Amsterdam is one of my favorite cities. And I treasured my visit to the Anne Frank House.
June 26, 2013
A Legal Defeat for Anne Frank House
By SCOTT SAYARE
PARIS — In what may prove to be the conclusion to a long and bitter legal battle over control of the legacy of Anne Frank, a district court in Amsterdam on Wednesday ordered the Anne Frank House to return a collection of archives to a foundation in Switzerland.
The Anne Frank Fonds, based in Basel, Switzerland, sued in 2011 for the immediate return of some 10,000 documents and photographs linked to Anne and her father, Otto Frank. The foundation, which manages the copyrights of Anne’s diary, had lent the documents in 2007 to the Frank House, a museum and research center in Amsterdam.
Officials at the House said that they were stunned at the lawsuit, having believed that the loans would be permanent, and contested ownership of a small number of items.
In its ruling, the court found the Fonds, which Mr. Frank designated as his universal heir, to be the rightful owner of the entire collection and within its rights to demand the archives’ return. The court ordered that the archives be transferred to the Fonds by Jan. 1, 2014.
The Frank House has not yet ruled out the possibility of an appeal, said Garance Reus-Deelder, the managing director. “We’re not quite ready yet to respond fully and in depth to the ruling,” Ms. Reus-Deelder said. “It is too soon to say.”
The lawsuit exposed deep divergences over just what Anne Frank’s legacy should be.
While the Fonds has said that several considerations, including taxes, drove the request for the archives’ return, it has also announced its participation in the founding of a Frank Family Center in Frankfurt, where it now intends to keep the archival collection. It has accused the House of restricting access to the archives and presenting Anne, who died at 15 in a concentration camp, as a sort of distorted and decontextualized child saint.
Ms. Reus-Deelder, of the Frank House, said that the Fonds seemed to have no such reservations when the loan took effect, and that the House had made few modifications to its presentation of Anne since then.
“We have not changed our course in any significant way,” she said.
Questions of presentation were not at the core of the lawsuit, said Yves Kugelmann, a board member and spokesman for the Fonds, speaking on Wednesday by telephone.
“The ownership is so clear,” Mr. Kugelmann said. “The whole issue is not complicated.”
But he added: “They don’t have legitimacy. They don’t have connections to the family. They are not the heir.”
In a statement, Ronald Leopold, the executive director of the Frank House, said the museum found the legal fight “deeply regrettable.”
“We hope that with this ruling we can now put this period behind us, and that the partnership between the Anne Frank Fonds and the Anne Frank House can be resumed in close consultation and dialogue, in the interests of the legacy and the spirit of Anne Frank,” Mr. Leopold said.
© 2012 The New York Times Company
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