Anne Frank House loses battle over archives

  • Article by: Scott Sayare
  • New York Times
  • June 26, 2013 - 10:06 PM

– 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.

The court found that the Fonds, which Frank designated as his universal heir, was 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. “It is too soon to say,” Reus-Deelder said.

The lawsuit exposed deep differences 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, Germany, where it now intends to keep the 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.

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 … the partnership between the Anne Frank Fonds and the Anne Frank House can be resumed in close … dialogue, in the interests of the legacy and the spirit of Anne Frank,” Leopold said.

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