Last Thursday, I had a date with my oldest son. Marty asked me to go with him to see a drama production at Cary High School. They were putting on a production of And Then They Came for Me: Remembering the World of Anne Frank. Honestly, going in, I was a bit skeptical as to how good of a job a bunch of high school students could do with this weighty a subject. I was floored by the production. I honestly don’t know if a professional troop could have done a better job. The scene and the mood was set from the moment we stepped through the doors. There was a string quartet (I think) playing the most haunting music in the lobby and there were posters featuring articles and stories about the Holocaust for you to look at before the play started. From the moment the lights dimmed until the last actor exited the stage, not a word was uttered by the audience. The audience seemed to be holding it’s collective breath in stunned silence due to the power of the story. These young people truly immersed themselves in the rolls they were asked to play and you could believe every emotion they conveyed. In fact, the young man playing one of the SS guards had a quote in the playbill that made me want to cry for him. I’m paraphrasing because I don’t have the playbill in front of me but he said that when they were blocking the play, he came up with some of the stage direction for his character. He, with the blessing of the director, added certain stage directions because he felt it would portray the character more effectively and that he was deeply ashamed of the things he had done in the name of the character. It felt (to me) like he was afraid to say he was just doing it for the roll because it echoed too closely to the Nazis refrain of “I was just following orders.” I wish I could tell this young man that he did nothing to be ashamed of because, without his powerful portrayal, the play would have been seriously lacking something in its message. I’d also like to say that while I think all the actors and actresses did a truly amazing job, I have to applaud the courage of the young man and young women who stepped into the rolls of the Nazis. It couldn’t have been easy to agree to portray such an epitome of evil but, a story this powerful needs to have the evil that dominated that time shown because, without it, the story won’t carry the same weight.
If you ever get a chance, please, please go see this show. And Then They Came for Me: Remembering the World of Anne Frank reminds you of the very human face that should be remembered when talking about the Holocaust. It reminds you that this was something that really happened not just something in the history books. And, in reminding you of that, it breaks your heart more than just a little. But, the heartbreak is good because when we remember history, especially tragic, devastating history, we are less likely to repeat it.