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New German Film Will Tell Anne Frank’s Life Story

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Anne Frank, who was arrested by armed German security police and Dutch Nazis in August 1944 and sent via Auschwitz to her death in Bergen-Belsen at the age of 15, is to be the subject of an upcoming German movie.

The film will be written by Fred Breinersdorfer, who previously wrote the screenplay for “Sophie Scholl: The Final Days.” The 2005 movie about the 21-year-old anti-Nazi resistance worker, who was executed in 1943 after being “tried” in Hitler’s People’s Court, won two Silver Bears at the Berlinale (for director Marc Rothemund and actress Julia Jentsch, who played Scholl) and was nominated for the Best Foreign-Language Film Oscar.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Breinersdorfer’s Anne Frank script will be drawn from archival material (as was “Sophie Scholl”) and extensive historical documentation provided by her family, as well as from the three extant volumes of her diaries. It will tell her whole life story rather than focus on the 25 months the aspiring journalist and her family spent in the “secret annexe” of a warehouse in a western quarter of Amsterdam.

The film is being co-produced by the German companies Spectrum and Zeitsprung Pictures in collaboration with the Anne Frank-Fonds, the foundation established by Otto Frank, Anne’s father, in Basel in 1963 to preserve her legacy and administer the rights to her diaries. Frank died at the age of 91 in 1980. His wife Edith died in Auschwitz in January 1945. Weakened by typhus, Anne’s 19-year-old sister Margot died after falling from a bunk in Bergen-Belsen on March 9, 1945, a few days before Anne succumbed to the same disease. The diary kept by Margot was never found.

The Internet Movie Database lists 31 film and television programmes in which Anne Frank has been portrayed – not all of which have been respectful. In 2009, a David Mamet film said to inspired by Anne that examined contemporary anti-Semitism in Israel, as witnessed by a Jewish girl exposed to suicide bombing when she visits the country, was rejected at the script stage by the Walt Disney Company. It was reportedly “too dark.”

Amid the cluster of Anne Frank films and television projects, the best-known is George Stevens’s 1959 movie “The Diary of Anne Frank,” adapted by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett from their Pulitzer-winning 1955 one-act play, in which Susan Strasberg portrayed Anne. (Natalie Portman played her in the 1997 revival).

The movie starred Millie Perkins as Anne, Joseph Schildkraut and Gusti Huber (repeating their stage roles) as Otto and Edith, Diane Baker as Margot, and Oscar-winner Shelley Winters as Petronella Van Daan – Anne’s pseudonym for Auguste van Pels, who hid with her husband, Hermann, and son, Peter, alongside the Franks in the annexe. Peter (played by Richard Beymer in the Stevens film) died at 18 in the Mauthausen concentration camp.

The other occupant of the annexe was the van Pels’ middle-aged dentist, Fritz Pfeffer (“Mr. Dussel” in the diaries), who roomed with Anne and, rigidly conservative, was derided in her writings. Otto Frank was the only one of the eight occupants to survive the Holocaust.

Stevens’s movie has been accused of sentimentalizing the affection between Anne and Peter, but by her account it was genuine enough. On May 19, 1944, she wrote in her typically illuminating and emotionally direct style: “All goes well with Peter and me. The poor boy seems to need a little love even more than I do. He blushes every evening when he gets his good-night kiss and simply begs for another. I wonder if I’m a good substitute for Moffi [the warehouse cat]? I don’t mind. He is so happy now that he knows that someone loves him.”

There is a special protectiveness in those words, which were written by the same self-aware 14-year-old who observed, “I feel that I am a woman, a woman who has both moral energy and courage” and who hoped “to go on living, even after my death.”

Below: film footage of Anne Frank (1929-1945)

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