Anne Frank Theater Mixes Tragic Tale With Glitz and Fine Dining

Show Pays Tribute to Diarist — and Cash In on Global Brand


By Cnaan Liphshiz

Published March 18, 2014.
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(JTA) — To millions worldwide, she is a symbol of heroism and a haunting reminder of the dangers of discrimination. But for one Dutch entertainment firm, Anne Frank is a brand name powerful enough to merit millions of dollars of investment.

Last week, the Amsterdam-based production company Imagine Nation announced plans to open a huge theater in Amsterdam that will feature only one show: a new play, “ANNE,” about the life of the young Jewish diarist.

The first production based on the full Frank family archive, the show will expose audiences to lesser-known elements of the Anne Frank story, such as the family’s ordeals in German concentration camps.

But the commercial nature of the venture — the theater will include fancy interiors and a restaurant, among other amenities — also is exposing the Swiss organization that houses the archive, the Anne Frank Fonds, to criticism from its rival Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, a renowned museum that receives more than 1 million visitors annually.

“Anne Frank should not be a nice evening out,” Anne Frank House director Ronald Leopold told JTA. “We are not involved with this whole thing, and I’m quite glad about it when I see all of this.”

Leopold is referring to what he calls “the commercial setting in which this production is steeped.”

“I can’t help but frown when I see arrangements with a glass of wine, a box of snacks, dinner with a nice view and then a night out,” he said, adding, “If it were [up to] me, then it would never have come to that.”

Yves Kugelmann, a board member of the Anne Frank Fonds, celebrates the production for bringing Anne Frank’s story to new audiences. Any money the Swiss group earns through royalties from ticket sales, he said, would be used for charity and education.

“It’s like saying that selling her diary is commercialization,” Kugelmann said. “It’s not. Publishing books costs money and any proceeds [our] foundation makes from book sales go to charity and education.”

Anne Frank was 16 when she, her sister and her parents were arrested after more than two years of hiding in a secret annex on Prinsengracht 263, now home to the Anne Frank House, which is also known as the Anne Frank Museum. Only Anne’s father, Otto Frank, survived the Holocaust, and he edited Anne’s diaries into a book, which was later adapted into a play and film.

Otto Frank also established the Anne Frank Fonds in Basel as the sole owner of the copyrights to the diary and tens of thousands of other documents. Frank, who also sat for a number of years on the board of the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, stipulated that any royalties earned by the Swiss organization should go to charity and education.


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