ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 140

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Outcry as German ‘Anne Frank’ daycare plans rename as kids indifferent to her story

School in Tangerhütte intends to rebrand as ‘World Explorers,’ reportedly because migrant families aren’t familiar with story of Holocaust diarist; mayor says move not finalized

Anne Frank in her school in Amsterdam. (Public domain)
Anne Frank in her school in Amsterdam. (Public domain)

A German daycare center named after Anne Frank intends to rename itself, alleging that children have a hard time understanding the message behind the story of the world-famous Jewish diarist murdered in the Holocaust.

News of the plan to alter the name drew criticism and escalated media attention on Tangerhütte, a small town in northern Germany where the center has operated since the 1970s.

The alteration was seen as particularly biting, in light of rising antisemitism in Germany, and against the backdrop of the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas, sparked by the terror group’s devastating October 7 atrocities in southern Israel.

Local German-language media outlet Volksstimme reported Monday that Mayor Andreas Brohm, who initially defended the name change, clarified that discussions were ongoing “without a decision currently being made.”

German media reported that parents wanted the center to push a message more focused on international diversity, hence the new name of World Explorers. Outlets said that migrant parents of children at the school wanted the name changed, as Anne Frank did not mean anything to them, and staff backed the adjustment.

Brohm told Volksstimme that talks about changing the name began months before the current conflict in the Middle East erupted.

“Well before the current discussions and events, the discussion arose at the beginning of 2023 about making this fundamental change in concept visible to the outside world by giving the institution a different name,” he said.

The International Auschwitz Committee, which was founded by Holocaust survivors, earlier strongly condemned the renaming.

“If you are willing to dismiss your own history so carelessly, especially in these times of new antisemitism and right-wing extremism, and if Anne Frank’s name is perceived as unsuitable in public space, you can only become fearful and anxious when it comes to the culture of remembrance in our country,” said Christoph Heubner, according to the German MDR broadcaster.

Miteinander e.V., a German organization that promotes “open society,” said the renaming “sends the wrong signal in a time of strengthening #Antisemitism.”

“There are good, tried-and-tested pedagogical concepts for conveying the topic of Anne Frank’s life to children and young people that work age-appropriately and appropriately with contemporary historical fate,” the organization wrote in a thread on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

Antisemitic incidents have spiked across Western Europe since October 7, when Hamas killed over 1,400 people, mostly of them civilians. Thousands of terrorists burst into Israel from Gaza slaughtering those they found in southern communities and an outdoor festival. Over 240 people of all ages were abducted and taken captive in Gaza.

Israel has vowed to destroy Hamas and remove it from power in Gaza. The IDF says it is striking terror infrastructure while striving to avoid civilian casualties.

Since the war started there have been pro-Palestinian rallies held in cities around the world, including Germany. At the same time, there has been a sharp rise in antisemitic incidents reported, including in Germany. On October 18, two people threw Molotov cocktails at a synagogue in Berlin and Stars of David have been found daubed on buildings where Jewish people live.

Frank was born in Germany and then moved to Amsterdam when she was a young girl. The family was trapped there when Nazi Germany occupied the Netherlands in World War II. After hiding from the Nazis for two years, Anne Frank and her family were captured in a raid in 1944. The teenager and her sister died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945.

Her diary, found by her father Otto after the war, became one of the most well-read accounts of the Holocaust, selling some 30 million copies.

AFP contributed to this report.

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