BERLIN - It was hardly the first time that a play based on the Diary of Anne Frank was seen on a theatre stage, but it certainly was one of the most moving portrayals of the young Jewish girl who perished in the Holocaust. On a Frankfurt stage Monday the role of Anne Frank was played by 26-year-old Asli Bayram, a German beauty queen of Muslim origin.
Two years ago the Turkish-born Bayram made history when she became the first German beauty queen of Turkish descent. Born to Turkish parents ho immigrated to Germany, Bayram quickly learned all too quickly and all too well the bitter taste of racism and discrimination.
When Asli was 14, a neo-Nazi neighbor broke into the family’s apartment and shot Asli’s father, Ali, right in front of her. The neighbor also shot at Asli, severely injuring the young girl.
Bayram recovered from her injuries, becoming a rare immigrant success story in Germany. She went to study law and, later on, acting in Istanbul and Vienna. After winning the title of Miss Germany, she starred in three movies as well as a television series. A few months ago she began to take on theatre roles.
Her latest venture is a solo show based on the Diary of Anne Frank, which has already been staged in both Luxembourg and Prague. Monday the show came to Anne Frank’s home town of Frankfurt, Germany garnering rave reviews.
Asli reveals that she had first read the Diary of Anne Frank in high-school and that Anne’s story had already intrigued her back then. In preparation for her role as Anne, Bayram re-read Anne’s diary, visited the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, and studied the Holocaust and World War Two in depth.
She received a letter from Anne Frank’s cousin, Bernhard "Buddy" Elias, before the show Monday wishing her lots of luck in her performance. “I was very moved by his well-wishes,” said Asli.
Bayram’s own painful life experiences have taught her all too well how valuable the message of tolerance and love embedded in Anne Frank’s diary even in our day and age. “I want to prevent such horrible deeds and combat this radical, destructive ideology through my work as an actress,” she said.
Jewish leaders in Germany wholeheartedly endorsed Bayram’s efforts and her portrayal of Anne Frank. They regarded her play as a vital contribution to the fight against anti-Semitism which is so prominent among Muslim communities in Germany as well as throughout Europe.
Dieter Grauman, vice president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said that he intended to see Bayram’s play within the next few days.
“This is a wonderful woman who is making a very powerful public statement,” he said. “This play clearly shows that the Holocaust is both painful and relevant to us all.”