Published March 13, 2011
The Anne Frank Fonds
by: Nathan Weissler
  Issue: 12.03
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In 1996, Anne Frank’s first cousin, Bernhard “Buddy” Elias became President of the ANNE FRANK FONDS (AFF) in Basel, Switzerland which was founded by Anne Frank’s father, Otto Frank and his second wife Elfriede ("Fritzi") Markovits Geiringer Frank, in 1963. In March 2010, I interviewed Mr. Elias who now lives in Basel, Switzerland by email. Mr. Elias’ mother Helene “Leni” Frank Elias was Otto Frank’s sister and he had an older brother, Stephen. (Mr. Elias' birth name is "Bernhard". However, the Frank family called him, "Bernd" and his brother Stephen began calling him, "Buddy" when he was born.) Mr. Elias has also had a distinguished career as an actor. The questions and answers are below:

1. Nathan: You were born in Frankfurt on June 2, 1925. What do you remember most about your early life in Germany prior to moving to Switzerland? Where did you and your brother Stephen attend school?

Buddy Elias: I left Frankfurt at age 4 and started school in Switzerland. My brother went to the Farntrapp school (as much as I remember). I started my school at the Gundeldinger school in Basel.

2. Nathan: What is your older brother Stephen's birthday? I believe he was born in Frankfurt as well, is that correct?

Buddy Elias: Stephan ['] s birthday was December 20th 1921. He was also born in Frankfurt.

3. Nathan: Where did you and your brother go to school in Basel?

Buddy Elias: My brother went to the Realgymnasium in Basel. I went to this school also later after primary school.

4. Nathan: I read about how you and Anne Frank would dress up together on one occasion in your grandmother's clothes. If there's one thing or story you'd tell young people today to convey to them Anne Frank's youthfulness what would it be?

Buddy Elias: She had a wonderful sense of humour and a rich fantasy what to do or what to play. Her favorite was theatre, dressing up and playing being an actor or actress.

5. Nathan: Before the war, did you ever visit the Frank family in Amsterdam? When did you first visit Amsterdam?

Buddy Elias: I did not visit Amsterdam before the war. First time was in 1951 or 1952.

6. Nathan: It has been said that more is known about Anne than Margot. What do you want people today to remember about Margot Frank?

Buddy Elias: Margot was a highly intelligent and lovable girl, but very reserved and quiet. An ardent reader, always best in school.

7. Nathan: I read that Anne and Margot Frank corresponded with American pen pals in Iowa in 1940. Did you know they had American pen pals at the time?

Buddy Elias: During their correspondence I did not know about that.

8. Nathan: I read about vacations you would take with the Frank family to a villa in Sils-Maria, Switzerland. Would you take that trip every summer or was it just on one occasion?

Buddy Elias: It was many Summer [s], but not always.

9. Nathan: When was the first time you were aware of Anne Frank's diary? Was it through Otto Frank after the war when he sent German translations to the family in Switzerland?

Buddy Elias: Yes that was the time.

10. Nathan: I think you were married in 1965. Would you mind telling me your wife's first as well as maiden name?

Buddy Elias: Gertrude (called Gerti) maiden name: Wiedner

11. Nathan: I understand you moved to Germany around 1962 and then moved back to Basel in 1986 is that correct? Then when you returned to Basel, did you become chair of the Anne Frank Fonds at that time?

Buddy Elias: Yes the years are correct. But I became chair of the ANNE FRANK FONDS in 1996

12. Nathan: Have you been to Israel? If so, when did you first visit?

Buddy Elias: Yes I have been in Israel but I cannot remember when it was the first time.

13. Nathan: If there would be one thing that you believe and want today's youth to understand and take to heart what would it be?

Buddy Elias: To fight any kind of discrimination. To treat people the same, no matter what religion, colour of skin or nationality.

14. Nathan: What role do you believe the legacy of Anne Frank has in combating prejudice, discrimination and hatred in today's world?

Buddy Elias: I receive still many mails from people everywhere telling me Anne's Diary changed their lives. Her humanistic messages move the world.

For more information, see the ANNE FRANK FONDS website.

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