If the curves of Buddy Elias' 86-year-old face look familiar, it's because he is the closest surviving relative of the girl whose diary gave an early glimpse into the Holocaust.
It's not difficult to see that Elias is Anne Frank's first cousin. He has the same soulful eyes and smile in the photographs that accompanied Anne's famous diary, written while hiding from the Nazis.
He was as an expert skater on the ice rink -- even toured with Holiday on Ice after the war. When he was young, Anne spent carefree vacations with Elias's family in Switzerland. She pined for those days after the world turned dark for Jews in Europe.
She called him Bernd, short for Bernhard, Elias' formal name. She adored him.
And she wrote him letters. The entire Frank family was known for their prolific and detailed writing.
"Bernd, maybe we can skate as a pair together someday," she wrote in January 1941 from Amsterdam. "But I know I'll have to train very hard to be as good as you are."
In another letter, Anne outlined the steps to their skating routine and drew a picture of the blue, fur-trimmed dress she would wear when she finally skated with Elias.
"She never did get to do that," Elias says.
On his 17th birthday in June, 1942, she asked him how it was going with a girl he had met.
It was an ordinary letter that one keeps like any other. But it turned out to be her last to him and he preserved it like a relic, as proof of his cousin's affection, as something to treasure.
"That was the last sign of life I had with Anne," Elias says.
Sitting in an Atlanta hotel conference room, he points out some of Anne's letters, published recently in "Anne Frank's Family."
Written by German author Mirjam Pressler with the help of Elias' wife, Gerti, the book tells the story of the entire Frank family -- Buddy Elias' mother, Leni, was the sister of Otto Frank, Anne's father.
The Eliases are on a tour of the United States, reading from the book and telling an extraordinary tale of his family, much of which was not known, save Anne's diary, until an amazing discovery a decade ago.
The last sign of life
Herbstgasse 11. That is the house in Basel, Switzerland, that Buddy Elias calls home.
It brims with memories of an educated Jewish family who originally hailed from Frankfurt, Germany, where both Buddy and Anne were born.
Otto Frank landed a job in the Netherlands and Anne's family resettled there. Elias' father was employed by a German firm in Switzerland. Only later would Elias realize how lucky he was to have moved to a nation that remained neutral in World War II.
The Franks, like other Jews in Europe, knew bad things were coming, though no one could have imagined how bad.
In 1940, the Germans invaded the Netherlands. Anne Frank's family was trapped.
Shortly after Anne penned her letter to Elias about longing to skate with him, the rinks closed. "No Jews allowed," the signs said. It was the same in libraries, schools, cinemas and cafes.
"I have hardly any chance to get a tan because we're not allowed to go to the swimming pool, it's a shame but there's nothing we can do about it," Anne wrote.
Elias could read between the lines in Anne's letters. He could feel life closing in on her.
Then on July 4, 1942, a disturbing letter from Amsterdam arrived at Herbstgasse 11.
"Dear everyone," wrote Otto Frank. "We think of you all the time and know that you're thinking of us, but you can't change anything here and you have to take care that you make it through yourselves. With much love. O."