Anne Frank Pal Recalls Prewar Holland

The story of Anne Frank (search), the Jewish teenager whose diary became the voice of Holocaust victims (search), is also to some extent the story of Eva Schloss (search), her childhood friend.

Like Anne, Eva went into hiding when the Nazis began rounding up Dutch Jews to send to concentration camps. After two years, she too was captured and sent to Auschwitz, the most notorious of death camps. But unlike Anne, Eva survived and last month celebrated her 75th birthday.

Anne would have turned 75 Saturday.

Theaters, Holocaust museums, churches and Jewish clubs around the world are commemorating the day with readings from "The Diary of Anne Frank" or performances of the play based on the journal. The Cleveland Opera is performing music inspired by the story.

At the Anne Frank House, the canal house where the Frank family spent 25 months confined to a back annex, an exhibition of photographs taken by Anne's father, Otto Frank, before the war went on display Friday.

They show a happy middle-class European family. Anne and her sister Margot play on the beach, don party dresses for birthdays, hug a teddy bear.

"What they show is that the Franks were a family like everyone else," said Eva in an interview on Friday. "They had a happy life. They did all the things children do."

Eva recalls playing with Anne after school. "I was more wild, a tomboy. She was more sophisticated. She was interested in clothes, in her appearance. She was careful with her hair. She was interested in boys," she said.

None of the images displayed any hint of the disaster to come.

"Holland was a safe place," said Eva, whose family fled to the Netherlands from Vienna, Austria, in the 1930s during the rise of Adolf Hitler's Nazi party.

The Franks also fled from Germany when Anne was a girl of four, considering it a safe haven from the anti-Semitism raging at home.

Dutch security proved an illusion. More than 100,000 Jews — 70 percent of the community — were deported to concentration camps after Germany occupied the Netherlands in May 1940. Most died in gas chambers, and were among the 6 million Jewish victims of Nazi genocide.

Hundreds of families went into hiding. Many were never discovered, an amazing accomplishment, especially for those, like the Franks, confined to tight quarters in Amsterdam.

"Do you know how hard it is for an 11-year-old to sit quietly all day?"

Eva was caught moving to a new safe house with the help of the Dutch resistance. She and her mother had already changed hiding places several times, concealed by sympathetic Dutch families.

Both Anne and Eva were betrayed by Dutch collaborators. No one knows who turned in the Franks. Eva knows her betrayer: a nurse who had infiltrated the resistance.

The nurse, whose name Eva has blotted from her mind, was brought to trial after the war and acquitted on the basis of testimony from Jews she had helped — to build confidence with the resistance, Eva said.

Anne began writing her diary on June 12, 1942, in a small album meant for autographs, one of her 13th birthday presents. Less than a month later, the family moved into the secret annex at the rear of Otto Frank's warehouse, reached by a staircase blocked from view by a movable bookcase.

Her last entry was Aug. 1, 1944, three days before she was arrested.

Anne died in March 1945 of typhus in Bergen-Belsen, the camp to which she was transferred from Auschwitz. A few weeks later, British troops liberated the camp.

Eva Schloss, freed from Auschwitz by Russian troops, made her way back to the Netherlands through Russia, Turkey and Europe. Everywhere, she said, people welcomed the survivors like war heroes — until they got home.

The Dutch, still suffering from the hardship of occupation, a harsh winter and Nazi plundering, ignored the returning refugees.

"No one wanted to know about the camps," she said. "I was silent for years, first because I wasn't allowed to speak. Then I repressed it. I was angry with the world."

Historians agree that many Dutch cooperated with the Nazi occupation. Widespread resistance is largely a myth — in part fostered by Anne Frank's diary in which she praises the four "helpers" who supplied the family with food and assistance.

Anne and Eva are linked by one more thread of fate. After the war, Otto Frank, whose wife Edith had died in Auschwitz, married his old acquaintance Elfriede Geiringer, Eva's mother. Eva became Anne's stepsister posthumously.