Hannah Goslar: 'God knows everything, but Anne knows it better'

Hannah Goslar was one of Anne Frank's best friends. They went to the same kindergarten, primary school and later to the Jewish Lyceum. Hannah didn't know that the Frank familiy were hiding in the Secret Annexe. She thought that Anne and her family had fled to Switzerland.

Later she met Anne once again in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp and spoke to her for the last time.

The stories about the Frank family and the Goslar family have a great deal in common. Both families fled from Nazi Germany to the Netherlands in 1933. Hannah and Ane were both four years old at the time. Both families lived on the Merwedeplein in Amsterdam. Hannah: "We lived at number 33. I only had to go get to number 37 where Anne lived."

"I flew into her arms"

Hannah and Anne went to the same kindergarten. Hannah describes this experience: "I still remember my first day. My mother brought me to school. I still couldn't speak the language and my mother was so worried about how it would go, how I would react. But I went in and Anne stood opposite the door near the little bells, making them jingle. She turned around and I flew into her arms, and my mother was able to go home reassured."


The Goslar family was a religious Jewish family, the Frank family was liberal. Anne's mother and sister Margot occasionally went to the synagogue, but Anne and her father rarely attended services. Hannah had this to say: "Anne was crazy about her father. Margot leaned more towards her mother." Hannah never went to school on Saturday because of her religion, but Anne did. On Sunday the friends usually did their homework together. Because Hannah received religious Jewish education and Anne didn't, they were not always together on their free days. Hannah had to attend Hebrew classes on Wednesday afternoon and Sunday morning. Nevertheless, they saw a great deal of each other.

"Anne knows it better"

In her diary Anne writes, "Hanneli Goslar, or Lies as she's called at school, is a bit on the strange side. She's usually shy – outspoken at home, but reserved around other people. 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." (Anne Frank, June 15, 1942) Later Hannah makes this comment: "I really was a bit shy. I certainly wasn't anything like Anne. She was popular, with both the boys and the girls. Being the centre of attention was just fine as far as she was concerned. Anne was a smart aleck. My mother used to say, 'God knows everything, but Anne knows it better.'"

Playing in the big office

Hannah occasionally spent time in Otto Frank's office on the Prinsengracht, later the Frank family's hiding place. "On Sunday we often went with her father to Mr. Frank's big office building on the Prinsengracht – now the Anne Frank House – and that's where we played. I never saw the Secret Annexe at the time. There was telephone in every room of the building, which gave us the opportunity to play our favourite game: telephoning from one room to another. That was an amazing experience. Sometimes we secretly threw water out the window onto the people walking in the street below, and then we'd quickly hide."

To a special Jewish school

Hannah describes her life before the German invasion of 1940 as "very idyllic." Anne also writes that later on "the good times were few and far between." The girls move on from kindergarten to the Montessori Primary School until the occupying authority begins introducing an increasing number of anti-Jewish measures in 1941. Anne and Hannah then have to go to a special Jewish school: "When Jewish children were required to go to Jewish schools, Mr. Elte (the director) finally agreed, after a great deal of persuasion, to accept Lies Goslar and me."

Insufficient marks

Hannah sees Anne for the last time (for the time being) when report cards are handed out on July 3, 1942. Anne writes in her diary, "The Graduation ceremony in the Jewish Theater on Friday went as expected. My report card wasn't too bad. I got one D, a C- in Algebra and all the rest B's, except for two B+'s and two B-'s (…) Lies also passed this year, though she has to repeat het Geometry exam." Hannah has this to say: "At the end of the first year there was a big party. Anne's sister was really a excellent student. Anne and I passed with difficulty because we weren't very good in mathematics, and I remember that we went home together and that several days passed without my seeing her."

To Switzerland

During those few days Ane's life undergoes a total change. On Sunday, July 5, 1942, her sister Margot is one of the first to receive a call-up notice to report to a so-called work camp. The next day the Frank family go into hiding in the Secret Annexe, the empty section of Otto Frank's office building. The family spread the rumour that they have fled to Switzerland. Hannah: "Mr. Frank factory, Opekta, produced a substance used in making jam. My mother was always given the old packets as gifts. She sent me to the Franks to borrow the scale because she wanted to make jam. I went to their house as usual and I rang and rang and rang, but no one came to the door. I rang once again. Finally a lodger opened the door, Mr.Goudsmit. 'What are you doing here? What do you want?' he asked with surprise. 'Well, I've come to borrow the scale.' 'Don't you know that the whole Frank family has gone to Switzerland?' I knew nothing about it. 'Why?' I asked. I didn't know that, either."

"Poor Hanneli"

Hannah and her family do not go into hiding. She has a little sister, and there is a baby on the way. Anne tries to find out from her hiding place how the family is doing and what has happened. She knows the baby was born dead. "I don't think I told you, but Goslar's baby was born dead. It's a terrible thing, and now poor Hanneli is going to have so much work to do." (November 2, 1942) According to Hannah the adults did not tell Anne that her mother died in childbirth. "They probably didn't dare tell her."

Military vehicles

Anne also knows what's going on in the outside world. As early as November 20, 1942, she writes: "Night after night, green and gray military vehicles cruise the streets. They knock on every door, asking whether Jews live there. If so, the whole family is immediately taken away. If not, they proceed to the next house. It's impossible to escape their clutches unless you go into hiding."

Big round-ups

On June 20, 1943, a big round-up is held in the South of Amsterdam and the whole Goslar family is taken away. Up until then they had managed to escape deportation by using purchased Paraguayan passports. The fact that her father was one of the well-known Zionists had helped. Hannah: "That day the Germans began something new. They closed off the entire southern district at 5 a.m. while everyone was asleep. And they went from door to door, ringing and asking, 'Do Jews live here?' 'Yes? You have twenty minutes. Take a rucksack, load it with a maximum of 20 kg and come outside quickly.' That was our neighbourhood, so we had to pack as well. Things like passports were of no use. We were given only a few minutes and we had to go along. We really thought we were going to a work camp."

"Is she still alive?"

The Goslar family end up in the Westerbork transit camp. In the meantime Anne, in her hiding place, thinks about her friend Hannah: "I was very sad again last night. Grandma and Hanneli came to me once more. (…) And Hanneli? Is she still alive? What's she doing? 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." (December 29, 1943) At that point the Goslar family is still in Westerbork. They stay there for eight months, until February 15, 1944. The Goslar family are not deported to Auschwitz but to Bergen-Belsen.

Barbed wire barricade

"One day we looked in the direction where there hadn't been any barracks and we saw that a great many tents had suddenly appeared there. It was already quite cold and we didn't know who was staying in the tents. Two or three months later there were some ferocious stroms and all the tents were blown down. That day we were given an order: our beds had been stacked up on two high, and now a third level would be added. We had to sleep two to a bed and half the camp had to be emptied. Then a barbed wire barricade filled with straw was placed in the middle of the camp so that we couldn't see the new people. But naturally we were very close to them because the camp wasn't that big, and all the people from those tents were brought into the barracks. Despite the German guards in the high watchtowers we tried to make contact. Of course, it was strictly forbidden to talk to these people and if the Germans had seen or heard anyone they would have been shot on the spot. So at night some people went to the barricade to try to gain information. I never went, but we learned that they were all from Poland, Jews and non-Jews."

"Could you call Anne?"

"One of my friends, an older lady, comes up to me one day (it may have been a month later, early February), and says, 'You know, there are people from the Netherlands there, too, and I talked to Mrs van Pels.' The woman knew her from before and she told me that Anne was there. She was fully aware that I knew Anne: 'Now you go to the barbed wire and try to have a talk.' And I did, of course. I stood next to the barbed wire at night and began to call softly, and luckily Mrs van Pels was standing there again and I asked her, 'Would you call Anne?' She said, 'Yes, yes, wait here, I'll go get Anne, I can't get Margot because she's very ill and lying in bed.'"

"It wasn’t the same Anne"

"Anne came to the barbed wire. I couldn't see her because the barbed wire was stuffed with straw. The lamps weren't very good. I may have seen a glimpse of a shadow. It wasn't the same Anne that I had known. She was a broken girl. I probably was, too, yet is was terrible. She began to cry right away and told me, 'I don't have any parents any more. My mother is dead.'" That was true, but she couldn't have known it. Edith Frank died of exhaustion in Auschwitz in early January 1945. "Anne thought that her father had been gassed, too. But Mr Frank still looked very young and healthy and the Germans didn't pay any attention to the age of those they wanted to gas. They made their selection based on appearance. I always say that if Anne had known that her father was still alive she would have had the strenght to survive, because she died right before the end. It was just a matter of days."

"What are you doing here?"

"So we stood there, two young girls, and we cried. I told her about my mother. She didn't know. She only knew that the baby was dead. And I told her my father was in the infirmary. He was already very ill and he died two weeks later. She told me that Margot was very ill and she told me about being in hiding, because I was curious, of course. I asked her, 'But what are you doing here? You were supposed to be in Switzerland.' And then she told me what had happened – that she had never been in Switzerland, and why she had said that. So that everyone would think that he had gone to her grandmother's."

‘I tell this story at schools. The situation got turned around. The fact that I survived and she didn't is just a cruel accident.’

A package for Anne

"Then she said, 'We have nothing to eat here, almost nothing, and we're all cold. We have no clothes and I'm very thin and my head has been shaved.' Then we took up a collection – we we really saved everything, a crust of bread or a sock or a glove, anything that gave a little warmth. My friends also gave me something for Anne. And I succeeded in throwing the package over the barbed wire barricade. But I heard screaming and I called out, 'What happened?' And Anne answered, 'Oh, the woman next to me caught it and and she won't give it back.' So she started screaming, of course. I calmed her a bit and said, 'I'll try once again, but I don't know if it will work.' We talked together once more, two or three days later. And I really did throw another package over, and that time she caught it, that's the main thing."

Cruel accident

"After meeting her three or four times at the barbed wire I didn't see her any more because the people in Anne's camp were transferred to another part of Bergen-Belsen. That happened about the end of February. I tell this story at schools. The situation got turned around. The fact that I survived and she didn't is just a cruel accident."

Previously published in the Anne Frank Magazine of 1998.

  • Memories of Anne Frank: reflections of a childhood friend. As told to Alison Leslie Gold. New York, NY: Scolastic, 1997.
  • Hannah Goslar remembers: a childhood friend of Anne Frank. As told to Alison Leslie Gold. London: Bloomsbury, 1998.