Mrs Koning was a prisoner at Bergen Belsen concentration camp and Leonard Berney was one of the first British officers to go through the gates and liberate the Jews inside. The daughter of Anne Frank’s classmate has finally had the chance to meet and thank the officer for saving her mother.
Major Leonard Berney was born in Plymouth, Devon but lives in Israel. Elizabeth Kahn traveled all the way to the south-eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea to see Mr Berney and offer him a gift, a silver platter paid by her and her family for his kindness and for his heroism.
Leonard, himself Jewish, served with the British 11th Armoured Division and was one of the first officers to enter the concentration camp on April 15, 1945. About 50,000 prisoners died at Bergen Belsen concentration camp, in northwest Germany, between 1941 and 1945. Anne Frank mentioned the 84-year-old Nanette Blitz Konig in her diary, as the two school girls saw each other while in the camp. When Leonard went inside the camp, she acted as his translator.
The 16-year-old girl urged Leonard to sent a letter home to London and inform her relatives that she was alive. He then helped her fly home safely. In 1949 he went to London to check on the girl and that was the last time they saw each other, the Mail Online reports.
Leonard retired in 1977, after working in the clothing industry and now he lives on a cruise ship in Israel. He was very happy to see Elizabeth and to remember the story between him and Mrs Blitz Konig. He did admit he couldn’t remember everything that happened then as he had to take care of so many prisoners. However, after seeing the letters he wrote to her, he realized he must have been quite keen on helping her. The man said he is very happy the lady survived and now has a lovely family. Mrs Blitz Konig moved to Sao Paolo, Brazil in 1953. She has 3 children, 6 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren.
‘I was very honoured and grateful to the family for giving me the silver plate. It was very touching,’ he said. The inscription on the plate reads: ‘Whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.’
Mrs Blitz Konig was the only one from her class of Jewish students who saw Anne Frank again inside the camp. The two girls were seeing each other through the barbed wire. She said she met Anne several times there and it was from her that she learnt what was going on with people at Auschwitz. Anne used to talk about her diary, saying she wanted to publish a book after the war.
‘I don’t know how we recognized each other as we were both skeletons,’ she said.