February 27, 2008
Sixty-nine years after two 12-year-old schoolboys exchanged photos, never to see one another again, the photo of one has been revealed as that of Peter Schiff, Anne Frank’s “one true love.” It was the memory of Peter that gave her hope, while she and her family hid from the Nazis for several years in a secret compartment in Otto Frank’s office building at 263 Prinengracht in Amsterdam. Peter and Anne met in 1940 in Amsterdam, after their families fled Germany. But Peter’s friend, Earnst Michaelis, now 81, was taken to England via the Kindertransport (Refugee Children Movement), a British program which rescued almost 10,000 children from Nazi Germany. Before Peter left Berlin, he gave his photo to Michaelis, along with a note reading: “In friendly remembrance of your friend Lutz Peter Schiff.” Michaelis traveled to Amsterdam in January, to donate the note and photograph to the Anne Frank House museum.
Peter Schiff died on May 31, 1945 at the Auschwitz concentration camp, four months after Auschwitz was liberated. Anne Frank died a few months earlier of typhus at Bergen-Belsen along with her sister, Margot, just a few weeks before liberation. Janny Brilleslijper, who witnessed the deaths of the sisters, said: “First Margot had fallen out of bed onto the stone floor. She couldn’t get up anymore. Anne died a day later.” Peter and Anne were only 18 and 16 years old respectively.
Michaelis still lives in England, in north London. After the war was over, he learned that his entire family had died. The only Frank family survivor was Anne’s father, Otto Frank, who published The Diary of Anne Frank, which has sold over 35 million copies. The identity of the person who betrayed the Frank family has never been learned.
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