Anne Frank home offers writers refuge

The apartment, where the teenager lived with her German-Jewish family throughout the 1930s until forced to disappear into a secret annex of a canal-side warehouse, was reopened yesterday by the Mayor of Amsterdam, Job Cohen, and Frank's last surviving relative, her cousin Buddy Elias.

With the use of family photographs and a letter from Frank, a team of experts worked for months to remove all traces of modern life from the flat and to refurbish it in the1930s style in which it was left by the family.

Now, the Merwedeplein flat in the south of the city is to be rented out by a local housing agency to the Amsterdam Foundation for Cities of Refuge, which will each year invite a foreign writer threatened with censorship or persecution in their home country to live and work there. Even the wooden desk at which the 13-year old is thought to have begun writing her journal is to be placed at the new writer's disposal.

The first resident of the apartment at will be the Algerian novelist and poet El-Mahdi Acherchour, who hopes to draw inspiration for his new novel from his symbolic surroundings.

"It is going to be a very special place for writers who are persecuted," Patricia Bosboom, spokeswoman for the Anne Frank Foundation, told Reuters.