Published April 16, 2010
A Conversation With Anne Frank's Childhood Boyfriend
by: Nathan Weissler
  Issue: 11.04
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This month—April—we observe Yom Ha Shoah and honor the memories of those who perished in the Shoah. Over the years, I have studied and read about the many fascinating characters in the legendary story and diary of Anne Frank including— Edmond, originally named, “Helmuth,” though known as, “Hello” Silberberg. Silberberg was Anne Frank’s boyfriend for a brief but significant time in the early summer of 1942 for about a month before the Frank family went into hiding.

One evening in March 2010, I had a fascinating phone conversation with Silberberg in which I interviewed him for this article. The importance not only of recording Silberberg’s story, but that of all Holocaust survivors, was further reinforced by our conversation.

Edmond Silberberg was born on June 8, 1926 in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. He was the only child of Leo and Selma Silberberg. When Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party took control of Germany in 1933, Silberberg told me that unlike many other Jewish children--he did not have to change schools as he attended a Jewish public school. However, as Nazi oppression increased, Silberberg moved in with his grandparents in Amsterdam in 1938 while his parents illegally immigrated to Belgium.

Despite the fact that he was moving to another country, Silberberg emphasized that he was not unfamiliar with Amsterdam. “After my grandfather and my grandmother moved to Amsterdam,” he told me, “I would go there in the summertime…and sometimes on other vacations as well, and spend time in the Netherlands from approximately age six or seven.” By the time he moved to Amsterdam, Silberberg continued, “…I spoke Dutch fluently so I didn’t have any problems getting around or getting into a Dutch public school.”

In response to my question as to whether he was forced to enrol in a Jewish school after the May 1940 Nazi invasion of the Netherlands, Silberberg replied, “Not immediately. They didn’t take those measures until a couple years later. We were just simply told that we couldn’t come to school anymore.” He then enrolled in a private Amsterdam furniture design school until Jewish students were banned from there.

World War II took a new turn when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in December 1941 and the United States entered the war on the Allied side.

In June 1942, Silberberg was introduced to Anne Frank by a cousin. As Silberberg was sixteen and Anne thirteen, some were sceptical about their relationship. For instance, Silberberg told me that he met Anne’s older sister Margot, “…who was my age and I understand that she sort of made fun of her sister sometimes because I was after all three years older.”

On the topic of Anne Frank herself, Silberberg recollected to me that, “for somebody her age she was extremely talented; she somehow fascinated me because she knew a great many things.” He added that the Frank family was, “very kind to me; very hospitable.”

After the Frank family went into hiding in July 1942, Silberberg continued living in Amsterdam for about a month. In August 1942, he was arrested in a round-up but miraculously escaped by jumping off the truck. Shortly after Nazi police searched for him at his grandparents’ apartment, Silberberg left Holland for Belgium where he was reunited with his parents. In Belgium, the Silberbergs went into hiding and survived the war.

After the liberation of Belgium, Silberberg worked in a Brussels furniture factory. Then shortly after the May 1945 liberation of the Netherlands, despite the fact that he was officially stateless, he illegally returned to Holland to visit his grandparents. Silberberg immigrated to United States in January 1948 and his parents came shortly thereafter.

During the Korean War, Silberberg was drafted into the U.S. Army although he never served in combat. For most of the twenty-four months he was in the army, Silberberg was stationed in U.S. military camps such as Fort Devens in Massachusetts (which does not function as a military base anymore.) For eight of his twenty-four months, he served in Iceland.

Meanwhile in 1947 Otto Frank the father of Anne Frank had his daughter’s diary published in Holland. Silberberg told me that when the diary was first published, Otto Frank sent him one of the first copies and that he wrote a letter to Frank thanking him.

Silberberg told me that his first return to Europe after his immigration to the United States was in 1972 when he visited Germany for business. He then visited Holland and Belgium and, “took a few extra days to look around.” He also visited Israel for the first time in around 1995. Today, Edmond Silberberg is retired and lives in Sag Harbor, New York with his wife Marlyse. They have two children and two grandchildren.

In conclusion, when I asked Silberberg what advice he would have for young people today, his response was, “…that we need peace, that we have to understand other people’s problems and that we just cannot continuously think about ourselves.”

May the memory of the victims of the Shoah be a blessing. L’Chayim!

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