Anne Frank's Final Days Recalled -- Dutch Woman Met Famed Author Of Diary On The Train To Auschwitz

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands - Her last memory of Anne Frank was seeing the teenager standing in the winter cold of Bergen-Belsen, wrapped only in a blanket. Beyond tears.

The nurse, also held at Auschwitz, gave Anne some clothes and bread. Several days later she went to look for Anne, but she was dead.

Janny Brandes-Brilleslijper, who took care of Anne at the concentration camp, resists remembering her death 50 years ago this month.

She is one of the last people alive who knew the young diarist during the merciless final days of her life. The events of that winter are still an agony to recall.

"I wonder sometimes maybe if I had visited her two days earlier or a day earlier then I might have been able to do more for her," she lamented in a rare interview this week.

"Anne came to me in the terrible freezing winter cold and she had thrown off her clothes because of the lice and covered herself with a blanket," said the 78-year-old Brandes-Brilleslijper.

With her own sister suffering from typhus and a camp full of sick people, Brandes-Brilleslijper, then 28, said goodbye to Anne and went on her way.

"When I came to Anne's barrack several days later, Anne was already dead . . . Margot had fallen out of her bed and died and Anne had lived a little longer than her sister.

"She didn't have any more tears. Oh, we hadn't had tears for a long time," Brandes-Brilleslijper recalled in a published memoir, written with five other women, that chronicles the last seven months of Anne's life.

Anne's private diary of her family's life in hiding, "The Diary of Anne Frank," has become required reading around the world.

Typhus blamed for death

The precise date of the Jewish diarist's death was never established. But the Anne Frank Foundation, keeper of the Amsterdam house where Anne and her family hid from the Nazis, believes she died in a typhus epidemic during the last half of March 1945.

Brandes-Brilleslijper's story is backed up by the foundation and the Netherlands State Institute for War Documentation.

Her relationship with Anne and the Frank family began on Aug. 8, 1944.

The secret annex where Anne and her family had hidden from the Nazi terror for more than two years was betrayed four days before.

Brandes-Brilleslijper herself had been arrested, not because she was a Jew but because she was involved in the Dutch Resistance.

They met at Amsterdam's central railroad station, the first step of their deportation to the Nazi camps.

During their stay at a Nazi deportation camp in the northern Dutch city of Westerbork, Brandes-Brilleslijper became good friends with the Franks.

"They were a good family. . . . We sat with each other everyday," she recalled, sitting in her home on the Amstel River, occasionally reaching over to grasp her husband's hand.

But those friendships were cut off in September 1944. Panic broke out at the news that some Westerbork inmates were being sent to Auschwitz.

Brandes-Brilleslijper was on the same train to Auschwitz as the Franks. They were sent to separate barracks and saw very little of one another.

Reunited with sisters

It wasn't until the end of October 1944 that she was reunited with Anne and Margot.

"We arrived at Bergen-Belsen in the storm. . . . There we found Anne and her sister Margot again. . . . Their father and mother were gone. They were all alone," she said.

"Maybe it was a `sister complex' that attracted our attention to the Frank girls. . . . We had sort of motherly feelings for them," she wrote in her memoir.

"Anne and Margot, they had each other. But they didn't have enough resistance to fight. We were a little older and we knew what we were fighting for," Brandes-Brilleslijper said.