Anne Frank’s diary brought to life for Dayton students |

Anne Frank’s diary brought to life for Dayton students

by Maggie O'Neill
Appeal Staff Writer
BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal Susanne Burney plays the character Sarah Weiss, a fictional friend of Anne Frank's compiled from the lives of several real people, during a performance for students at Dayton Intermediate School on Monday morning.

A presentation about the Nazi persecution suffered by Anne Frank so disgusted 13-year-old Taylor Knight that he’s decided to read “Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl” to find out more.

“I certainly hope nothing like (the Holocaust) would happen today,” said Taylor after the hour-long presentation on Monday. “It’s very… I don’t know what to say. I don’t know how this happened. It’s horrible.”

Susan Burney, of “Living Voices,” a nonprofit agency based in Seattle that uses role-playing to enliven history, brought the Frank Family’s plight before students at Dayton Intermediate School.

“I think this is an eye-opening experience, to take things students may have heard of in pieces and to see a live person act it out for them,” she said. “It brings it to life.”

In addition to role-playing a character named Sarah Weiss, a fictional friend of Anne Frank’s compiled from the lives of several real people, she also talked in depth about Frank’s life.

The Frank family moved to Amsterdam in 1933 just four years after her birth in Germany. Nearly 10 years later, the family went into hiding when a letter demanded that Margo, Frank’s older sister, show up for labor camp. It was a typical Nazi requirement when Jewish children turned 16.

To protect Margo, the family of four hid behind a bookshelf for two years. Four others lived with them. Anne Frank kept an account in the diary her dad had given her when she turned 13.

“In 1944, her diary ends because that’s when the Nazis found them and took them to a concentration camp,” Burney said.

Frank and her sister died from typhoid fever in March 1945 in the Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp. Had they not been placed on a train weeks earlier from Auschwitz to Bergen-Belsen, they might have survived, Burney said.

Auschwitz was liberated within weeks of their leaving.

Only Frank’s dad, Otto, survived. He later published his daughter’s diary, which had been recovered from the family hiding spot by a friend.

“I think it would be scary to see your friends and family getting killed and stuff,” said 13-year-old Kaylin Harrison after the presentation.

According to Burney, Anne Frank’s diary was the second most read book in the world next to the Bible prior to the publication of the Harry Potter series.

Burney will appear today at Silver Stage High School in the Lyon County School District. She presented at both Virginia City middle and high schools last week. The is spending two weeks visiting a handful of Nevada schools, using grant money available through the Governor’s Committee on Education Relating to the Holocaust.

“It’s just amazing how all this happened and how Anne’s father survived,” Taylor said. “It was very powerful. I’m going to read the book now .”

• Contact reporter Maggie O’Neill at or 881-1219.