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Germany cannot afford to forget Anne Frank

The Anne Frank Kindergarten is set to be renamed. Credit: Getty

November 7, 2023 - 7:00am

Chants of “Free Palestine from German guilt” ringing through the streets, the Star of David graffitied onto the homes of Jewish residents, Molotov cocktails exploding against the walls of a synagogue — those are just some of the reasons why many Jews no longer feel safe in Germany. 

Of course, such incidents conjure particularly painful memories for Jews there. While it had many collaborators across Europe, it was Nazi Germany whose virulent antisemitism was ultimately responsible for the systematic murder of six million Jewish men, women and children during the Second World War. 

In the country which made “Never again!” its foundation mantra, some no longer care for the memory of the Holocaust and question its relevance for Germany’s domestic and foreign policy today.

Yesterday, a German nursery made headlines when it emerged that it no longer wanted to be named after Anne Frank. The country has 96 schools and many streets, squares and institutions which are named in memory of the German Jewish girl who died at the age of 15 in the Nazi concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen. Her diary is still required reading in many places all around the world, serving as a stark warning from history. 

The Anne Frank Kindergarten has carried this name right from when it was first built in the 1970s in Tangerhütte, East Germany. Yet a new leadership team headed by Linda Schichor says that families “from a migration background” have issues with the name. Schichtor told a local newspaper that something “without a political background” would be preferable. She is supported by the town’s mayor, Andreas Brohm, who sees no problem in replacing “Anne Frank” with “Weltentdecker” (“World Explorer”) if the new name better reflects the institution’s drive for “open-mindedness” and “diversity”.

Tangerhütte’s town council has since announced that it will oppose the name change unanimously, accusing those who initiated the proposal of “historical ignorance”. But the fact remains that some leaders in education and local government think a nondescript name like “World Explorer” has more relevance for young Germans today than the story of a child who was murdered in their country just a couple of generations ago for belonging to a minority group. 

Anne Frank isn’t a “political” figure. She didn’t die for her convictions or actions. She was murdered simply for who she was. She was born into a country that set Jewish houses of worship on fire when she was just nine years old, a country that attempted to eradicate the Jewish people from the time she was twelve. To claim this about the story of a child who was murdered by a regime intent on eliminating diversity at every level is absurd. 

It is reassuring to see that the town council has rebuffed the renaming proposal. It is also encouraging that it was the mother of one of the children attending the nursey who alerted the press. She and her own mother had attended the Anne Frank Kindergarten too, and both were shocked and angry to hear of the plans to rename it. Much of the German press and many politicians have also been vocal in defending Jewish people against verbal and physical attacks. 

But broader solidarity in the midst of German society is needed if the newly whipped-up tides of antisemitism are to be stemmed. In just the first week after Hamas terrorists infiltrated Israel on 7 October, 202 antisemitic incidents were recorded — an increase of 240% on the previous year. 

For many Jews, the fear of being recognised has returned to Germany’s streets. And so has tacit approval and silence around abuse directed at Jewish people. “Behind closed doors, antisemitism has seeped right into the middle of society,” fears Josef Schuster, President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany. Two of his grandparents were murdered in Auschwitz. To him “Never again!” is more than an empty phrase. Whether that still applies to enough Germans to ensure the safety of their Jewish neighbours remains to be seen.


Katja Hoyer is a German-British historian and writer. She is the author, most recently, of Beyond the Wall: East Germany, 1949-1990.

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Jonathan Andrews
Jonathan Andrews
6 months ago

This is very interesting. I saw in the Daily Telegraph that one reason for changing the name was that the children were too young too understand the story. Well, I get that.
However, I’m less convinced by their excuse that lots of immigrants didn’t know the story. So what? The story of Anne Frank is an important in Europe history and those who come to live in Europe should be expected to develop a familiarity with European culture (this is something we have neglected to expect from immigrants over decades).
But most of all, the timing seems extraordinary. Maybe they’ve had this idea for a while but in view of the terrible events of the moment, didn’t they think it might be wise to postpone it?

Last edited 6 months ago by Jonathan Andrews
Alan Gore
Alan Gore
6 months ago

It’s because the left hates “colonialism” except when immigration without the consent of the local population is by the terrorists and thugs they adore.

Jimmy Snooks
Jimmy Snooks
6 months ago

But most of all, the timing seems extraordinary. Maybe they’ve had this idea for a while but in view of the terrible events of the moment, didn’t they think it might be wise to postpone it?
No, the timing is deliberate. It is aimed at causing the most hurt to Jews, as are the comparisons made between Gaza and the Warsaw Ghetto by the pro-Hamas brigade. It’s despicable.

Y Way
Y Way
6 months ago

The name honors a person. It isn’t or shouldn’t be about little ones understanding the story. Many schools are named for people whose stories are not comprehensible to children. Just giving the name is the honor. It’s meant for remembrance. That’s a silly excuse.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
6 months ago

I’m slowly giving up on Germany. It seems to be passively giving itself up.
That Jews should be able to feel completely safe living in Germany is part of its Staatsräson. There’s a lot of wittering on the part of German politicians (including some quite high quality wittering from Robert Habeck) about respect for the rule of law etc…but things like this renaming of a nursery to remove the name of someone as politically innocuous as Anne Frank tell me that there has already been a capitulation.
There is no appetite to fight back, no one wants to understand that the rule of law will not be respected and that the state monopoly on power is crumbling. The only option left is meek adaptation. In a few short years, the German state will have surrendered power over certain parts of its territory to clans and violent nativist groups. Apparently there were calls to establish a Caliphate in Germany at a pro-Palestine protest in the last few days. God help them – and God help us in Austria too, because anything that happens in Germany is going to come over here too.

Last edited 6 months ago by Katharine Eyre
Peter D
Peter D
6 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

It is genuinely sad what is going on in Germany. The Germans need to find their backbone again. They have to stand up for their country before it is taken from them.
The sad reality is that even though most white people do not want war, war is coming to them. A Caliphate in Germany with not only be a cultural genocide, but also a genuine genocide. We need to wake up to ourselves before the knife draws across our throat.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
6 months ago
Reply to  Peter D

It isn’t about white people, I reject that statement. Most people want peace, no matter what colour or religion.
The peaceful, law-abiding reality that we in Western Europe have been privileged to live in since 1945 is crumbling and we have neither the skills nor the imagination to comprehend that – in the new reality breaking over us – laws, respect for state institutions and all the rest of the concepts which lie at the root of our understanding of society and which we have believed to be unassailable are proving very fragile indeed.
So entrenched and complete is the belief in the Rechtsstaat in Germany (and that everyone coming in would also magically and spontaneously grow the same kind of belief in it) that it’s going to take some time for the truth of the situation to be fully understood. And that is that – absent some very strong (i.e. violent), very coordinated pushback on the problematic elements – the German state is done for.
Currently, politicians are still discussing stopping cash payments to asylum seekers. This is the definition fo fiddling while Rome burns.
This politician from the governing SPD has already thrown in the towel, citing the goverment’s migration policy as a reason: https://www.welt.de/politik/deutschland/article248397810/Landrat-tritt-wegen-Asylpolitik-aus-SPD-aus.html

Peter D
Peter D
6 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

I do not disagree with you that most people just want to live in peace. My previous response was poorly worded as I am not as eloquent as some who comment here.
Everywhere where white people were a minority, non white people have been willing to use violence to get them out. With the exception of actual Neo Nazis, none of us really has the stomach to forcibly remove trouble making (starting with actual terrorists) non white people from Europe and the UK. I seriously doubt that any of us has a social circle that is entirely white and we would not want these non white people to go.
And this is exactly where we hit that most important point. The recent events in Israel has empowered Muslims in Europe and the UK to be bold and brash. If we do not do something now, if we do not remove these people from Europe, they will take over. There will be a European Caliphate. Admitting this, even to yourself, is a very bitter pill to swallow. Our politicians are too scared to do anything about it and eventually the people will need to before they slip into the minority.
Here in Australia, the Aboriginals are barely 4%. If they were in the majority, they would absolutely kick us out. Many want us out and are willing to even say it to our faces.
The fact is that when you get beyond the individual and into the arena of groupings (of whatever grouping you wish to choose from); there is certainly a different set of rules that apply to white people than non white people. We cannot say of do things that non white people can say or do. This has to be a starting point where we start to stand up for ourselves before the worst of us do it for us.

Nice article by the way. Glad so read that the comments are generally supportive and positive.

Peter D
Peter D
6 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Nice article.

You are right on an individual level. Most of us just want to live our lives in peace regardless of our background.

My comment relates to groups. This is a totally different dynamic

James Knight
James Knight
6 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

The Western world lacks any vitality. Our young are full of so much self loathing and hate themselves.
Ask yourself would a German ever say they are proud of their country and heritage. Ask the same question to an Arab or Chinese and would you get a completely different answer.

Peter D
Peter D
6 months ago
Reply to  James Knight

All non Western countries are judged on their best day, Western countries are judged on their worst. We need to see ourselves in our best light, and aim to improve on this. The West and its achievements are something to be proud of, and with the right attitude, we can have a future that we can be proud of.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
6 months ago

I’m truly shocked by how many crypto-fascists seem to have innocuously been living alongside us waiting for the perfect opportunity such as the Hamas/Israel conflict to finally come out and air their genocidal hatred of Jews. A truly worrying trend which I fear will lead to a loss of Western enlightenment ideals.

Jonathan Andrews
Jonathan Andrews
6 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

There seems to have been an infiltration of the Left. I’m sure that thousands of the pro-Palestine supporters are sincere but there really seem to be elements of the Left (not necessarily honest communists) who are exploiting these opportunities to create such unrest that they become powerful, I worry that this is an attempt at a coup.
Call me crazy and you’re probably right. It reminds me a little of the miners’ strike in 84. There seemed to have been elements of that movement that didn’t just want to save jobs but to gain political power.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
6 months ago

If the name change is to appease an immigrant minority it is very foolish. The minority should always bear in mind the lesson of Anne Frank. A pogrom of Muslims could arise if the Germans don’t respect the idea that even an unpopular ethnic minority should not be persecuted for their race or religion. That Germany continues to honour the fundamentally unremarkable Anne Frank for her history and journal is the guarantee of their survival.

philip kern
philip kern
6 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

History suggests Muslims will be fine. Besides, many of them don’t worry about such things because of a theology of a global caliphate. If your success is ordained from above, then you don’t need to worry about mutual respect.

Seb Dakin
Seb Dakin
6 months ago

Is it too much to ask that people from a ‘migration background’ should make efforts not to bring their backgrounds with them. It is after all what they are supposedly fleeing from.

philip kern
philip kern
6 months ago
Reply to  Seb Dakin

I saw interviews of ‘refugees’ from iirc Syria who landed in Germany. They said they were there to spread Islam, not because of hardship at home.

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
6 months ago

The Muslims who called for this don’t care much for German culture either. Just saying …..

Josef O
Josef O
6 months ago

Some people keep on rinsing their mouth with the fight against antisemtism. To start a serious process, which will take a couple of centuries, a radical step must be taken. The various churches in the world should modify the text of certain Gospels which were antisemitic from the beginning, including dismissing Marcionism. That does not mean that a majority of Christians are antisemitic however those texts are a source of discord.
Obviously other systematic steps must be taken but this would be a good, basic start.

Last edited 6 months ago by Josef O