How the Anne Frank story captured China

By Erica Lyons, June 2, 2011
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‘And Then They Came for Me’ being performed in China

‘And Then They Came for Me’ being performed in China

The chinese have become unlikely fans of the Anne Frank story: a London theatre company is to take its production of And Then They Came for Me: Remembering the World of Anne Frank on a second tour of the country this autumn, only months after its first, sell-out run.

The play received rave reviews during its April tour and, next time around, it may be staged at the Chinese parliament in Beijing.

The director, Nic Careem, believes that the play's success was down to the fact that "the story of the Holocaust resonates particularly well with the Chinese people who also suffered during the Second World War as a result of the 'kill all, burn all and loot all' policy of Imperial Japan. Countless Chinese civilians lost their lives through Japanese war crimes."

There is also a specifically Chinese connection to the story. While most of the world closed its doors to Jewish refugees during the Second World War, Shanghai became a safe haven, partly thanks to the efforts of Chinese diplomat Feng Shan Ho, who issued 1,200 visas.

Chinese suffered at the hands of Imperial Japan

Interest in the Holocaust in China has grown rapidly over the past four years. Mr Careem said that he got the idea to bring the production to China in 2007 after hearing that Hong Kong's Jewish community had asked the Anne Frank House to bring its international travelling exhibition to the city.

The exhibition was taken to the National Library in Beijing as well as several other locations around China in 2008. It will be shown in Guangzhou and Hainan in 2011.

Other inroads into Holocaust education in China have included the participation of Chinese educators in an intensive two-week seminar at Yad Vashem, as well as intensive academic seminars in China, co-ordinated by the Jewish Cultural Centre in London.

And Then They Came for Me is now on a world tour, and is due to reach New York in time for the Clinton Global Initiative Conference in September this year.

Mr Careem said: "This is an important story to share with all of the world, not just China. The Holocaust was the greatest act of evil in human history. Unfortunately, many young people do not know what happened in the last century, how hatred and prejudice prevailed and prevented people from resisting evil. Through knowledge of what happened, we are trying to prevent a repetition of such horrors."

It is the universality of this production's portrayal of the human spirit and its ability to survive that transcends language barriers.

Last updated: 2:26pm, June 2 2011