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A train named Anne Frank?

October 30, 2017

'Anne Frank' as the name for one of Germany’s new high-speed trains has been decried by the Jewish diarist’s Amsterdam museum. It says it would evoke painful memories of Nazi wartime deportations and mass murder.

Deutschland Deutsche Bahn neue Flotte - ICE 4
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

The emergence of Anne Frank among a slew of 19,400 suggested names for German Rail's new-model passenger trains starting December drew a warning Monday from Amsterdam that feelings could be deeply hurt.

Anne Frank, aged only 15, was murdered in 1945 by the Nazis at Bergen-Belsen, near Hannover, leaving behind a diary of her family's two-year Dutch city bid to escape detection that became a world best-seller.

Anne Frank Ausstellung NEw York Anne, Otto und Margaret Frank
Anne Frank (L), with her sister Margaret and father OttoImage: STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images

The museum said linking Anne Frank with a train was a combination still "painful for the people who experience these deportations, and causes fresh pain to those who still bear the consequences of those times within them.”

It went on, however, to acknowledge that the gathering of name suggestions by German Rail (Deutsche Bahn, DB) was an initiative "with good intentions.”

Among top suggestions

The train operator replied Monday that Anne Frank was among the top suggestions submitted by customers, adding that its name-selection jury had sought to honor her, not harm her remembrance. 

German Rail said it would consider misgivings uttered publicly. Jewish organisations had agreed to provide advice, it said, adding that it apologized should feelings have been hurt. 

From December, the initial fourth-generation units of Germany's sleek passenger trains are due to begin regular trips from Hamburg to Munich and Hamburg to Stuttgart.

Starting with five units, the ICE-4 fleet is due to swell to around 100 units by 2023, providing the backbone of Germany's long-distance rail services.

Other names suggested include those of former chancellors Konrad Adenauer, Willy Brandt and Ludwig Erhard, the thinkers Hannah Arendt and Karl Marx, and the actresses Hildegard Knef and Marlene Dietrich.

Deutschland Innenausstattung im neuen ICE 4 der Deutschen Bahn
The typical interior of the ICE-4Image: Deutsche Bahn AG

Storm chaos

The train-naming exercise was overshadowed Monday by lingering rail disruptionsleft by Sunday's passage over northern Germany of Herwart, the second storm in weeks to cause rail chaos because of fallen trees and damage to overhead rail electrics.

Detlef Neuss, spokesman for the passenger lobby group Pro Bahn, told public Deutschlandrunk radio that communal and private owners along rail tracks should be invited to round-table talks to devise ways to coordinate ways to minimize future storm damage.

In past times, significantly more greenery was cut back left and right of the tracks, Neuss said, adding that more had to be invested by Germany's state-owned but incorporated rail operator.

Although Germany had electrified its trains via overhead cables along 58.8 percent of its rail network, many secondary routes - previously used to redirect hampered traffic - had been shut down, he said.

"They must be reactivated,” said Neuss, adding "above all electrified, so that an ICE can divert, although slower, via a sideline route.”

ipj/jm (dpa, KNA, AP)