A new BBC adaptation portrays Anne Frank in an unfamiliar light





For her 13th birthday, on June 12, 1942, Anne Frank, a German-born Jewish girl living in Amsterdam, received a gift from her parents. It was a diary, with a red gingham cover. In one of her first entries, on June 20, she wrote: "It seems to me that later on neither I nor anyone else will be interested in the musings of a 13-year-old schoolgirl."

Rarely can a writer's prediction have been so far off the mark. The Diary of Anne Frank, first published in 1947, has become the best-selling book in the world after the Bible. It is perhaps the most celebrated book of the 20th century. Written with wit and insight, the diary presents the best-known life story of all the six million people who lost their lives during the Holocaust. And it is this story that BBC1 has decided to dramatise in a riveting new five-part serial, adapted by novelist Deborah Moggach, that starts on Monday.

The details of Anne's extraordinary life bear repetition. Just a few weeks after her birthday in 1942, Anne (played in the serial by 18-year-old Ellie Kendrick) and her family – parents Otto (Iain Glen) and Edith (Tamsin Greig), and 16-year-old sister Margot (Felicity Jones) – were forced into hiding after Margot received official papers from the Nazis ordering her to a work camp. The Frank family fled that night to a cramped secret annexe above Otto's spice warehouse and invited a handful of Jewish friends, including a 16-year-old boy called Peter, to join them.

For the next two years, Anne chronicled every aspect of her life, from her intense feelings for Peter to the fact that they were not allowed to use the lavatory during working hours for fear of alerting the oblivious warehousemen to their presence.

On August 4, 1944, the family was betrayed by an unnamed informer. Anne was transported on the last train to Auschwitz and then on to Bergen-Belsen, where she died of typhus in March 1945, just a few weeks before the Allies liberated the death camp.

Buddy Elias, Anne Frank's first cousin, is her only surviving relative to this day. In the diary, she fantasises about escaping to see him in Switzerland. When he visits the east London studio of the new series to share his memories of Anne, whom he last saw in the Swiss Alps in 1938, the energetic 83-year-old describes a defiant, spirited character who really comes alive on screen. "Anne was a very lovable girl, wild, sweet and playful," he says. "We were very close as children. Of course, it makes me sad to think of her, but I'm very proud of her, too. It was always her dream to be a published writer. Every day I say to myself, 'Oh Anne, if you had only known what became of your dream!' It would have made her the happiest girl in the world!"

There have been several previous attempts to translate The Diary of Anne Frank to the screen, including George Stevens' memorable 1959 movie, which scooped three Academy Awards. But for the new series, Moggach was determined to cast Frank's story in a new light. "We didn't want to make Anne saintly," she says. "She's quite stroppy, opinionated and very funny. Her diary speaks to us because she's such a classic teenager."

Moggach believes the time is ripe for a new TV adaptation of the diary. "It's now more timely than ever, not just because of rising anti-Semitism in eastern Europe, but because of growing prejudice throughout the world. Anne could be a young girl in Gaza or Iraq today. Of course, she'd be writing it as a blog now."..


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