Remembering Anne Frank: Letters to Be Displayed in Frankfurt


Elias: Various pieces of furniture, such as the child's chair that Anne used to always sit in as a young girl. And all sorts of toys.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What was Anne's favorite thing to play with?

Elias: For one, she particularly liked the multicolored building blocks that could be assembled in the form of Frankfurt's city hall. But, as children Anne and I used to also amuse ourselves with children's card games, dolls and the toy grocer's shop. However, her favorite thing to do was to put on plays. I once had to dress up like a grandmother. I slipped into one of grandma's dresses, put on her hat and imitated her. I rarely saw my little cousin so amused.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What are your earliest memories of Anne?

Elias: When she was still a baby, my brother and I once took her out in the stroller. We went incredibly fast and failed to manage a corner. The stroller tipped over -- and little Anne was lying on the sidewalk. Of course, when we went home we didn't tell anyone about that.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Your mother once wrote that you and Anne had a lot in common. In what way? Elias: Anne was utterly playful -- exactly like me. Though she was four years younger, I usually played with her and not with her older sister, Margot. Margot was very serious and almost always reading.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: In 1929, your father took over the subsidiary of a German company in Basel, and it was two years before you and your mother joined him. The Franks then fled to Amsterdam, and your paths diverged. When was the last time you saw Anne?

Elias: Until the Wehrmacht (Germany's World War II army) marched into Holland, Anne and Margot used to travel regularly to Switzerland to be with us during school breaks. The last time I was with them, Anne and I played puppet theater in the children's room. Margot sat in front of the window and read. That was in the summer of 1938. After that, Anne would often write us letters. I received the last one from her on my 17th birthday, in June 1942.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: That was exactly one month before the family had to go into hiding in the rear building at Prinsengracht 263, in Amsterdam. Were you aware of that?

Elias: On July 5, 1942, we received a final postcard from Otto Frank, in which he told us: "You need to understand that we will no longer be able to communicate." It was clear to us that they would go into hiding. But we had no idea where.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: On August 4, 1944, they were discovered in their hideout and arrested. Eight months later, Anne would die of typhus in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, in northwestern Germany. When did you learn of her death?

Elias: In the summer of 1945. Anne's father, Otto, who returned from Auschwitz in June 1945, hoped until the very end that his family had survived the Holocaust. A month later, he wrote to us about her death. Shortly thereafter, he started translating individual chapters of Anne's diary into German. He was constantly sending passages to us in Basel, and I started editing them.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What shocked you the most about them?

Elias: It was less of a shock than a tremendous surprise. Anne's father, Otto, once said: "I didn't know my daughter until I read the diary." That was exactly the case for me, as well. To me, Anne was always a thoroughly funny, lively child. I knew nothing about the profundity of her thoughts.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Anne makes repeated mention of you in her diary. You played an important role in her process of maturing.

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