History takes center stage
November 16, 2018
Imagine living in a world with such great evil that children are pulled out of school and forced into hiding and sometimes transported to torturous concentration camps. This was the reality of countless innocent men, women, and children killed solely for their Jewish faith.
Mr. Emiel Lopes Dias, grandfather of Cathedral Catholic High School student Lauren Leonard ‘20, experienced these dark times of World War II. He lived in the small Netherlands town of Utrecht, located only 22 miles from Amsterdam where Anne Frank and her family went into hiding.
Mr. Dias, half-Jewish, was pulled out of his elementary school during the war while his Jewish father hid from Nazi forces for a year. When the Holocaust ended, Mr. Dias was 13. He continues to grieve the lost lives of his school friends, uncles, aunts, and cousins.
“I’m very proud of [Lauren] being in the Anne Frank play,” Mr. Dias, who is currently 86 years old, said. “I’m also very pleased that the school decided to do the story of Anne Frank. The Holocaust should never be forgotten.”
CCHS students, including Leonard, will honor the victims of the Holocaust through the inspiring production of The Diary of Anne Frank on Nov. 16 and 17 in the Claver Center.
“Anne’s story is one that should not only be read about, but also seen and understood visually,” CCHS drama department co-producer Miss Kelle Webb said.
Frank, played by Amelia Devins ‘20, was born on June 12,1929 in the German city of Frankfurt and fled to the Netherlands with her family as Adolf Hitler rose to power in Germany and threatened their lives. Anne and her family hid from Nazi forces in a secret annex in Amsterdam for more than two years, where she wrote down details of her experiences, thoughts, and feelings in her diary.
The Diary of Anne Frank is the most widely read firsthand account of the Holocaust, according to biography.com.
The cast of The Diary of Anne Frank visited the Anne Frank Exhibit at the Museum of Tolerance located in Los Angeles in October to learn more about the Holocaust, gaining awareness of the emotions behind the events they would be performing.
“We all hear about the atrocities of the Holocaust in school, but it’s easy to become removed from such evils, making it feel unreal or impossible in our world today,” Miss Webb said. “The Museum of Tolerance allowed us the opportunity to make more personal ties to the victims.”
At the beginning of the museum tour, each student received the name of a Jewish child and followed that child’s Holocaust experience. At the end of the day, students were given the harsh news of the children’s outcomes.
“This made it all very real,” CCHS drama teacher and director Miss Katie Wilson said. “It is one thing to know these people lived, but each of us having a story which we were personally attached to for the day was very powerful and emotional.
“The ride home was very quiet.”
Leonard was particularly touched by the visit due to her strong familial connections to the Holocaust. Leonard’s great, great grandfather died at a concentration camp, along with 150 other of her family members.
“The whole background [of the Holocaust] and Anne Frank’s story means a lot to me and my family,” Leonard said.
Miss Wilson believes that the emotions stirred up during the cast trip not only put a very real face to the Holocaust for the students, but will also improve the overall production.
“Our trip and all the time we spent researching the history helped the dedicated and passionate cast to focus,” Miss Wilson said. “It’s a different kind of experience than just wanting to put on an excellent show that looks good and sounds good. That care that’s been given is unique and special.”
Miss Frank’s touching story, filled with messages of strength and hope, not only inspires the cast, but continuously inspires people of all ages around the world.
“Our amazing young cast has been able to represent what Anne’s story is about: love, family, religious freedoms, and being true to one’s self,” Miss Webb said.
The insight and optimistic understanding of life Anne possessed at the age of 15 has reached people in over 60 countries with over 30 million copies sold.
“At her age, [Anne] made a difference and left an imprint that is eternal, and that will go on for generations after her,” Miss Wilson said. “People will know her courage forever.”
The Diary of Anne Frank inspires many, especially the youth, to strive to leave a positive imprint in the world.
“There is a power and a delicate beauty in being young, and it’s important for every generation to see that no matter the time or place, you can make a difference,” Miss Webb said. “Anne dared to believe the world could be a better place.”
Miss Webb stresses the importance of not only remembering the strength of innocent Holocaust victims, but also learning from this horrific history.
“It’s important to remember the lives that were lost, for every generation to come,” Miss Webb said. “We, as a community, must always acknowledge the misery that comes with religious intolerance, so we may never allow ourselves and others to slip into similar states of prejudice.”
Keeping the memory of the Holocaust alive ensures that the world will never forget the evil of World War II, and that it will continuously honor the tremendous strength of the survivors, such as Mr. Dias’s.
“[Mr. Dias] inspires me a lot because he has been through so much more than the average person, and I must remember to deal with life and to be strong,” Leonard said.