Hannah Goslar's story begins on the morning of July 7, 1942. School is out for the year, and Hannah is on her way to visit her friend, Anne Frank. On her dress, above her heart, is sewn a yellow star -- The Star of David. All Jews in South Amsterdam, where Hannah and Anne lived, are forced by law to wear the yellow star. The star identifies those people who are Jews to the Germans who have just conquered Holland.
Along the way, Hannah picks up another friend, Jacque. At Anne's home, Hannah rings the doorbell.
But there is no response.
The day is sunny, but Anne and her family couldn't have gone to the public pool -- because Jews are no longer allowed in the pool.
Again the girls ring the bell, but there is no answer.
They were about to leave when Mr. Goldschmidt, a man who rents a room from the Franks, opens the door. Didn't the girls know? "They left yesterday. I think they went to Switzerland," he says.
A stunned Hannah and Jacque walk away. The Frank family had vanished!
Hannah Goslar recently told her story to writer Allison Leslie Gold. That story is brought to life by Gold in the pages of a new book from Scholastic Press, Memories of Anne Frank: Reflections of a Childhood Friend. We bring the book to your attention this week, just in time for the anniversary of Anne Frank's birth.
In this new book, Gold (also the author, with Miep Gies, of the 1987 book Anne Frank Remembered: The Story of the Woman Who Helped Hide the Frank Family) shares Hannah's story with young readers. Gold fills the pages of this book with Goslar's penetrating recollections -- and with the history behind them. Goslar shares many memories, from her first contact (in 1933) with Anne Frank, when the girls were about four years old, to her reunion after the war with Anne's father, when she learns of Anne's death.
As a stunned Hannah returns home after learning of the Frank's escape to Switzerland, she is approached by another friend, Alfred. The panicked 16-year-old tries to put up a brave front as he tells Hannah that he's just been ordered by the Germans to report the next day for forced labor. He has no place to escape to, he tells her as they bid a tearful farewell.
Gold paints a poignant picture of life in South Amsterdam, where each day the Nazi presence is felt more. New laws have just been instituted, making it difficult for Jews to make a living -- or even to eat.
"Jews would only be allowed into shops for two hours each day, from three to five. By then all the fresh food would be gone."
The horror of the Nazi presence is felt in school too.
"At school each morning Hannah looked around her classroom. Not only Anne's chair but two or three more chairs were empty each week. Who will be next? Will it be me? Will it be my family? Hannah wondered. All the children wondered."
"All merriment had gone" from their lives.
Then the moment that Hannah had been fearing most Before dawn on June 20, 1943, there was a banging at the Goslar's door.
"'Are there Jews living here?' a voice shouted in German.
"Mr. Goslar went to the door. 'Ja, there are Jews here,' he answered also in German.
"'You have twenty minutes! Go down to the street! And hurry!' the Nazi soldier ordered, going on to the next door, where Hannah's grandparents lived"
The Goslar family was transported to a camp at Westerbork. There Hannah volunteered for one of the worst jobs, cleaning the toilets, because the toilet area was near the barbed wire that separated she and her sister from their father in the men's camp. Her plan worked. She was able to see her father at work and to secretly talk with him from time to time.
Sickness and death surrounded the Jews held in Westerbork. And the Nazi came by frequently to call off lists of names. The people on those lists were taken away, transported to other prison camps -- camps with names such as Auschwitz, where it was rumored that large numbers of Jews were being put to death in gas chambers.
One day, it was Hannah's turn. Her name was on the list. She was transported to a camp called Bergen-Belsen. There Hannah would learn from Mrs. Van Dann, a Dutch-speaking woman who was a friend of the Frank family, that Anne was there -- in Bergen-Belsen, only feet away! Hannah and Anne surreptitiously reunite in the dark of night as the searchlight from the watchtower sweeps back and forth. Hannah learns that the Frank's had never gone to Switzerland. That story was a ruse to make the Nazis think they had gone. Instead, the family had been in hiding the entire time in a storage annex behind Mr. Frank's office. For two years Anne never stepped foot outside that hiding place.
This story of one of the saddest times in world history is also a story full of heroes. And those heroes are as much a part of Alison Gold's story as are the Nazi takeover, the torn-apart families, the brutal concentration camps, the sickness and death.
Gold introduces us to countless brave and unselfish people.
People such as Alfred, who faces hard labor.
Miep Gies, who shelters the Frank family in spite of its personal danger.
Mrs. Abrahams, who at Bergen-Belsen treats Hannah and her sister, Gabi, like her own.
And Hannah Goslar.
Memories of Anne Frank: Reflections of a Childhood Friend, by Alison Leslie Gold, is available at bookstores everywhere. If you are unable to locate a copy of the book, ask your bookseller to order one for you. Memories of Anne Frank: Reflections of a Childhood Friend is published by Scholastic Press (1997), a division of Scholastic, Inc., 555 Broadway, New York, NY 10012. (The book is 135 pages long, photos included; recommended for upper-elementary-grade students and above.)
Article by Gary Hopkins
Education World® Editor-in-Chief
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