Holocaust

DR.MANFRED GERSTENFELD INTERVIEWS JESSICA DURLACHER: NEW PLAY BASED UPON ANNE FRANK’S DIARY…….

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. (George Santayana)

When asked whether people in the Netherlands are willing to connect between the current anti-Semitism and Anne Frank’s story, Durlacher answers, “To connect between the two is considered taboo. It is seen as very strange to ask if such a connection exists. If you ask people outright, they find it even a little frightening. They say “isn’t that rather exaggerated,” or negate the possibility with a direct ‘Oh no, not at all!’ The media also find this subject very unattractive.”

jessica durlacher

A New Play Based on Anne Frank’s Diary

Manfred Gerstenfeld interviews Jessica Durlacher

Dr.Manfred Gerstenfeld“In summer 2012 the Anne Frank foundation in Switzerland approached my husband Leon de Winter and myself. They asked if we would be interested in writing a new play based on the diary of Anne Frank.”

Jessica Durlacher and Leon de Winter are two well-known Dutch novelists. Both have published much about Jewish and Holocaust oriented subjects. Each has won many awards.

Durlacher says, “In 1955 the first play based on Anne’s diary made its debut. That play was written by another writing couple, Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett. It was based on the diary adapted by Anne’s father Otto, the sole survivor of those arrested in the Annex. The text of the original diary only became public at the end of the 1990s. In the meantime much additional material also became available about Anne and her diary.

“It is not easy to write a play together with another author. I did the research, read as much as possible, and tried to create an image of Anne for myself which emerged from everything I read. Afterwards it was a matter of choosing — looking for passages that were usable and those where something meaningful happened which could help us understand who Anne was. With that in mind, we were able to create a viable play from the endless dullness and fear which characterized her lengthy confinement in hiding.

“The dialogue determines the strength of a play. The questions were: What could be the high points and what would be the main conflicts? Where are the dramatic moments? How do we approach them? What form do we give them? I then wrote the first version, Leon wrote the second one, and so on.

“Our vision and version differ from the original American play in a number of ways. We placed much emphasis on the context of Anne’s stay in the Annex. We were not afraid to introduce certain events which happened before and afterwards. In Goodrich and Hackett’s approach, almost everything was concentrated on events occurring inside the Annex. In addition, our assignment was to write a true version of the events. The 1955 play included elements which were fictitious.

“In order to bring the tragedy of that fearful time in the Annex into perspective, we have included Anne Frank’s dreams and hopes for her life once the war was over. She wanted to go and study in Paris, become a writer, and be happy. Our play turns on the devastating loss of these dreams and hopes. The diary’s heaviest burden is ultimately more in what is not said and not written.

“We thought it was right to show some of the appalling events occurring after the German security service, the Sicherheitsdienst, entered the Annex. The original play fought shy of portraying these events, and ended with a knock on the door. Such abstraction was enough at that time. Today, however, there is a lot of ignorance about what went on during the Holocaust and in the camps. Our play gives the public a clearer picture of the enormous impact of the arrest and the horror of the events which followed.

“We show the arrest of the Jews in hiding. The Austrian head of the Sicherheitsdienst, Silberbauer, enters the Annex. All inhabitants are forced to hand him their valuables. He takes Otto Frank’s briefcase, in which Anne kept the pages of her diary, and throws these onto the floor. He then stuffs the briefcase with silverware. Thus we see that he is throwing away the only truly valuable thing in the Annex, Anne’s diary. Miep Gies, one of the people who helped to hide the Frank family and others, picks up the pages later on and keeps them safe until the end of the war. She also tries to save the Franks but her efforts are in vain.

“Our play does not tell a purely Jewish story, but it also has not become a universal one about a jail-like condition. Anne’s situation, sorrow and pain are unique and belong to a scandalous period in history. These were people who were excluded for being Jewish and thus condemned to an almost certain death. Only Otto would survive the war.

“At one point in the play, Anne cries because she feels that as a Jewish girl, she is damned. Many other groups were oppressed during the war, but the persecution of the Jews was by far the worst. We have emphasized this specific situation, but have not given much attention to Jewish religion.

“The play lasts three hours including a half hour interval. Anne debuted on May 8, 2014 in Theater Amsterdam and will run until June 2016. The producer Robin de Levita built this theater especially for our play. By the end of 2015, 300,000 attendees had already seen Anne. The play is now going on tour internationally, and in the near future will also be shown in Tel Aviv.”

When asked whether people in the Netherlands are willing to connect between the current anti-Semitism and Anne Frank’s story, Durlacher answers, “To connect between the two is considered taboo. It is seen as very strange to ask if such a connection exists. If you ask people outright, they find it even a little frightening. They say “isn’t that rather exaggerated,” or negate the possibility with a direct ‘Oh no, not at all!’ The media also find this subject very unattractive.”

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