It's been nearly 70 years since Anne Frank was killed in a Nazi concentration camp. The director of a new German-made docudrama on her life, broadcast this week, tells DW what makes his film so unique.
Filmmaker Raymond Ley, 56, casts Anne Frank's family in a new light in his docudrama "Meine Tochter Anne Frank" (My Daughter Anne Frank). He not only focuses on the adolescent's final years hiding in an Amsterdam apartment, her hopes and fears, and her capture by the Nazis - but also on the fate of her father.
Otto Frank was the only family member to survive the Holocaust. After the war, he had Anne's diary published. The first edition was printed over 30 million times. Over the years, it has been translated into 70 languages and been the subject of numerous films. In Ley's docudrama, historical footage is mixed with eyewitness interviews.
DW: Mr Ley, you tell the story of Anne Frank from the perspective of her father, Otto Frank, who survived Auschwitz. Why?
Raymond Ley: I would have thought there would already be at least 52 television films and three series on the topic, but that wasn't the case. Maybe it has to do with the significance of the literature and the discussion about it as "girls' literature." But that's just a presumption. Telling the story through Otto was an idea that developed between me, the producer and the editorial department.
March marks the 70th anniversary of Anne Frank's death in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. So much has already been said: What don't we already know about her?
I think it's about showing the various perpetrator and traitor perspectives on this story. No film before has gotten together so many eyewitnesses and given them a voice. I had the feeling after we had finished the film that it's pretty unique. Our approach was to focus on the text - to portray Anne's growing up, her literary approaches, and her relationship to her mother in a contemporary way.
Your film doesn't just recount Anne Frank's diary, but shows the circumstances in which she lived and the era in which the book was written…
Yes, we show that too. But we cannot show Amsterdam in 1944. We can only imagine the pressure on those in hiding, the persecution, the betrayal in the surrounding streets that cost many people their lives. We tell the story in the form of a small play, in the form of the confrontations that those in hiding had among themselves in order to deal with each other. But always against the backdrop of Anne's great will to live. She viewed the situation as an interruption in her life and was always hopeful.
At the end, she says, "Maybe in September, when the war is over, we can go back to school."
We get to know Anne Frank, who is played by Mala Ende, as a happy teenager. Does depicting her as a normal girl downplay the significance of her story?
I think we wanted to emphasize loss - the loss of a girl. We wanted to bring viewers to the point that they consider her and find her special - that they are worried about Anne. We wanted, as you say, to take her out of the bigger picture of the Holocaust and portray her as a person.
You chose the genre of a docudrama and mix acted scenes with historical footage - for example, from the Nazi invasion of Holland. And you mix in interviews with eyewitnesses, including Anne's best friend. Why did you choose this collage-like approach?
A docudrama is always a kind of collage comprised of acted scenes and eyewitness situations. For the viewer that wants to experience a story puristically, it might take some getting used to - also to be confronted with authentic proof. But I think it's helpful to hear Anne's friend say, "That's how it really was."
If you say, I want to experience the full tragedy with emotional density, then the eyewitnesses allow for reflection. You step out of the story, see the person, and then step back into the story. I like that. And I hope that viewers will like it too.
In the film we see a Nazi SS officer who arrests Anne Frank and the others after they were betrayed. Did you have a clear image of the perpetrator - of the "typical" Nazi criminal?
Not at all. I knew that Karl Josef Silberbauer, who arrested Anne Frank and all the others in the house, went on trial. But I knew relatively little about this man. We came upon an interview with him by chance. A journalist named Huf conducted it in 1962 during the trial in Vienna. We had it translated from the Dutch and realized that is was a crystal clear encounter that shows how the perpetrators saw their victims after National Socialism had come to an end.
The docudrama genre made it possible to jump ahead a few years and take a look at those who had been involved in the arrest.
"Meine Tochter Anne Frank" (My daughter Anne Frank) premiered on Wednesday, February 18 on German public broadcaster ARD