The United Nations General Assembly designated January 27 as International Holocaust Remembrance Day to commemorate victims of the Holocaust. Six million Jews were murdered by Germany’s Nazi regime, along with 5 million non-Jews who were killed during World War II. The anniversary, marked each year since 2005, falls on the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in Poland by the Russian army in 1945. Anne Frank — a German-Jewish teenager who went into hiding during the Holocaust and journaled her experiences in the renowned book “The Diary of Anne Frank” — spent a month in Auschwitz. She was later transported to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp where she died a few weeks before the liberation.
FIU mathematics professor Ada Monserrat frequently travels on semester breaks pursuing unique experiences. Below is her story about when she met Anne Frank’s childhood friend.
By Ada Monserrat
Anne Frank wrote about her daily life while in hiding to avoid capture by the Nazi regime. Her writings were published after her death at the hands of the Nazis in The Diary of Anne Frank. It’s a story that moved me beyond words.
I chose to travel to the “Secret Annex” in Holland where young Anne spent two years in hiding. I saw the bookcase leading to the entrance of the annex. I was in her room, saw the pictures she left up on her wall and even got an up close look at her famous diary. But I yearned for more. I wanted to learn about this brave young girl who during a time of deprivation of youth and freedom, found a way to turn a hopeless situation into one that would bring inspiration and make a mark in the history books.
So began my journey searching for one of the few living survivors that knew Anne Frank. After the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, I ran into an article in the Jerusalem post on Holocaust survivors. Writing back and forth with the journalist about my interest, I was able to obtain information for Anne Frank’s closest childhood friend, Hannah Goslar. I wrote to Hannah several times patiently waiting for a response and soon received the call I was waiting for.
On Jan. 5, 2016, I finally had the chance to sit down with Anne Frank’s best friend. Over tea and pretzels at her Jerusalem residence, she shared some of her life story. She spoke about childhood memories with Anne. She talked about her outgoing personality and encounters during Anne Frank’s last days through the fences of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany. Hannah graciously gifted me with an autographed copy of her memoirs for a keepsake. She is an advocate for peace giving lectures at different universities around the world to share her message and story.
This year marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in Poland. As we honor International Holocaust Remembrance Day, I will never forget my meeting with Hannah Goslar. She reminded me of the importance of spirit and hope in the face of adversity, as well as aspiring for a world in which people can live together respectfully in freedom regardless of origin, faith or political belief.