“I keep my ideals, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.” It is a quote made famous by Anne Frank, still prevalent today more than ever. How fitting, then, that The Diary of Anne Frank is the latest in a series of fabulous Edinburgh events running at the Churchill Theatre from 31 May – 3 June.
Anne’s is a story we all should know. Born on the 12th June 1929, she and her Jewish family and friends hid in an annex in the heart of Amsterdam in the midst of World War II. Whilst her birthday is known and celebrated, the day she died isn’t. A victim of the Holocaust, her death was sometime around February or March 1945 making her fifteen years old.
But what a fifteen year old she was. During her time spent in a cramped, secret set of rooms, Anne occupied her mind by keeping a journal. She shared humorous thoughts, private ones; thoughts that showed the angst of not just any old teenager but one whose mind refused to be confined within four small walls. One whose thoughts were the antithesis of the cruel and crazy world she was subjected to.
I read Anne’s diary when I was fifteen myself. My mind couldn’t comprehend not only how intelligent and mature she was but how she had a truly good nature despite everything that had and was about to happen to her.
Between the years of 1942 to 1944, she religiously detailed her day and opinions to Kitty, her imaginary correspondent. Her final entry, on the 1st August – three days before she and her family were arrested, ends:
“Believe me, I’d like to listen, but it doesn’t work, because if I’m quiet and serious, everyone thinks I’m putting on a new act and I have to save myself with a joke, and then I’m not even talking about my own family, who assume I must be sick, stuff me with aspirins and sedatives, feel my neck and forehead to see if I have a temperature, ask about my bowel movements and berate me for being in a bad mood, until I just can’t keep it up anymore, because when everybody starts hovering over me, I get cross, then sad, and finally end up turning my heart inside out, the bad part on the outside and the good part on the inside, and keep trying to find a way to become what I’d like to be and what I could be if… if only there were no other people in the world.”
But in truth, there was no bad part to Anne. Not compared to the evil on the outside of her little Annex that she was about to face. On the morning of the 4th of August, the Annex was stormed and the community of eight was ripped apart and sent to its fate. Two of the males were sent to Amersfoort prison – one being released and the other being subjected to life in a work camp until the end of the war. The remaining six were interrogated, including the fifteen year old Anne.
Eventually she, her sister Margot and her mother Edith ended up in the horrific Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp. Forcibly separated from Otto, Anne’s Father, the women were made to strip to be disinfected, tattooed with a number like cattle and have their heads shaved. They were used as slave labour, clearing rocks and digging soil and at night had little respite as they were crammed together, cold and freezing. They also must have been aware of the fate that could meet them everyday, as lines of women and children were led to gas chambers.
Despite doing everything in her power to keep her mother and sister alive, disease and infection were rife. Starving and desperate, illness took hold of the Franks and all three perished; the cause of each death never 100% established. The date never 100% confirmed.
Anne would not have known it then, but her fate brought such goodness to a dark period of history. Her diary shone a light on the awful circumstance she and her family and friends were forced into. But it also shone a light on the human nature. Despite the evil that was so prevalent, in her tender age she wrote “… I cling to [my ideals] because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.”
It is important that society remembers both the beautiful and terrible history of the world, never more so than today.
The Diary of Anne Frank by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett is the latest of edinburgh events being performed by Edinburgh People’s Theatre at the end of the month at the Churchill Theatre, Edinburgh. Director Niloo-Far Khan, a current student of Edinburgh Napier University, is well-known to the Edinburgh events and theatre scene and has tackled a real challenge of a play. Beyond that, she has successfully secured the attendance of The Anne Frank Trust UK who are staging a free exhibition open to the public at 7pm during the week and 2pm prior to the Saturday matinée of the show.
The icing on the cake for the cast and crew was a beautiful note sent from Anne Frank’s step-sister, Eva Schloss, that reads:
Dear Niloo, I have heard that you are directing “The Diary of Anne Frank”. I am wishing you and the cast a very great performance, which I am sure you will direct! Best wishes, Eva Schloss (step-sister of Anne Frank).
The play is not a story of a diary. It is not the story of a girl. It is not the story of a war. It is the story of how good can overcome evil, whatever that evil may be and how we should all use Anne as a shining light to ensure the mistakes of the past are never repeated, no matter how close that might be.
The Diary of Anne Frank runs 31 May – 3 June 2017 at the Churchill Theatre. Tickets are £12.00 / £10.00 and are available here.
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