I am somewhat shocked to realise that it is now nearly seventeen years since a friend, for whom I have the greatest respect, asked me whether I would be in a play that he was directing. The Nomad Theatre was doing a series of plays and events to mark the fiftieth anniversary of VE Day.
I’ve never accepted a part without first reading it and deciding whether I can play it. So I drove over to see him, got a script, then went down the pub for a pint or two to read it. Within the first 10 pages I knew that this was something I couldn’t NOT do. It turned out to be one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, but I would have to think twice about doing it again, because it was also one of the most emotional.
The play was The Diary of Anne Frank.
Anne was one of the more renowned victims of the Holocaust and the Diary is a record of her years in hiding in Amsterdam. Make no mistake, she is not the glorious heroine sometimes portrayed. She was an ordinary girl in an extraordinary situation. She died in Bergen-Belsen in March 1945 at the age of just fifteen. It is the history she relates, the quality of her writing and her eventual fate which make her worthy of reading and remembering.
Our director did a masterful job in bringing Anne’s life in the secret annexe to the stage. The penultimate scene with Nazi-clad stagehands hammering with rifle butts on the auditorium doors is still powerful after all these years, while the final scene when Otto Frank returns to the secret annexe after the war and reads from Anne’s Diary can still reduce me to tears. We rarely got a round of applause at the end, but we didn’t really want one. An audience just sitting in silence and thinking can be just as rewarding.
We have a duty … … … to respect them for who and that they were.
The final night of the play was on the eve of Anne’s birthday. The director came on stage with a fully lit menorah and spoke a few words while we handed out sprigs of rosemary to the audience. He asked everyone to spend just a few moments the following day to remember Anne and what she represented – the millions who died as a direct result of intolerance and hatred.
Earlier this week the Huffington Post reported that Anne Frank had allegedly been baptized posthumously by a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (aka the Mormons). Story here – Clicky.
A former member of the church has released a page from a database owned by the Mormons showing an entry for Anne that states “completed” next to categories labelled “Baptism” and “Confirmation,” with the date of 18 February 2012 and the name of the Santo Domingo Dominican Republic Temple.
And apparently it’s not the first time they’ve done it. Mormons have submitted versions of her name at least a dozen times for proxy rites and carried out the ritual at least nine times from 1989 to 1999.
If this is true, and the church doesn’t deny it, then it is unspeakably outrageous. Anne was not a christian, much less an adherent of a sect with such a questionable origin. To try to induct her posthumously demonstrates a level of intolerance that would have the church screaming all the way to the Supreme Court were it to be practised on them.
We have a duty to remember those who suffered and died; to learn from their fate; to work so that it can never happen again, but, most of all, to respect them for who and what they were.