin, he left Germany in the winter of 1938/39 as one of 10,000 children saved from the Nazi terror through Kindertransporte.

Henry_FonerAt the intersection of Georgenstraße and Friedrichstraße, Berlin, there’s an almost life-size sculpture of children depicted in bronze – five cast in dark metal, two in light. Seven boys and girls gaze in different directions, facing different fates. More than two million children lost their lives in the Holocaust. 10,000 were saved by the Kindertransport to England.

“It started with the Kristallnacht”, he remembers. On the night of  November 9th, 1938, SA paramilitary forces destroyed Jewish-owned stores, buildings and synagogues. Hundreds of Jews were murdered, thousands incarcerated in Nazi concentration camps. “After that night everybody realized that there was no future in Germany for Jews.” Foner’s family had lived in Germany since 1560 and gained Prussian citizenship in 1736. From Kantstraße 30, Berlin-Charlottenburg, the family ran a printing house. There are still books out there produced in Max Lichtwitz printing.

Foner’s father arranged for his son to be part of the Kinderstransport. Originally the children were to be brought to then British Mandate of Palestine, but several groups opposed. In the end Great Britain agreed to grant 10,000 Jewish children permission to stay in their country for two years – assuming, hoping that after two years time there would be no more need for their protection. It was mostly Jewish families all over the country who offered to take children in.

Falling into Another World

Foner doesn’t remember the last time he saw his father. He has no memory of the parting. “The older children always drew pictures of the goodbye, but I don’t remember”, Foner says. The train journey, however, he portrays in much detail. How they were sitting in the compartments, scared and unsure what was about to come. How the train stopped at the border to the Netherlands and men in uniforms searched their luggage. And how the train stopped again after the Dutch border, how ladies with white hats entered and passed around rolls and sausages. “It felt like we had fallen into another world.”

After their arrival in Hoek van Holland they took the fairy boat to England. From Liverpool Street Station he took the train to meet his new family. A family that he couldn’t speak with. They didn’t speak German, he didn’t know any English yet. With a few words of Yiddish they managed to communicate. In this new world the name Heinz Lichtwitz attracted attention. Attention, that may be dangerous. So Heinz Lichtwitz became Henry Foner.

Postcards to a Little Boy

Six year old Henry went to school, got adjusted to his new life. The only means of contact with his father were postcards. Almost every other day Max Lichtwitz sent them, asking about his son’s life, health, sending greetings, kisses and prayers. On Henry’s seventh birthday father and son talked for the first and only time. Scheduled days before they were to talk in the evening. The phone rang. When Henry answered he recognized the voice, but he couldn’t understand what the man on the end of line was saying. “I had lost all my German”, Foner explains. So the postcards continued in English.

The last of them was written on August 31st, 1939. One day before Nazi Germany invaded Poland, before World War II began. From this point on there were no more postcards. They continued to communicate via Red Cross telegrams, limited to 25 words. Eventually those stopped, too. Max Lichtwitz died in Auschwitz in 1942.

A New Home

Henry Foner never became Heinz Lichtwitz again. “He died a long time ago”, says the 83 year old. Foner visited Germany after the war. His uncle who was trying to rebuild the family home and business invited him. Sometimes he went for business. But he never thought about moving back. Studying chemistry he came in touch with his original mother tongue again. But his German stayed lost, too.

When Foner visited Israel for the first time, he met his wife Judy on a train. “It was the best train ride of my life. Life is all about luck”, he smiles. The Foners have been married for over 50 years and moved to Israel in the 1960s. Maybe it was just luck that Henry Foner’s life was saved through the Kindertransport. Luck that his life’s story is symbolized by the light bronze figures at Friedrichstraße, that he took the train to life. There were so many trains to death.