Life magazine tracked down Anne Frank’s playmates in 1959 as the film based on her diary was opening in movie theaters, and for the first time Life.com has posted photographs that never made it into print. The images bring into bittersweet focus what Anne missed because she did not survive the Holocaust.
The hunt for Anne’s contemporaries began with a snapshot a Life magazine photographer happened to spot when he was in the home of Maryland friends in the late 1950s. “One familiar face caught my eye,” Paul Schutzer recalled, “it was Anne Frank.”
The black-and-white photo was like one you probably have in your family album: a bunch of smiling kids in a sandbox on a sunny day. It was taken in Amsterdam in 1937 by the mother of the little girl with the curly blond hair perched on the right edge.
Barbara managed to elude the Nazis and was a member of the resistance during World War II. She met her future husband in America in 1947, and a decade later Schutzer was visiting a home filled with happiness and fuzzy-slippered domesticity: Barbara hugging her children, her loving husband getting cozy by the fireplace, a doting father — briefcase in hand — planting a kiss on their youngest as he leaves for work.
Other kids in the 1937 photo had bright futures, too.
Hannah, fourth from the left in the sandbox picture, is lighter than air in the California sunshine with her toddler and husband, a law student.
Dolly, third from left in the sandbox photo, is picnicking near Jerusalem with her husband and four kids.
Hanneli, far left in the sandbox photo, who is called Lies Goosens in early editions of the Diary and was Anne’s best friend, is living in Israel surrounded by three happy-go-lucky children and married to an editor.
But Hanneli’s life came close to ending like Anne’s. She also was dragged off to Bergen-Belsen, where she happened to see her old friend in 1945. “She was in rags,” Hanneli told Life. “I saw her emaciated face in the darkness.”
Anne and her sister died only days before the concentration camp was liberated by British troops in 1945.
The girl standing on the far right of the sandbox photo — the only one looking glum, as though she knows her fate — is Barbara’s sister, Susanne, who died in Auschwitz along with their parents.