Anne Frank’s memory continues to have great symbolic power, the museum said: That was why her name has been used for streets, schools and parks, but also to create tasteless Halloween costumes and in anti-Semitic taunts by soccer fans.
Deutsche Bahn defended its decision, saying that it was an attempt to honor an “exceptional person.”
“It was not our intention at D.B. to disrespect the memory of Anne Frank in any way whatsoever,” it said in a statement on Monday. “On the contrary — aware of the historical responsibility we bear, we made a deliberate decision to help keep Anne Frank’s memory alive. We are very sorry if any feelings were hurt as a result of this decision.”
It said it was now engaged in an “internal discussion” about the concerns raised, in consultation with Jewish organizations.
Some of those who discussed the naming idea on Twitter agreed that it might be a powerful memorial.
Deutsche Bahn was created in its modern form in 1994, with the consolidation of state railway companies from the former East and West Germany. Its predecessor during the Nazi era, the Deutsche Reichsbahn, deported millions of Jews to their deaths, and was broken up after the war ended.
Deutsche Bahn said that in September it had asked members of the public to give suggestions for names for its fourth generation of high-speed trains, receiving 19,400 responses, and that Anne Frank was among the most popular suggestions.
A jury of railway employees and historians narrowed the possibilities to 25 names, published last week, which also included Beethoven, Einstein, Karl Marx, Marlene Dietrich, and the philosopher Hannah Arendt, among other notable figures. Gisela Mettele, a historian and member of the jury, said the group was united in that they were “curious about the world.”
The new trains are scheduled to start entering full service in December.
The Franks hid from the Nazis in a secret annex of the house in Amsterdam for two years, and were found by the Gestapo in August 1944. Only Anne’s father, Otto Frank, survived: He returned to Amsterdam after the liberation of Auschwitz and published her diary.
On the night of Nov. 1, 1944, Anne and her sister Margot were deported by train in an overcrowded cattle wagon to the Bergen Belsen concentration camp in Germany. Anne Frank, then 15, died there of typhus in February 1945, shortly after Margot, who died around her 19th birthday, according to the Anne Frank House.
Anne Frank’s “Diary of a Young Girl” has sold 30 million copies and has been translated into 67 languages.