Buddy Elias: Ice-skating comedian who later became the zealous guardian of the legacy of his cousin, Anne Frank

The son of Anne's aunt, Elias presided over the Basel-based Anne Frank Fonds. The foundation's support for charitable activities against discrimination, racism and anti-Semitism was as important to Elias as safeguarding Anne's writings

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The Independent Online

Bernhard "Buddy" Elias was the first cousin and last close relative of Anne Frank. The son of Anne's aunt, he presided over the Basel-based Anne Frank Fonds, which holds the rights to the diary she wrote as a teenager while in hiding with her family from the Nazis and which was published in 1947.

Elias was born in 1925 in Frankfurt, and moved to Basel six years later when his father took over the Swiss branch of a German company. Anne paid regular visits to her relatives before the Second World War broke out, and Elias said he played a Punch and Judy show with Anne in 1938, when he saw her for the last time. "She suggested I should put on that dress in grandmother's wardrobe and imitate her," he recalled. "She was very amused by this and laughed a lot."

Elias said that after the war he read Anne's diary with astonishment. So did her father, Otto, who survived the Holocaust. "He read it a few pages per day only," Elias said. "He was overwhelmed. He used to say, 'I didn't know my daughter until I read her diary.'"

Elias had a career as an actor and ice-skating comedian, and with the British show Holiday on Ice he toured the world between 1947 and 1961. Beginning in 1996 he presided over the Anne Frank Fonds, founded by Otto.

The foundation's support for charitable activities against discrimination, racism and anti-Semitism was as important to Elias as safeguarding Anne's writings and he was eager to prevent commercial exploitation – he once stopped a company from producing Anne Frank jeans, and refused to cede rights to the diary for a Spanish musical.

ELIANE ENGLER

Bernhard Elias, entertainer, and President, Anne Frank Fonds: born Frankfurt 1925; married (two sons); died Basel 16 March 2015.

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