Why Is Japan Obsessed With Anne Frank?

'Kinship of Victims' — Despite Wartime Role as Nazi Ally

Alain Lewkowicz

By Cnaan Liphshiz

Published January 24, 2014.
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(JTA) — She speaks only Japanese and is not entirely sure what country she’s in, but 18-year-old Haruna Matsui is happy to stand in the rain for an hour with two friends to see the home of a person she has never met yet nonetheless considers her soul mate.

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“We visited Paris and Brussels, so I just had to come here to see Anne’s home,” an excited Matsui told JTA last week outside Amsterdam’s Anne Frank House.

Matsui has read Japanese manga comic book adaptations of Frank’s diary several times and watched every anime cartoon film she could find about the teenage diarist who spent two years hiding in an Amsterdam attic before her arrest in 1944.

Frank’s story is so well known that dozens of nations are represented in the entry line of the museum established at her former hideout on Prinsengracht 263. Every year, more than a million people visit the museum, making it one of the Dutch capital’s most visited tourist destinations.

But interest in Anne Frank is particularly intense in Japan, where her story continues to reach new audiences through comic books, cartoons, museum exhibitions and educational initiatives.

For some Japanese, this is a source of pride. But researchers who have studied this fascination say it has a dark side, reflecting a tendency to focus on Japan’s victimhood during World War II while ignoring responsibility for atrocities committed by its troops who fought as allies of Nazi Germany.

Matsui thinks Japan was neutral during World War II.


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