Sunday 25 June 2023 marks the 76th anniversary of the publication of Anne Frank’s diary. Recently, a moving link between the Progressive Players and the Little Theatre Gateshead with the story of Anne Frank was rediscovered by the theatre’s archivist, Judith Carruthers.
Whilst searching through the records, Judith’s attention was caught by a yellowing newspaper cutting in a 1960s scrapbook. The article revealed that Otto Frank, Anne’s father, personally wrote to us in 1963 to ask if we could donate a programme and photographs from our 1959 production of The Diary of Anne Frank to the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam.
The Anne Frank House is the museum where Anne and her family went into hiding in a secret annex in 1942. It was there that she wrote her famous diary, before being discovered by the Nazis and sent to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where she died in 1945. Otto Frank was the only survivor from the attic annex, and he made it his mission to never let his daughter’s remarkable story be forgotten. He first published her diaries on 25 June 1947 under the title Het Achterhuis, and spent the rest of his life raising awareness of the Holocaust and the dangers of discrimination and racism.
“It was a complete surprise to find this forgotten link to Anne’s story,” says Judith Carruthers. “When the Progressive Players first performed the play it would have been a daring choice so soon after the Second World War when memories were so raw, but clearly Otto recognised its value then. It was a particularly thrilling discovery in the year we have staged a play based on her diaries once again.”
In 2020 the Progressive Players had been all set to produce The Diary of Anne Frank (dramatised in 1955 by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett) as part of the society’s centenary celebrations. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic the play had to be postponed until March 2023, when it played to packed houses.
“I will be writing to the Anne Frank Museum again soon,” adds Judith, “to let them know about the latest production, along with some photos of the new production for their records.”
The full text of the newspaper article reads:
AMATEUR STAGE... By ONLOOKERGateshead players now have a link with Holland
The poignant story embodied in the play, “The Diary of Anne Frank” now has a more personal significance for the members of the Little Theatre, Gateshead. In 1959, they were among the first to perform the play in this country.
Now the group has received a letter from Otto Frank, asking for reviews of their presentation, a programme and any pictures.
“As her father I am collecting as many reactions to her diary as possible,” he explains. “They will be kept in the documentary department of the Anne Frank House, Amsterdam.”
The letter adds that the house in which the family, including Mr. Frank, hid from the Germans during the war has been preserved and the front part and house next door now form an international youth centre.
The secretary of the Players has sent Mr. Frank the programme and some photogtaphs for the collection.
The aim of the Anne Frank Foundation, incidentally, is to bring young people of all nations together. Free talks, group discussions, conferences, congresses, lectures and exhibitions are organised.
It was with the help of the Dutch Government and individuals all over the world that the house was preserved. Its significance is that youth continues to be the bearer of the hopes of humanity.