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 already dead.Janny Brandes-Brilleslijper, who took care of Anne at the concentration camp, fights hard against 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 with The Associated Press.
"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 good-bye 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."
Anne's private diary of her family's life in hiding, "The Diary of Anne Frank," went on to become required reading around the world.
Brandes-Brilleslijper's 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 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. Her husband Bob and her two children escaped the Nazi dragnet.
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 every day," she recalled, sitting in her home on the Amstel River.
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.
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.
Anne's mother Edith died in Auschwitz on Jan. 6, 1945, but her father Otto survived.
"It's a wonder I haven't abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical," Anne wrote in her diary.
"Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart."