Dutch to rule on Anne Frank letters amid archival spat

The letters - together with about 10,000 photographs and other documents, but not famous diary - are at center of long-running dispute.

By REUTERS
June 24, 2013 19:31
3 minute read.
Anne Frank

Anne Frank 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Handout Old)

 
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AMSTERDAM - A Dutch court may rule this week whether some of the letters of Anne Frank, the Jewish girl whose posthumously published diary about her time in hiding from the Nazis made her a symbol of the Holocaust, should stay in Amsterdam or be sent to Switzerland.

The letters - together with about 10,000 photographs and other documents, but not the famous diary - are at the center of a long-running dispute between Anne Frank House, the Amsterdam museum dedicated to her memory, and Anne Frank Fonds, the Basel-based foundation set up by her father Otto.

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At issue is where that archive material should be kept and, more broadly, whether the story of Anne Frank is best told in the museum dedicated to her memory or as part of a broader historical context, for example by displaying some of the documents at the Jewish Museum in Frankfurt.

"We have a small museum so we can't display everything at once, but it's important for us because it gives us a chance to add more information to the history that we tell," said Teresien da Silva, head of collections at Anne Frank House in Amsterdam.

A spokeswoman for the court in Amsterdam said a judgment is now scheduled for Wednesday, although a decision has already been postponed a few times.

The Franks, originally from Germany, moved to Amsterdam before World War Two. When Germany invaded the Netherlands, they went into hiding in a secret annex behind the Prinsengracht canal house where Anne's father had his office.

For two years, Anne, her sister Margot, mother Edith, father Otto and four other Jews lived in the annex whose entrance was hidden behind a sliding bookcase. They were looked after by Otto's trusted employees but were eventually betrayed and sent to concentration camps. Only Otto survived.

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On returning to Amsterdam, he was given Anne's diary which he published, reaching millions of young readers worldwide.

Today, Anne Frank House is one of Amsterdam's top tourist attractions.

On any day of the week, there are hundreds of people queueing up to see where Anne hid, and the museum draws more than one million visitors a year, generating annual revenue of nearly 14 million euros ($18.39 million) which goes towards the upkeep of the house, travelling exhibitions and educational projects.

The Amsterdam museum archives contain photos, letters and documents from the Frank family and from the Frank-Elias family of Anne's cousin, Buddy Elias.

Buddy Elias is president of Anne Frank Fonds. The decision to lend the Frank-Elias archive to the Anne Frank Museum from the foundation in 2007 was a joint decision made so that the museum could make a complete inventory of all the documents related to Anne's life.

The foundation has subsequently decided it wants its archive back and went to court in Amsterdam seeking the return of the Frank-Elias family archive, including some documents whose ownership is contested by the foundation and the museum.

Because of the history of how the letters and documents were collected from various family members, it is difficult to decide ownership of some of Anne's letters, according to da Silva.

"Now the judges are researching who owns what," she said.

Yves Kugelmann, a spokesman for the foundation, told Reuters it was up to the court to decide on the archive's fate.

"At the end of the day it's also about how you deal with victims and remembering stories. We are not commercializing it. Anne Frank House is a commercial enterprise. It's like a company."

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