Dutch War Record In Spotlight Over Anne Frank

Roundup: Talking About History

Ian Bickerton, Financial Times (London, England), 11 Oct. 2004

The Netherlands has been plunged into a painful re-examination of its past following calls to award Dutch citizenship posthumously to Anne Frank, the teenager whose war-time diary is the most widely read document to emerge from the Holocaust.

Politicians, historians and the media are struggling to address the issue following her nomination for a television vote next month to decide the greatest Dutch person of all time.

She is among 200 candidates put forward by KRO, a television broadcaster, including Vincent van Gogh and Johan Cruyff.

Anne Frank was not Dutch, however. She was born in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1929 and came to the Netherlands in 1934. Along with countless thousands of Jews who had fled the Nazi regime, she was stripped of German citizenship in 1941.

In June 1942 she and her family went into hiding in a secret room in an Amsterdam canal house. They were betrayed to the Nazis and Anne died from typhus in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945, months before the war ended.

Her diary was published in 1947 and has been translated into more than 60 languages, selling millions of copies worldwide. The house where she hid is now a museum, attracting thousands of visitors annually. But the Dutch Justice Ministry said it was impossible under present law to grant posthumous citizenship.

Dutch media have been quick to highlight a troubling fact. De Volkskrant, the leading leftwing daily, wrote:"Anne Frank is a symbol not only of the Nazis' destructive machine, but also of the Netherlands' powerlessness to protect the Jewish people."

Anti-semitism was"an unacknowledged phenomenon" in the Netherlands in the 1930s, the paper noted.

NRC Handelsblad, the Dutch evening paper, said granting citizenship would be akin to the" cynical retouching of photographs from the Soviet era".

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