I came across A Small Light on Disney+ and I just felt like I needed to watch it. The series opens saying “This story is inspired by actual events. Certain incidents, locations and characters have been created or altered for dramatic purpose.” I am using a cover image I have found through google (Fair use under the copyright act sections 29 and 30 under use for a review).
Miep Gies was a very real person and was one of the people who helped people hide in the annex. Miep and her colleague Bep Voskuijl, retrieved Anne Frank's diary after the family was arrested, and kept the papers safe until Otto Frank returned from Auschwitz in June 1945. Miep kept Anne Frank's papers safe in the hopes of returning them to her, but gave them to Otto Frank, who compiled them into a diary that was first published in June 1947.
Telling the story of Anne Frank with Anne as a minor character was a brave creative decision and I think it worked. I have read Anne’s dairy and I knew her story there is something about seeing the story from this point of view that makes it hit harder. With Anne’s diary it is easy to push the harsh reality to the side as you can’t physically see it and I had the luxury of being able to shut the book. With this series the danger is at the forefront and the series humanises the situation you can see the danger the families are in you can see the danger and the risks that the people hiding them took.
The first episode is heart breaking the confidence when Miep said Hitler wouldn’t go to the Netherlands only to be humbled in the next scene seeing troops marching in the street was like a bowling ball the chest. Then in the next scene seeing swastikas and the next Otto is wearing the star. My heart shattered yes, I know the history and I knew it was going to be hard hitting but this series showed the danger of how quickly thinking “its wont happen” can be.
I have read Anne’s diary I knew what I was getting into but seeing how the first episode shows us the humanity behind the atrocities of history just hits differently. The ending of the first episode fills you with hope as Miep agrees to help Otto and my heart. The moments of hope and brief triumph allow us as the watcher even if it’s just a millisecond believe that the ending might be different.
The swastika is its own character in this series its nowhere to be seeing during the first part of the first episode however it then slowly sneaks in and becomes and overpowering force. At times like it is leering over the people helping the families in the annex almost as if it is spying on them.
After watching a small light, I did my own research into Miep Gies and her husband, Jan Gies they were amazing people who did their best in one of the worst situations possible. Even when the families were discovered Miep tried to get them freed by going to the headquarters of the Sicherheitsdienst in Amsterdam, the intelligence arm of the SS. However, her efforts were unsuccessful. Jan never revealed much about his day-to-day activities in the Resistance. The only truth to what's shown in the series is that we know he was recruited at his job, and because he was a social worker, he had access to many of the apartments in Amsterdam.