Saints do not exist in Judaism, but if they did, Anne Frank would be an odds-on candidate for canonization.
Because of her surviving diary, the 14-year-old girl has become an icon of Holocaust martyrdom for millions of Jews and non-Jews alike. But as Monica Smith, Anne’s second cousin, told the electrified audience last month after a performance by Tom Dugan of his one-man show, “Wiesenthal” (about the celebrated Nazi hunter, Simon Wiesenthal), Anne was a person of flesh and blood — “a loveable character, full of fun and mischief.”
Smith, 91, attended the performance with her daughter, Nicole Smith-Brody, and teenage granddaughter, Sophie Smith-Brody. As Smith, who was born in Stuttgart, told The Jewish Week, she knew Anne, who was six years her junior, quite well. After fleeing to Holland on the Kindertransport, she visited Anne and her family — their mothers were first cousins — for a few days in Amsterdam after gaining a visa to leave for London, where her parents were living. (She left Amsterdam just a few days before the Nazis marched in.)
“Anne also visited me several times in the camp,” Smith, who now lives on the Upper East Side, recalled, referring to Burgerweeshuis, the rural orphanage where she and other Jewish children had been sent upon their arrival in Holland. “I was young and terrified and didn’t realize the horrifying nature of it all.”
Dugan performed “Wiesenthal,” which is directed by Jenny Sullivan, once at the 92nd Street Y in April of 2013. He then opened it last November on Theater Row, where it is still running ($69; Acorn Theater, telecharge.com). As he has appeared in the play in both Los Angeles and New York, the actor has been stunned by some of the people who have shown up in the audience, including a great-granddaughter of Adolf Eichmann and a Mossad agent who set up the cameras to track Eichmann’s return from work each day.
But meeting a relative of Anne Frank’s was especially meaningful, he said, given that much of the show focuses on Wiesenthal’s campaign to trace Karl Silberbauer, the Austrian policeman who arrested Anne and her family. “If Wiesenthal hadn’t made such an effort to identify and find Silberbauer,” he reflected, “we might not be talking about Anne today — her story might have gotten muddied as former SS officers told their children that the Holocaust was exaggerated.” Talking to Mrs. Smith, he said, gave him a new appreciation of the “girl with the ink-stained fingers who brought candy and chocolates for her cousins.”
Smith’s family joined her on stage for the talkback with the audience after the show. Seeing Smith’s granddaughter, Dugan reflected, was “pretty magical — I couldn’t help looking at Sophie with her dark hair and dark eyes and thinking of Anne.”