Should Anne Frank Become Dutch? | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 08.10.2004
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Should Anne Frank Become Dutch?

A Dutch TV program has put Anne Frank on its candidate list of greatest Dutch people of all time, igniting a debate about the citizenship of the Jewish girl who was persecuted by the Nazis.

Anne Frank: Dutch, German or stateless?

Anne Frank: Dutch, German or stateless?

The fact that "The Diary of Anne Frank" was one of the most read books of the 20th century was reason enough for the Dutch TV broadcaster Katholieke Radio Omroep (KRO) to put the girl on its list of candidates for its show on the greatest Dutch people of all time.

Before being deported to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp where she died at age 15, the German-born girl penned her famous diary from 1942 to 1944 from her family's hideaway in an Amsterdam apartment building. The Franks fled to Holland from Germany in 1933. Now KRO has started an initiative for Anne Frank to be awarded Dutch citizenship.

The Dutch justice ministry has said it sympathizes with the proposal to posthumously naturalize Anne Frank -- whose German citizenship was rescinded by the Nazi regime in 1941. But Dutch citizenship laws don't allow naturalization after death, according to Patricia Bosboom, a spokeswoman for the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam.

As Dutch as you can be

Anne Frank Haus

Anne Frank House, Amsterdam

"We still view her as Dutch," Bosboom said. "She wrote in Dutch; she thought in Dutch. She was as Dutch as you can be."

Those sentiments were echoed in Frank's home town of Frankfurt am Main. "In her diary, Anne Frank expressed her longing to become Dutch after the war," Susanne Wiegmann, managing director of the Anne Frank Youth Meeting Center there, told DW-WORLD. Even so, Anne Frank has been dubbed "Frankfurt's most famous daughter," an analogy to "Frankfurt's most famous son," Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

As far as the German government is concerned, however, Anne Frank is German. "She was German up to her death, since the Nazi regime's denial of citizenship is null and void," Rainer Lingenthal, an interior ministry spokesman told the German dpa news agency.

Rewriting history

Neue Bilder von Anne Frank

Anne Frank leans over the balcony of her apartment in Amsterdam in May 1941. The photograph was taken by her father, Otto Frank.

"It's a debate that we can only warn against," Thomas Heppener, head of Berlin's Anne Frank Center told DW-WORLD. "It leads us away from the ideals that Anne Frank described in her diary." Heppener was equally critical of the proposal to naturalize Frank: "It would amount to retrospectively smoothing out the difficulties of history."

But Heppener welcomed the television show's decision to allow people to vote Anne Frank a great Dutch personality. "That way you can reach simple people who otherwise would hardly be interested in her fate," he said.

The Dutch will have the chance to decide for themselves on Oct. 11 at 8:30 p.m. on Kanal Nederland 1, when Anne Frank will compete against the likes of painter Vincent van Gogh and soccer player Johan Cruyff for the title of greatest Dutch personality.

On last year's "Our Best -- the 100 Greatest Germans," Anne Frank only ranked 134. Fellow Frankfurt citizen Goethe ranked seventh.

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