30 January 2018



'I want to go on living, even after my death.'

'When I was outside, I used to take it all for granted. Since I've been here, I've been just crazy about Nature.'

'I believe that the world may be going through a phase. It'll pass, maybe not for hundreds of years but someday.'

'I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are really still good at heart.'

'Stop it, you're spoiling the whole invasion...!'

'For the last two years, we have lived in fear. Now we can live in hope.'

Saturday the twenty-seventh of January 2018 was Holocaust Memorial Day. Noting that good old BBC2 was going to be screening THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK (1959) and that it was a long one, two and three-quarter hours to be exact, I cleared my own schedule for the day (and the couch, the couch was a disgrace!) and settled down to watch it with one of the family hamsters. The one who likes history, obviously, lol.

It's a wonderful, multi-award-winning film and we're all probably more familiar with the story than we even know, having heard it many times in school and elsewhere. The story begins in the summer of 1942 when the Jewish Frank family actually move into the Annexe that was to become their home for two long, terror-filled years.

They'd finally decided to go into hiding when Margot, the eldest Frank daughter, received her call-up papers for a 'labour camp' run by Nazis. As that would probably have been the last they'd seen of her and the family wanted to stay together, they bit the bullet, dressed themselves in layers and layers of their clothes and moved secretly into their Annexe.

Germany and many other European countries at that time were under Nazi rule and allowing Hitler's men to herd their Jews into cattle trains and send them to concentration camps like Auschwitz, Majdanek, Treblinka, Sobibor, Dachau and Bergen-Belsen, where Anne and her sister Margot eventually perished. If that's a spoiler, well, I'm sorry but where you been at for the last three-quarters of a century...?

Haha. Anyway, the Frank family were not alone in their occupation of the little rooms hidden behind an upstairs bookcase in Otto Frank's former offices in Amsterdam. They were joined by the three members of the Van Daan (or Van Pels) family and a single man, dentist Mr. Dussell (or Pfeffer). Their food and other necessities were brought into them by two employees of the offices, Miep Gies and (in the film) a Mr. Kraler.

Anne was only thirteen when she moved into the Secret Annexe or Achterhuis. With ambitions to become a famous writer (don't we all?), she scribbled her thoughts and emotions and daily activities down in the famous diary, a lovely red-and-white-checked autograph book she'd received as a thirteenth birthday present from her beloved father Otto.

We know from the diary and the film that she worshipped her Dad but had a strained and stormy relationship with her mother. Warring with one's mother in one's teenage years is
about par for the course for a girl, lol.

Been there, done that, bought the T-shirt and worn it till it literally fell to shreds. Anne was no different, which is kind of a nice thought. Teenage girls are teenage girls the world over and it doesn't even matter what century it is.

Anne develops a close relationship in the Annexe with Peter Van Daan, a handsome young teenaged heart-throb whom Margot, Anne's sister, also kind of fancied. But Anne, the younger of the two sisters, is not lacking in confidence and she gets in there first. Well, you snooze, you lose, as I've found to my detriment on a number of occasions. I'm more of a wilting wallflower myself, unwilling to push myself forward, tee-hee-hee. See the way I just giggled like a schoolgirl there, tee-hee-hee...!

Anne pushes herself forward a fair bit and she's got the gift of the gab all right, to the point that she's known as 'Miss Quack-Quack' for her endless chatter-boxery, so there was no way that Peter wasn't gonna notice her once Anne got the bit between her teeth...!

Food was short in the Annexe and, given that it had to be brought in from the outside in total secrecy, it's probably a miracle that Miep was able to keep doing it for two long years. The occupants had to be as quiet as mice as well during the day, so that the office workers down below didn't suss that there were peeps overhead who weren't meant to be there.

There are some heart-stopping moments in the film where sudden, unexpected noises from down below make the hideaways fear that the worst has happened and that jackbooted Nazis are breaking down the door to the Annexe and will swarm the stairs at any moment.

There are several breath-holding false alarms before the worst happens. The inmates of the Annexe even remark occasionally that they'd welcome an end to the hiding because the waiting is so fraught with tension. You can kind of see what they mean. Waiting so long for something so fearful, you'd kind of just want to get it bloody well over with, wouldn't you?

Squabbles are inevitable and happen frequently, to the point where dear old Otto Frank remarks sadly: 'We don't need the Nazis to destroy us, we're destroying ourselves!' Being enclosed in such a small space for so long with family and/or strangers would be hard for anyone, especially when you can't even go outside to get a breath of fresh air before coming home again, refreshed and ready to get on with folks once more. Familiarity breeds contempt, isn't that what they say?

Although Millie Perkins does a really good (if annoying!) job of playing Anne, Shelley Winters is also especially good as the petulant Mrs. Van Daan. She comes across as a bit superficial and silly at times, worrying about her luxuriant fur coat when the world as they know it is coming to an end outside the annexe, but what's wrong with that? People will always trouble themselves with petty concerns, even in times like those. If petty things bring familiarity or comfort, then what harm is there in it?

Every single occupant of the Secret Annexe, barring Otto Frank who lived until 1980, died in different concentration camps. The wonderful Miep Gies kept Anne's diary safe and Otto, having read it after the war was over, was the one responsible for getting it published.

I think it's sold as many copies at this stage as the Bible or those bloody Harry Potter books. It's gas, isn't it, that the Bible should have been outsold by a book about a teenage boy wizard. What the Bible clearly needs is a series of well-marketed sequels, haha. Along the lines of FIFTY SHADES OF GREY, maybe. Better bless myself now for blaspheming. I might be lapsed but I'm still hanging onto my membership card as a Catholic, just in case I need it for the Afterlife...!

I always break down crying at the end of the film when the Nazis are breaking down the door and poor old Otto Frank, a gentle, peace-loving man, goes around quietly collecting everyones' backpacks for the next stage of their terrible journey.

When he tries to put a good spin on things by saying: 'For the last two years, we have lived in fear. Now we can live in hope,' it's just too, too sad. It's perfect viewing, anyway, for Holocaust Memorial Day. If you were watching it too, I hope you remembered the tissues...!


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


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