Dutch court rules Anne Frank archive must go back to Switzerland

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - An archive of documents related to Anne Frank and her family must be returned to a foundation in Switzerland, an Amsterdam court ruled on Wednesday, settling a dispute between two institutions with a claim on her name.

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The legal battle between Anne Frank House, the Amsterdam museum dedicated to her memory, and Anne Frank Fonds, the Basel-based foundation set up by her father Otto, centered on where the thousands of photographs, letters and other documents should be kept and displayed.

Those documents did not include the posthumously published diary Anne Frank wrote about her time in hiding from the Nazis during World War Two, which sold millions of copies around the world and turned the Jewish girl into a symbol of the Holocaust.

The Amsterdam court ordered the return of the documents from Anne Frank House, which described the legal dispute as “deeply regrettable”, to Anne Frank Fonds by January 2014.

“The Anne Frank Fonds is the owner of these items and had given them on long-term loan ... for the sake of having a commonly managed archive,” the court said, adding that a breakdown of trust between the two institutions, “gave the fund a strong reason to cancel the lending agreement”.

The archives at Anne Frank House in Amsterdam contain photos, letters and documents from the Frank family and from the Frank-Elias family of Anne’s cousin, Buddy Elias.

Buddy Elias is president of Anne Frank Fonds. The decision to lend the Frank-Elias archive to Anne Frank House from the foundation in 2007 was made jointly so that the museum could make a full inventory of all documents related to Anne’s life.

But the foundation later decided it wanted its archive back so that some of the documents could be shown at the Jewish Museum in Frankfurt in a broader historical context.

“We have got entirely what we asked for, Yves Kugelmann, a spokesman for the foundation, said of the court ruling.

“We had not expected anything else: if you lend something you expect to get it back.”

Anne Frank House used several of the contested documents in its exhibitions.

The Franks, originally from Germany, moved to Amsterdam before World War Two. When Germany invaded the Netherlands, they went into hiding in a secret annex behind the Prinsengracht canal house where Anne’s father had his office.

For two years, Anne, her sister Margot, mother Edith, father Otto and four other Jews lived in the annex, whose entrance was hidden behind a sliding bookcase. They were looked after by Otto’s trusted employees, but were eventually betrayed and sent to concentration camps. Only Otto survived.

The house is now one of Amsterdam’s most popular tourist attractions.

“Anne Frank House finds it deeply regrettable that the two organizations stood in opposition to each other in court,” said Ronald Leopold, executive director of the Anne Frank House, in a statement.

“We hope that with this court ruling we can now put this period behind us.”

Reporting by Sara Webb; Editing by Alistair Lyon