The fight for the soul of Anne Frank

`Otto Frank must be revolving in his grave.'

The memory of Anne Frank, possibly the most famous victim of the Holocaust, will be celebrated in Britain in the next few weeks by a new edition of her diary, a major exhibition at Southwark Cathedral and a video on her life. But unless one party or the other backs down, her name will also be fought over in the High Court in London.

The two organisations set up by Otto Frank to perpetuate his daughter's message are contesting each other's right to turn her into a trademark. Undeterred by its defeat in a Swiss court, the Anne Frank Fund, based in Basle, has now begun proceedings at the Trademark Registry in London, alleging violation of its rights by the Anne Frank Foundation in Amsterdam. The Foundation is defending the action, which would go to the High Court on appeal, but the Fund is threatening similar cases wherever the Amsterdam body has registered Anne Frank as a trademark, something it has done all over the world.

This "sordid wrangle", as one source close to both organisations called it, has saddened and appalled many of those working in the name of Anne Frank. Gillian Walnes, executive director of Britain's Anne Frank Educational Trust, which is mounting the exhibition at Southwark Cathedral, stressed that her organisation had no involvement. "Anne Frank engenders so much goodwill," said one volunteer, "which is why these differences are so unfortunate. Otto Frank must be revolving in his grave." Much of the responsibility for the falling-out, however, may rest with Anne's well-intentioned but unworldly father, who died in Basle in 1980.

Anne Frank's story is known to millions. Her family and four other Jews hid from the Nazis for more than two years in her father's office premises in Amsterdam until they were betrayed in 1944. All eight were sent to the death camps; only Otto Frank returned. She died of typhus in Bergen- Belsen in March 1945, three months short of her 16th birthday and only weeks before the camp was liberated.

Nothing would ever have been heard again of Anne, or anyone connected with her, if her diary had not been found discarded on the floor of the family's refuge. But the confidences of one typical yet extraordinary adolescent have individualised the Holocaust for readers in every society, especially those of her own age. The Diary of Anne Frank has sold 25 million copies, in over 50 languages. It has been adapted as a play, a Hollywood movie and even as a cartoon film. Her hiding-place, which had already begun receiving a stream of visitors in the 1940s and 1950s, was turned into a museum in 1960 after a public outcry saved it from demolition.

Anne Frank remains an inspiration, but in the five decades since her diary was first published she has also become a property worth millions of pounds. All the earnings from her work - conservatively estimated at pounds 8m to pounds 10m so far - are administered by a small, elderly and secretive group of Swiss citizens, chosen mainly because they knew Otto Frank. In Amsterdam, meanwhile, the body he created in her name to run the museum and educate young people is chronically short of money.

"You could see it as a battle between the Swiss hoarders and the Dutch spendthrifts," said one source, "but the way Otto set things up it was inevitable that they would come into conflict. He gave both bodies the task of spreading her message, while only endowing one of them."

The office of Hans Westra, executive director of the Anne Frank Foundation, which gets none of the revenue from the diary's 50 years of success, looks directly on to the rear rooms of 263 Prinsengracht, where the Franks and their friends went into hiding in the 1940s. The front section is being restored to the way it looked then, while in an empty site on the corner a mechanical digger snorts and paws at the sodden ground, building an extension to the museum which will be complete in autumn next year. This will house extra displays as well as 20 students and offices for the staff of more than 50.

The changes are necessary, says Mr Westra, "to tell her story in a different way". After half a century visitors need more of the context explained - "why they went into hiding, for example. With young people you need to take it closer to their own experience." His organisation has scrimped and begged for 10 years to remodel the museum, but remains pounds 1m short of the pounds 7m cost.

The Foundation represents the visionary side of Otto Frank, who wanted the memory of his daughter and the Holocaust kept alive and used in the fight against all racism and discrimination. In the Netherlands and since the mid-1980s in dozens of other countries, it has enlisted an army of volunteers to spread the message. "We nearly went broke at first," said Mr Westra, speaking of the expansion abroad, "but it was an experiment. We had to learn by doing."

An ex-teacher who joined the Foundation in 1974, Mr Westra admits that Otto Frank would sometimes throw up his hands at the huge response to Anne's testament, exclaiming: "Where will it all end?" He might feel even more overwhelmed by the organisation's breakneck international growth, which becomes less easy to control the further it goes. To prevent copying of the exhibitions and other materials it sends overseas, Mr Westra felt it necessary to register Anne Frank's name as a trademark. That, however, has brought him into confrontation with the Anne Frank Fund in Basle, which represents the other side of Otto Frank's nature: the careful businessman.

Otto established the Fund in 1963, 10 years after he moved to Switzerland to be closer to his surviving relatives. Apart from his second wife Fritzi, a Holocaust survivor herself - now well into her 90s and ailing - the board included Bernard "Buddy" Elias, Anne's cousin, who started out as a clown in Holiday on Ice before making an acting career. (In a part of her diary not in the popular editions, Anne fantasises about being able to visit Switzerland and go skating with Buddy, and designs a dress for the occasion.) The dominant member, however, was Vincent Frank (no relation), who embodied the caution and conservatism one would expect of a former civil servant in the Basle city administration. He took over after Otto's death in 1980.

Despite the vast sums involved, until recently the Fund was run from Vincent Frank's house, with a secretary hired by the hour when needed. There are no staff to assess applications for funds or monitor how they are used, and no published accounts. Board meetings, one member recalled, "didn't take much time. Over coffee we would decide to give 100 francs here and 100 francs there..." Apart from giving about pounds 16,000 a year for special activities of the Anne Frank Foundation, the Fund supports other cultural and charitable works, such as a Holocaust library in Leipzig and a medical fund to help Gentiles, like Oskar Schindler, who risked their lives to save Jews in the Second World War.

But however leisurely it might appear in disbursing resources estimated at about pounds 5.5m - recent changes in international copyright law mean it will continue receiving royalties until the mid-21st century - the Fund is ferocious in protection of the Anne Frank name. Not only does it hold the copyright on all Anne's writings, it claims rights over facsimiles of her handwriting and all photographs of her. It stopped an import-export company in Singapore calling itself Anne Frank, and someone in Spain from making Anne Frank jeans. But a year or two ago Vincent Frank concluded that the main threat came from Amsterdam.

It was the Foundation's attempts to raise more money, particularly a marketing plan which proposed selling pens and diaries carrying Anne Frank's name, which exhausted his patience. Declaring that "we will not allow the name to be taken from us", and displaying a T-shirt with the name of the British educational trust (produced for helpers at a charity ball), Mr Frank went to court in Switzerland, alleging that Amsterdam would flood the world with coffee mugs and trinkets bearing Anne Frank's name or likeness if it were not stopped.

Mr Westra's organisation denied that it planned anything inappropriate, and the court found in its favour after an attempt at mediation failed. Soon afterwards Mr Frank resigned, to be replaced by Mr Elias. The board decided Mr Frank had breached an undertaking to have no further contact with Jacob Dekker, a former dentist who has become rich through registering famous names, such as that of Vincent van Gogh, as trademarks.

But despite Mr Frank's departure, Basle has taken the Swiss case to appeal - Mr Elias refuses to comment, saying there is no binding or final decision - and is seeking to have Amsterdam's trademark cancelled in Britain as well. A ruling is expected to take several months.

The heads of both organisations will soon be in Britain, Mr Westra to attend the exhibition's opening by Tony and Cherie Blair, Mr Elias to promote the expanded edition of the diary, published by Viking. Further publicity will be generated by the video release of British director Jon Blair's Oscar-winning documentary, Anne Frank Remembered, but the battle for control between Amsterdam and Basle threatens to overshadow all their work.

What would Anne herself have made of it all? As the new edition of her diary brings out, she saw many grown-ups in a jaundiced light: she might have derived much mischievous pleasure from the sight of old men fighting over the legacy of a young girl.

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Armstrong, left, and Bain's writing credits include Peep Show, Fresh Meat, and The Old Guys
TVThe pair have presented their view of 21st-century foibles in shows such as Peep Show and Fresh Meat
Arts and Entertainment
Keys to success: Andrew and Julian Lloyd Webber
arts + entsMrs Bach had too many kids to write the great man's music, says Julian Lloyd Webber
Sport
footballMan City manager would have loved to have signed Argentine
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
people
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films
books

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site on Friday

News
people

Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

News
Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’
news

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch at the premiere of The Imitation Game at the BFI London Film Festival
filmsKeira Knightley tried to miss The Imitation Game premiere to watch Bake Off
News
i100
Sport
Enner Valencia
footballStriker has enjoyed a rapid rise to fame via winning the title with ‘The Blue Ballet’ in Ecuador
Arts and Entertainment
A top literary agent has compared online giant Amazon to Isis
arts + entsAndrew Wylie has pulled no punches in criticism of Amazon
Arts and Entertainment
Charlie Sheen said he would
tv

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Mobile Developer (.NET / C# / Jason / Jquery / SOA)

£40000 - £65000 per annum + bonus + benefits + OT: Ampersand Consulting LLP: M...

Humanities Teacher - Greater Manchester

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: The JobAt ...

Design Technology Teacher

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Calling al...

Foundation Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: EYFS Teachers - East Essex...

Day In a Page

Bryan Adams' heartstopping images of wounded British soldiers to go on show at Somerset House

Bryan Adams' images of wounded soldiers

Taken over the course of four years, Adams' portraits are an astonishing document of the aftermath of war
The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities