By Robin Gericke, Contributing Writer
The cast of “The Diary of Anne Frank” opened with two successful performances last weekend as they told the story of Anne Frank, a Jewish girl whose family went into hiding during World War II. The story has touched generations, but the presence of one audience member in particular made opening night all the more meaningful.
Jeraldine Snapper Faber was born in Holland in 1929, the same year as Anne Frank. During the Nazi occupation of Holland, her father used his connections as Head of the Labor Board to help find hiding places for Jews. Among the people he helped was a family of seven, whose mother lived in the Snapper house disguised as a housekeeper.
His job also granted him access to local records, and he destroyed the records of Jewish workers so the Nazis wouldn’t find them. He also falsified the records of young Dutch men, making them appear younger, so that the Nazis would not force them to fight in their military.
In 2007, the Snapper family was honored by the state of Israel as “Righteous Among the Nations” – a title given to individuals or groups that had put themselves at risk to help protect Jews during the Holocaust.
After seeing the play Friday night, Faber came to tell the cast her story before Saturday night’s performance.
“I just wanted to thank all of you for your beautiful portrayal,” she told the cast. “I was so moved by the whole show, by every person.”
“To hear Mrs. Faber speak with such authenticity and openness was really something special to me,” said Jacob Jones, who plays Otto Frank. “It was so surreal being able to learn from her actual experiences and be able to apply some of that to my performance later on.”
Faber believes stories like Anne Frank are important so that we do not forget “the horrible things that Nazism has done.”
“I had the opportunity to go to Auschwitz when I was a freshman for an intercultural trip,” said junior Rebecca Frazer. “One of the hardest things about it is that it’s so dehumanizing. A play like this is good because it shows you the human aspect of it…these were real people with real emotions just like you and me. It’s really powerful.”
The production also influenced the actors. “I got to enter [Anne’s] world for a while and got to understand that she is a normal teenager and that she is one of many stories,” said Victoria Barnes, who plays Anne. “It was really humbling to be able to play her.”
Of meeting Ms. Faber, Barnes said, “It just made it so much more real, because it is a real story and it is something that can happen. It’s something that should be remembered.”
“To me, this show is the most important one that I have done,” says Jones. “I really hope what happened out there on stage was that we did justice to the Frank family, to the van Daan family and to Mr. Dussel, that we lifted them up, so to speak, that we treated it with respect and with integrity.”
“The Diary of Anne Frank” will show this weekend at the Greathouse Theatre. To purchase tickets, visit asbury.edu/theatre.