Although Peter Schiff (or “Petel,” as Anne affectionately calls him) was a real person in her life, he becomes less of a person and more of an abstraction during her time in confinement. Anne has several haunting and life-changing romantic dreams about Peter, and he soon becomes symbolic of Anne’s desire not only for true love, but for a true friend whom she can really confide in.
In Anne Frank’s diary, she called Peter Schiff her “one true love.” In 1940 at the age of 11 she writes ‘Peter was the ideal boy: tall, slim and good-looking, with a serious, quiet and intelligent face. He had dark hair, beautiful brown eyes, ruddy cheeks and a nicely pointed nose. I was crazy about his smile, which made him look so boyish and mischievous.’
For more than 60 years there were no photographs known of Anne Frank’s childhood sweetheart. The photo above was discovered in 2008 when a childhood friend, Ernest Michaelis, came to realize that the childhood friend that gave him this photograph (before Michaelis had left Germany for Britain) was the 13-year-old boy Anne Frank wrote about in her diary.
“I realized there were a lot of pictures associated with her life, but no picture of Peter Schiff,” Michaelis said. “That seemed very odd, as his looks are at the heart of his story.”
It has taken time, extraordinary effort, internet research and a series of happy coincidences for Michaelis to get authentication that his picture is that of the Schiff whom Frank so adored.
Peter Schiff does not reappear in the diary until January 6, 1944, after Anne had been in hiding for more than one and a half years. After she has a dream about Peter she writes ‘At that point I woke up, still feeling his cheek against mine and his brown eyes staring deep into my heart, so deep that he could read how much I’d loved him and how much I still do, and now Peter, my dearest Peter. I’ve never had such a clear mental image of him. I don’t need a photograph, I can see him oh so well.’
The photo of Peter Schiff along with a note that reads ‘A friendly memento of your friend Lutz Peter Schiff’ was donated to the Anne Frank museum by Ernst Michaelis.
“He read the diary in the 1950s and thought that Peter Schiff was very likely his friend. But it was only when reading it later that he saw there were no photos and so he contacted us,” said a museum spokeswoman.
Like Anne Frank’s family, Peter’s family fled Germany for the Netherlands and died in Auschwitz or Bergen-Belsen.