Erasing Anne Frank: What the renaming of a German childcare centre tells us about the state of European politics

(Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images)


The silencing of history is a problem that we have become very used to in the UK. Statues have been toppled and great figures of the past like David Hume, Adam Smith and even William Gladstone are being deliberately forgotten through middle class activism and a rejection of history. In the infamous case of Edward Colston in Bristol, democracy was rejected and a mob dumped his statue in the harbour.

But what has not happened in the UK is a deliberate forgetting of the holocaust and its victims. This shameful event has not happened in the home of European wokery, the UK, but in Germany itself.

With impeccable timing, a daycare center in Tangerhütte in Saxony-Anhalt – the historic home of Bismarck – has decided to change its name. The Kindertagesstatte Anne Frank is to be renamed the World Explorers.
The playcentre was named after the Dutch Jewish girl killed at Bergen-Belsen, whose diaries have been read and understood by countless children the world over. The book has been one of the most powerful tools in the fight against anti-Semitism and the sheer inhumanity of the holocaust.

The nursery was founded as the Anne Frank Centre during the Communist period, in 1970. The decision to rename it – and in doing so erase those horrors – is being taken at a time when anti-Semitism is on the rise across Europe.

The move – backed by many parents, “especially those with migrant backgrounds” – is an attempt to embrace the diverse cultures of the children attending the centre. Of course in 1970 there were no Jews in Tangerhütte, and it wasn’t named to celebrate the ethnicity of the 100 per cent German children attending, but to remind them that the holocaust should never happen again.

The current head of the Centre, Linda Schichor, confirmed that she also prefers a “more child-friendly” name, forgetting that Anne Frank’s diaries are read across the world by children aged 9 to 11.

According to her supporters, the choice to rename the daycare centre is not a response to the surge in anti-Semitism or the Middle East conflict. Surely not.

Instead, they say, it is a reflection of the daycare centre’s international nature and a desire to create a more child-friendly image. The move, they argue, is an attempt to embrace the diverse cultures of the children attending the center.

She claims that the name should have no “political backgrounds” without for a moment thinking that perhaps these migrant parents should know who Anne Frank was. The act of erasure is an inherently political act.

Perhaps worse than the shameful embarrassment of the educator is the attitude of the independent local mayor, Andreas Brohm. He has stated that: “It is important for the institution to make this conceptual change visible to the outside world,” and that the name change will make the school “more open than in the past”.

What is astonishing is that this is happening when tens of thousands of people are marching in German cities, calling for the Jewish state of Israel to surrender – or, as they disingenuously call it, cease fire.

Less than a month ago the worst pogrom against Jews took place in southern Israel, when 1,400 Jewish lives were brutally snuffed out in a coordinated terror attack. Yet now there is an attempt to snuff out the memory, in Germany, of the slaughtered of Jews.

When the state of Saxony-Anhalt voted in 2021, the results were clear. The Christian Democrats won 40 seats, with the AfD on 23 seats. The three Left-wing parties managed to rack up only 27 seats between them.

Of those under 30 in the state, the AfD had a clear majority. The Right-wing party has in the past had trouble with anti-Semitism in its ranks, but the main thrust of its anti-migration stance is against mass inward migration from largely Islamic countries.

Today the AfD sees itself squarely supporting Israel. Anne Frank’s cancellation by the authorities plays straight into their political playbook. The fact that the German vice-chancellor Robert Habeck spoke last week against anti-Semitism is all very well, they say, but on the ground acts like the erasure of Anne Frank make it clear what is actually happening.

One suggestion, as to how to explain the name to the immigrant parents, has been to have an Anne Frank reading day at the playcentre. One has to question if many parents will feel the need to come along, particularly after they have successfully forced the name change.

According to local media reports, “It is reported that parents with migrant backgrounds feel uncertain about the name and find it challenging to explain to their children.”

The playcentre head, Schichor also claimed that “parents with an immigrant background are ignorant of the meaning of Anne Frank as they have never heard of the name”.

Perhaps they should.