Is My Best Friend Anne Frank Based on a True Story?

Directed by Ben Sombogaart, ‘My Best Friend Anne Frank’ is a Dutch drama film about the Holocaust. It revolves around the friendship of two young women, Anne Frank (Aiko Beemsterboer) and Hanneli Goslar (Josephine Arendsen). The narrative goes back and forth between Nazi-occupied Amsterdam, where the two protagonists meet, and the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, the location of their harrowing reunion.

‘My Best Friend Anne Frank’s approach to the Holocaust is somewhat unconventional from the regular fares on the subject. Staying true to the themes of the movie, it chooses to observe one of the greatest tragedies in human history through the prism of friendship. And that has an adverse effect on the storyline as it strangely mellows down the horrors of the Holocaust. If you are wondering whether ‘My Best Friend Anne Frank’ is inspired by real events, we got you covered.

Is My Best Friend Anne Frank a True Story?

Yes, ‘My Best Friend Anne Frank’ is based on a true story. However, the filmmakers take certain creative liberties while telling the tale of the remarkable friendship between Frank and Gosler. The movie is the cinematic adaptation of American author Alison Leslie Gold’s 1997 non-fiction book ‘Memories of Anne Frank: Reflections of a Childhood Friend,’ which was also the basis of the 2009 Italian TV movie ‘Mi Ricordo Anna Frank.’

Frank has come to be regarded as the embodiment of the devastating human toll of the Holocaust. She maintained a diary between 1942 and 1944 while hiding in the Netherlands from the occupying Nazi Germany forces. Her father, Otto Frank, the sole survivor of the family, published the diary. Now known as ‘The Diary of a Young Girl,’ it is one of the most influential books of all time.

While writing ‘Memories of Anne Frank,’ Gold extensively interviewed Hannah Elisabeth “Hanneli” Pick-Goslar, who was indeed a close friend of Frank. Pick-Goslar’s father, Hans Goslar, was the deputy minister for domestic affairs in Germany. Their family was observant Jews. In 1993, after Adolf Hitler became the Chancellor of Germany, Hans was forced to quit his prestigious governmental job and eventually immigrate to Amsterdam. There, at Sixth Public Montessori school, Pick-Goslar and Frank became fast friends.

“Anna and I met for the first time in 1934 when both our families came from Germany to Holland,” Pick-Goslar recalled in an interview in the late-1990s. “We met in a grocery store. My mother and Anne’s mother started to speak German because both ladies didn’t know how to speak Dutch. Mrs. Frank came with her younger daughter and it came out that she’s half a year younger than I am. When my mother brought me to kindergarten the next day, I didn’t know the language or anybody and I saw only Anna’s back. She was making music with bells. Anna turned around and ran into my arms and I ran into hers, and from then on we were friends.”

Pick-Goslar describes Frank as a “spicy little girl” and “normal.” Her mother used to say about Frank that “God knows everything, but Anna knows everything better.” This fascinating line has made it into Sombogaart’s film. The two friends spent time star-gazing, playing hopscotch, and speaking about boys. They were ultimately separated in July 1942. Pick-Goslar believed that the Frank family had found their way to safety in Switzerland, not knowing that they were still hiding in a tiny house in Amsterdam.

Image Credit: Yad Vashem, YouTube

Pick-Goslar was taken into custody by the SS in June 1943 and eventually ended up in Bergen-Belsen. Meanwhile, the Frank family was captured in August 1944 and subsequently sent to Auschwitz. Frank and her sister Margot were then also taken to Bergen-Belsen. As the film depicts, the two girls had a haunting reunion at the camp. Frank apparently passed away in February 1945, likely due to the typhus epidemic that spread across the camp at the time. Two months later, British forces liberated the camp.

Pick-Goslar has gone on to live a long and fulfilling life. She married and now has eleven grandchildren and over 20 great-grandchildren. She currently resides in Jerusalem. According to screenwriter Paul Ruven, he and his co-scriptwriter Marian Batavier were immediately moved by Pick-Goslar’s story. “What amazed us the most during our research is the strength and courage of these young girls in wartime, especially Hannah’s effort to save her best friend from death,” he added. So, clearly, ‘My Best Friend Anne Frank’ is based on a true story, even though the filmmakers have dramatized several elements.

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