As a new documentary on the life of Anne Frank is released on DVD, Francine Wolfisz investigates the story of the friendship that lies behind it
Anne Frank, left, and Eva Schloss played together as children before tragedy intervened; far left, Schloss today
On a sunny day in the square of the Merwedeplein in Amsterdam, two 11-year-old girls met for the first time. One was a self-confessed tomboy, the other sophisticated in her fashion choices and interested in boys. Little could Anne Frank and Eva Schloss know how their carefree days in the park would soon turn to a struggle for survival and ultimate tragedy – or how their lives would become inextricably linked forever.
Now 70 years after the death of Anne Frank, a one-hour documentary from 3DD productions examines the parallel stories of the young German-born diarist and Eva Schloss, her posthumous step-sister, who has worked tirelessly to preserve Frank’s legacy.
The Diary of Anne Frank: A Tale of Two Sisters aired originally on Yesterday TV and is available to buy from Amazon on Monday. Filmed in the Netherlands and London, this fascinating one-hour special includes interviews with Schloss, Gillian Walnes, the executive director and co-founder of the Anne Frank Trust UK, and Ronald Leopold, director of the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam.
Charting the lives of the two girls before and during the Second World War, the documentary highlights the striking similarities of their circumstances. Frank moved from Germany to Amsterdam with her family in 1933, while Schloss arrived from Austria five years later.
They formed a bond as two German-speaking girls living in the Netherlands who had been displaced by the Nazis. Both were also forced into hiding in 1942, as persecution against the Jewish population reached new heights with a notice to deport young people to Germany.
The Franks went into hiding at 263 Prinsengracht, a warehouse with an unused annex, where the father, Otto, worked. They were joined by dentist Fritz Pfeffer, Frank’s business partner Herm
ann van Pels, his wife, Auguste and their son, Peter.
Anne Frank initially describes Peter in her diary as “a shy, awkward boy whose company won’t amount to much,” but later confesses to having fallen for him during their time in the annex. Both families were ultimately betrayed and both Schloss and Frank were sent to concentration camps.
Eva’s father and brother did not survive, nor did Anne’s mother and sister. Frank tragically died, most likely of typhus, just days after Margot Frank at Bergen-Belsen – and only a few weeks before the camp was liberated in April 1945.
Otto subsequently discovered that Miep Gies, one of the people who had helped the family during their time in the annex, had saved Anne’s diary and hidden it in a drawer. Schloss says she was one of the first to hear extracts from the diary and recalls it took Otto three weeks to read all the pages, because he kept breaking down into tears.
The diary was published for the first time in 1947 and has since been translated into 60 languages, as well as inspiring a play and an Academy Award-winning film.
In the months and years following the war, Schloss’ mother Elfriede and Frank’s father Otto grew closer, offering each other emotional support over their shared loss. They married in 1953. Moving and thought-provoking,
The Diary of Anne Frank: A Tale of Two Sisters provides a compelling insight into two girls who shared extraordinary courage and the will to survive.
Tragically for Anne, her life ended. But, as the documentary shows, the power of her words continues to endure all these years later.
• The Diary of Anne Frank: A Tale of Two Sisters, £7.99, is available to buy from 26 October on Amazon, LoveFilm and other retailers