Anne Frank's Beau
Friday, February 01, 2008
Category: Famous or Interesting People
Revealing the photo of Anne’s lost love, Peter Schiff
The Observer, February 2008
On Friday 7 January 1944, Anne Frank confessed her love for a boy she had been smitten with for years. She had first set eyes upon him in school in 1940, and they had been 'inseparable' for a whole summer, walking hand in hand through their neighbourhood in Amsterdam, him in a white cotton suit, her in a short summer dress. He was 'tall, slim and good-looking, with a serious, quiet and intelligent face'. He had dark hair, brown eyes, a slightly pointed nose. Anne was 'crazy about his smile', which gave him a mischievous air. At one point he gave her a pendant as a keepsake. This was the boy she hoped to marry.
His name was Peter Schiff, he was almost three years her senior, and it is clear from her diary that he was seldom out of her thoughts throughout her two years in hiding in the secret annexe behind her father's office. On 6 January 1944 she wrote that her image of him was so vivid that she didn't need a photograph, but anyone who has read her diary may be curious to see what he looked like at the time she knew him.
Until now, no portrait of Peter Schiff has come to light. But the picture you see here has ended this 60-year mystery and provided another glimpse into a devastated world. The photo does its trick - it shows an extremely handsome boy of 12 full of hope for the future; it is not difficult to see his appeal to any vivacious and eager girl of similar age - but the background to its recent discovery provides something more, another layer in one of the most iconic stories of our time.The story of Anne Frank is one of bravery and fortitude. Her journal, the Diary of a Young Girl, continues to be read anew by hundreds of thousands each year not just for the insights it brings us into occupied Europe, or the practical details we glean about hiding in cramped conditions with limited resources. It is also a story of a bright Jewish girl's transition to adulthood, a maturing of intellect and sexuality and all the possibilities and challenges this brings. At times her diary is a catalogue of frustration and insecurity, but it is allinvolving, a saga of peril and yearning written with exceptional emotional insight and cadences that, judging by the teenage blogs of today, we may have lost for good. But the romantic longing and crushes she experienced are timeless and universal, and anyone who has ever lost in love will sense their eyes swell with tears as she writes of Peter Schiff. Anne Frank's life and writing is not emblematic of the 6 million who died; it is far more powerful as a single voice.
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