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I recently finished watching an excellent miniseries called A Small Light on the National Geographic Channel.
This biographical drama gives us a different viewpoint of the story of Anne Frank and her family, and it was produced through a collaboration between National Geographic and Disney.
Many of us read The Diary of Anne Frank in school, and are familiar with the story of Anne Frank and her family, who along with other Jewish friends hid from the Nazis for two years in a secret annex above Mr. Frank’s business, Opekta, in Amsterdam.
A Small Light is the story of Miep Gies, who was Otto Frank’s secretary and the one who helped the Frank family hide, with assistance from her husband and coworkers.
I knew of Miep Gies but didn’t really know her story. This miniseries tells us the story of her life and the lengths she went to to keep the Frank family and the others safe and fed while in they were in hiding from the Nazis.
It was so interesting to see such a familiar story told from a different angle. Miep is a truly heroic and remarkable person. She is played in the miniseries by the British actress Bel Powley, who has huge round blue eyes and a face that looks like it’s from another era. She’s definitely made for period pieces.
Her husband is played by the British actor Joe Cole. His character Jan Gies is a social worker who helps Miep with the needs of the Franks, in addition to his own secret work in the Dutch resistance.
One of my favorites is Liev Schreiber, who plays Otto Frank. He is one of my favorite actors because similar to Meryl Streep, he completely BECOMES the character he is playing, and you forget you are watching him play a character. You feel like you are actually watching the person he is portraying.
He is quiet and strong in this miniseries, fiercely determined to protect his family from the Nazis. His relationship with Miep is endearing to watch as they learn to trust each other and work together.
To be honest, I found the character of Anne Frank insufferable in this miniseries. And I’m really glad about that because I think that might be more realistic.
Because of the tragic circumstances of her death, I think sometimes Anne Frank is nearly elevated to sainthood, and when you think about it, she was a 14-year-old girl cooped up in small living quarters with her family.
Would you want to be cooped up for two years with a 14-year-old moody teenager? I know I wouldn’t. 🙂
There is one scene where Miep is telling Otto Frank that Anne and Mrs. Frank are fighting too much and too loudly and someone might hear them. He tells her it’s normal for them to fight and under normal circumstances, family members can retreat from one another when they aren’t getting along. But this was impossible in their situation. He said it was the one thing he forgot to plan for.
This series does an excellent job of showing us what life was like for Miep, her husband, and her coworkers, their extraordinary trust in one another, and the dangerous chances they took to help people hide from the Nazis. In addition to the Franks, Miep helps hide her Jewish dentist and some children who are given to them by a sympathetic Nazi officer who has arrested the children’s parents.
It is stressful to watch, as the show does a fantastic job of showing the close calls everyone encounters while trying to avoid being discovered by the Nazis or someone who might turn them in.
I think it is very timely to air a show like this, as antisemitic incidents are sadly on the rise. Reports show that last year alone there were 3,600 antisemitic incidents, which is a 36% increase from 2021 and the highest number since data has been collected beginning in 1979.
Additionally, the Anti-Defamation League has reported that antisemitic prejudice has DOUBLED in America since 2019. A year-long study showed that 85% of Americans believe at least one anti-Jewish stereotype.
Perhaps most alarming is an article from NBC News that I read last week that indicated that in a survey among millennials and Gen Z, 1 in 10 respondents had never heard the word Holocaust before.
63% of those surveyed were not aware that 6 million Jews were murdered during the Holocaust and nearly half of the respondents in the U.S. could not name a single concentration camp.
I had always thought the Jewish community has done an excellent job of keeping the Holocaust relevant to subsequent generations by their refusal to have concentration camps destroyed. They have forced us to look at and face what happened.
I have visited a couple of concentration camps, and it is a harrowing experience, as it should be. A visit to a Holocaust museum is equally as difficult.
By keeping what happened during the Holocaust at the forefront, the hope is that such a horrible act will never be repeated.
So I found these recent reports about younger generations and their lack of knowledge about the Holocaust very alarming.
I’m glad to see a miniseries like this being shown on Disney+ and Hulu, which are platforms very familiar to younger generations.
I learned so much from watching A Small Light. There were so many brave people who did what they could to try to fight the horrible atrocity the Nazis were determined to accomplish. I think we sometimes forget that Jews were not the only target of the Nazis. They also hunted down homosexuals, gypsies, and other groups they found “unacceptable.”
(If you are interested in learning more about the many groups of people who were victims of the Holocaust, I encourage you to watch a movie called Paper Clips. You’ll never be the same.)
A Small Light shows the efforts of so many people who tried to do the right thing, from Miep and her husband and coworkers to college students, nurses, the gay community and even an occasional Nazi officer who knew what was happening was wrong.
One of the things that makes the story of the Frank family so tragic is that they were SO close to pulling this off before they were found out and transported to concentration camps.
Miep often wondered if her life had a purpose because she had failed to save everyone she had been hiding. Oscar Schindler in Schindler’s List also wondered if he could have done more.
I remember being struck at the end of that movie by the number of descendants of the people he had saved. I think he had a far greater impact than he ever knew. I feel the same way about Miep.
I was so glad to learn that Miep lived to be 100 years old before passing away in 2010. I firmly believe that heroic people should be granted a long life and this isn’t always the case. I was glad to learn that Miep lived so long. The world needs more light, not less.
The title of the miniseries comes from a quote Miep would often tell young students that she spoke to over the years about her experiences:
” I don’t like being called a hero because no one should ever think you have to be special to help others. Even an ordinary secretary or a housewife or a teenager can turn on a small light in a dark room.”
She definitely did that.
The world is more divided than ever and seemingly so full of hate. I think it is important for us to know how that can end.
A Small Light is an excellent depiction of how important it is to be a force for good in the world.
I hope you’ll watch it. I’d love to know what you think after you do.