Is A Small Light based on a true story?

A Small Light is the affecting new drama series from National Geographic, which will be airing on Disney Plus from May 2.

The National Geographic show follows young Dutch couple Miep Gies (played by Bel Powley) and her husband Jan Gies (Joe Cole), who agree to hide Otto Frank (Liev Schreiber) and his family from the Nazis during World War II.

A Small Light consists of eight parts and will be airing weekly for viewers to catch on Disney+.

Many are likely to be wondering how much of the story is based in real-life and how much is fiction. spoke exclusively to writers Tony Phelan and Joan Rater and the show’s director Susanna Fogel about how the story came about.

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Is A Small Light based on a true story?

Yes, is the short answer – A Small Light is based on the real-life Miep and Jan Gies, who helped Anne Frank and her family.

In real-life Miep had indeed worked as a secretary for Otto, when he asked if she could help to hide them and essentially save their lives.

The Gies hid Otto, his wife Edith (Amira Casar), Anne (Billie Boullet), Margot (Ashley Brooke), the van Pels family and dentist Dr Fritz Pfeffer (Noah Taylor) between 1942 and 1944.

A total of eight people lived in the secret annex in Amsterdam for two years and during this time were completely reliant on the Gies and some of Otto’s former colleagues.

They were eventually discovered by the Nazis and taken away to death camps with only Otto surviving after he was sent to Auschwitz.

After returning to Amsterdam, he remained with the Gies and published his daughter Anne’s diaries.

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Reflecting on the story, co-creator Phelan said: “Well, I think we discovered Miep and Jan by just going to the Anne Frank Museum several years ago and reading how young she was when she first started working with Otto.

“And our son was there and he’s about the same age and we looked at him and he’s a wonderful, young man but totally incapable living his life.”

Fellow creator Rater said: “Then we thought Miep was him. Miep said ‘yes’ to Otto Frank but she had no idea what she was saying yes to.”

Rater went on to say: “You’re suddenly stealing IDs and lying to go to get food.

“You say ‘yes’ and you suddenly become a spy, you become a liar, you are somebody who can’t have friends anymore. You say, you do the right thing and your life becomes very complicated.”

Tony said there wasn’t a “line” for Miep and Jan with the couple constantly having to do whatever it took to protect their friends from the concentration camps and a certain death sentence if they were discovered.

Rater also addressed why they made the series now: “The world has become extreme as we’ve made the show, as we’ve written the show as we’ve pitched the show.”

Rater and director Fogel said after sharing a trailer for A Small Light on social media, they were met with a barrage of “raging” antisemitic comments from trolls.

Fogel said the story of A Small Light was for right for 2023 given the amount of virulent racism and antisemitism prevalent in the world today and said one didn’t have to look further than the social media post to see this.

Rater and Phelan developed the scripts during lockdown and were inspired by the Gies’ kindness and Anne’s steadfast hope for a better future despite her situation.

Rater said: “For me, to take a person like Miep and Jan and her continual hope and belief in the goodness of the world is a better alternative to the world is terrible and there’s nothing we can do it.

“So the idea of somebody who said ‘yes’ and just the idea of kindness to other people helping out somebody in need, those were themes that we all found nice to grapple with.”

A Small Light starts on Disney+ on May 2