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Anne Frank - a diary for the world

Guest Andrew Moore

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Guest Andrew Moore

Some years ago, I produced a Web site to support an exhibtion about Anne Frank that came to my area. The site is at http://www.universalteacher.org.uk/annefrank

My initial idea was to make it quite simple. But it grew when I found to my surprise that there was no UK site about Anne Frank at the time with any learning resources for school age children. (There were, and are, good sites outside the UK; and some very good UK sites about Holocaust education more generally.)

The Anne Frank Educational Trust has a Web site at http://www.afet.org.uk/ that tells you nothing about Anne Frank. It is a rather cosy little organization that touts the exhibition (which is itself underwhelming) and its own awards, but has not adjusted to the possibility of new technologies. It's not so much a site about Anne Frank as about the trust's activities, which are rather self-regarding.

This has led me to find out more about Anne's diary. It is often seen as a book for the whole world, and its publishers make much of that claim. But here is an odd thing. In teaching about the Holocaust, I can make use of Nazi films and posters, such as those on the German Propaganda Archive at http://www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/gpa/index.htm. And I can show pupils a Nazi film like Triumph des Willens. But more than fifty years after Anne's death, I cannot show her words without infringing copyright law.

This seems almost scandalous. Since her father, Otto, died, there is no surviving member of her immediate family who might depend on the income from book sales. The copyright of the diaries now resides with the Anne Frank-Fonds in Switzerland. You can find this organization at http://www.annefrank.ch The Web site presents its responsibilities thus:

"To disseminate the message of ANNE FRANK

Through her Diary, ANNE FRANK has become a world-wide symbol representing all victims of racism, anti-Semitism and fascism. She stands for victims who lived at the same time as she did just as much as for the victims of today. The foremost message contained in her Diary sets out to combat all forms of racism and anti-Semitism."

Surely, the Fond (which claims to be ready to instigate criminal proceedings against anyone who contests the authenticity of the diary) can best "disseminate the message of Anne Frank", by, er, disseminating the message of Anne Frank, in letting the world have Anne's words, as digital text. They would not even need to do anything - since granting permission to use the text would lead to many people's publishing the diary, or parts of it. If, on the other hand, the Anne Frank-Fonds has a concern that such permission would lead to spurious versions, then that is all the more reason for them to share the authentic original.

The many requests that I have had for information about Anne, from children world wide, makes it clear that there is a hunger to know the story. And making the text available to all would probably increase book sales, as teachers felt more able to base their programmes of study on the diary.

What makes the situation worse is that the diary is published in translations, for which the copyright will run far into the future (70 years after the death of the translator). So there is no prospect, for years, of the diary's being available for the world to read.

I have e-mailed the Anne Frank-Fonds and challenged them to honour the responsibility that they espouse.

Would other list members like to encourage the Anne Frank-Fonds (and the Netherlands State Institute for War Documentation, to whom Otto Frank left the diary) to make the diaries, or some substantial parts of them, available on the World Wide Web?

Edited by andrewmoore1955
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