Lest We Forget - And Then They Came for Me

And Then They Came For Me: Remembering the World of Anne Frank

This is not a drama that you will ever say you enjoyed. It is, however, one you are never likely to forget and one which calls for a packet of tissues to mop up the tears. By award winning playwright James Still, the production draws on the video testimony of two holocaust survivors. One, Eva Schloss, born Eva Geiringer, is there in person to answer questions from the audience after the play and to make you feel privileged to have been in her company.

The teenage friend of Anne Frank, Eva, with her mother, lived through the horrors of being betrayed and subsequently discovered in their Dutch hideout as they sat down to breakfast on the morning of her 15th birthday in May 1944, tortured by the Nazis and being transported to Auschwitz. Later she was to become Anne’s posthumous step-sister when her mother, Elfriede, married Anne’s father, Otto.

Eva Schloss Interview
Get the Flash Player to see this player.

Tragically, like Anne, Eva’s father, Eric, whom she idolised and beloved older brother, Heinz, perished in the camps just days before they were liberated. “Heinz was very afraid of death when he was 12 and when he asked my father what would happen when he died, he told Heinz, I promise you this: that everything you do leaves something behind-nothing is lost,” Eva says.

It is clear that Eva still carries the memory of Heinz in her heart and she presents him as a precious gift to the audience. She is determined that Heinz is not lost and that the wonderful paintings and poetry he left , as a gifted boy determined to make some use of his time spent in hiding, are enjoyed and celebrated in the same manner as Anne’s diary.

In the dramatization, when the German guards abandon the remaining prisoners in the Auschwitz camp, Eva temporarily leaves her malnourished mother, runs and crawls from the women’s camp to the men’s camp, dodging bullets, in desperate search of her father and brother. They are dead and when the two women make their way home alone, the house is just as they left it, the pencil marks which charted Heinz and Eva’s growing years still on the wall. A poignant moment in the play .

The other survivor to feature in the video and to be depicted on stage is Ed Silverberg, Anne’s childhood sweetheart, who she fondly referred to as ‘ Hello‘. Now with snowy white hair and an American accent, he recalls Anne Frank’s liveliness, how at 16 he probably loved her and, with a grin, “she certainly believed I did.” We hear of his bewilderment at her family’s sudden disappearance, how when one day she failed to respond to his knock at the door, he had hoped they had “got away” but later learned she was on the last transportation to the death camps from her town. She was transported on the same day that the Allies had come to liberate his village, a day that he celebrated with bread, tea and dancing.

Ed’s own story is told, his terrifying flight as an unaccompanied 12-year-old to grandparents in Amsterdam and then how he ran again across the Belgian border to his parents as the Nazis closed in, later to hide with his family until liberation.

This new production is produced and directed by Nic Careem. Eva is convincingly played by the Young Vic’s Catherine Robev and Anne by Georgia Neville. When the pair meet at the dressmakers and sit discussing fashion and boys they could be every timeless teenage duo.
Eva’s brother Heinz and a depiction of Hitler youth is played by Oliver Plews. The young Ed Silverberg is brought to life by Andrew Goodard.
Mutti & Ed’s mother are played by Emma Fletcher and Ed’s father & Pappy by Daniel Landau.

I saw this play at the Millfield Theatre in Enfield, London, but it has travelled the world, been presented to countless school audiences, in theatres and even the House of Commons and rightly so.

Eva’s intention in presenting this poignant production and through the publication of her two autobiographical books, ‘Eva’s Story’ and ‘Promise’ is to instil in to us the notion that love and loved ones are all too easily lost through racial intolerance. Innocence is too easily lost . Lest we forget the lessons of the past , Eva urges her audience to cherish each other and appreciate the sacrifices made by so many so that our own brothers and fathers are not lost in the same barbaric way.

There is a great deal to depress but a great deal of courage and honesty. It should be required viewing for everyone who values their liberty because as Eva Scloss says, “We must keep the memory alive, even in years to come when there are no holocaust survivors left. We have to know that whenever terrible things happen we must not stand by and do nothing.

She is, she says, comfortable now with Germany and the younger generation of Germans. When she first returned to the country of her birth, however, “It was very hard. I would look at the older Germans and think, ‘What did you do?’ and know that many simply put their Nazi uniforms away and carried on their normal lives.”

Says Nic Careem of introducing the production to a “difficult”, mixed race school audience, who thought it amusing to offer the Nazi salute. “I pointed out that most of us would have been transported to the camps. Silenced, they watched the play and asked for Eva’s autograph to put on their bedroom walls. "

Abi Mowbray