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Anne Frank
AFF Basel/AFS Amsterdam

Medieval Gate leading into the city of Frankfurt
photo by Rhonda Spivak

The house where Anne Frank was born in Frankfurt currently being lived in. Marbachweg 307

The rebuilt Romemberg, central district of Frankfurt destroyed in Wolrd War II.
photo by Rhonda Spivak

Special Report from Frankfurt, Germany: How Frankfurt Tries to Erase Anne Frank's Connection to the City

Rhonda Spivak, written January 11, 2012 posted February 9, 2012

It’s my first time in Germany. I’ve landed in Frankfurt on my way to Israel, the city where Anne Frank was born and lived prior to going into hiding with her family in Amsterdam. She died in Bergen Belsen about an hour from here.  Frankfurt seems to downplay, almost erase its connection to Anne Frank, and I know about it only because I learned of this fact after an extensive  internet search.
The English language tour book about the city which I bought for 5 euros doesn’t refer to Anne Frank even once. It  has a history of the city, which I read with curiosity as I sipped coffee in a little restaurant with a half-timbered façade on the east side of the Romerberg, the centre of the city that was destroyed and  rebuilt after the  Second World War. The history of the city in this tourist guide refers to Jewish life up to 1864. It says that in 1349, “persecution of the Jews after an outbreak of the plague occurred. ” In 1405, on the Emperor’s orders, the Jews were confined to a ghetto.” In 1614, “Widespread popular fury during a peasants’ revolt leads to the plundering of the Jewish ghetto (I suspect when the ghetto was “plundered” a few of us were killed, but the guidebook didn’t give details). In the 17th and 18th centuries, “The city develops into one of the most important centres of Jewish culture in Germany.” The final entry states that in 1864, “The Jewish are given full civil rights”. On page 35, there is mention that only 100 of the City’s Jews survive Nazi persecution when it references the “Jewish museum”, but not one mention of Anne Frank having been born and raised in the city.
At the tourist information centre in a beautifully restored building in the Romerberg, I flip through every pamphlet on display, (in every language offered) to see if there was mention of the two houses where Anne Frank was born and raised. If they are nearby, I would like to go see them. I ask the German man behind the desk if he can tell me where the Anne Frank houses are. “Yes I know them”, he answers.


And then he takes out a little white sticky (he doesn’t even have a typed up little sheet, as if to suggest that I am the first tourist to ever ask this! ). He writes down “Ganghofstk 24” in fairly illegible handwriting such that I am not sure if the last letter is an R or a K. He tells me “there is a sign on the house that says Anne Frank lived here.” Then he writes “Rarbachweg 307”, which also apparently has a marking on it saying “This house is where Anne Frank was born.” He adds, “But there are only signs. You can’t go inside the houses.

There is silence for a moment. “Is that because people are living in these houses?”, I ask.  “Yes, I think so,” he says and looks down.  I think to myself,” you mean , you  know so”. It can’t be the first time he has been asked and he must know that the homes are inhabited .  I shudder at the thought people knowingly living in the Franks’ homes.

Of course there is no marking on the tourist city map of the Anne Frank houses to make them easy to find. And I doubt the hop-on hop-off  red double decker tourist bus is going to drive past them either.
“How far are these?” I ask.  He answers “About 25 minutes away,” and doesn’t say if that’s by car or foot and doesn’t pull out a map to mark the streets for me. In Frankfurt, no one is going to make it easy for you to find Anne Frank’s connection to the city. In fact, quite the opposite.  And I daresay that the addresses of the houses that she lived in are not on any tourist map or in the main tourist books because the last thing that the German families living in these homes want is a string of tourists coming by hanging around looking at their houses and reminding them of their uncomfortable and unpleasant past. And also wondering, why it is that the city of Frankfurt hasn’t made at least one of these homes into a  memorial museum for Anne Frank.
As I am thinking these things, the German man then writes down on a second little white sticky a third address which is even more illegible than the first two. “Hansallee 150 Jagendlegegnung state” (I have no idea if I have read this correctly) He tells me there is “a meeting point there”.
“A meeting point for what?” I ask.
“A meeting point which has an exhibition about Anne Frank,” he says. “But you can’t go there today (Monday). It’s only open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 2-4 o’clock.”
Realizing that I won’t be in Frankfurt on those days, I ask “Why is it only open on those days? Why not the rest of the week?” And then this German man with glasses and a fair complexion delivers a line I will never forget.

“[Because] Anne Frank wasn’t in Frankfurt long. Not so long,” he says. And I think to myself, “Gee I wonder why she left“. If the Frank family had stayed in Frankfurt longer, I guess she still wouldn’t have merited a memorial in Frankfurt, because she would have been sent directly to Bergen Belsen and wouldn’t have lived in Frankfurt long after all.

The Frank family left Germany for Amsterdam in 1933 when the Nazis came to power in Germany, when Anne was four years old.. More to the point, the  Frank family  lived in Frankfurt since the 17th century. Otto Frank, Anne's father, was born in May 12, 1898 in Frankfurt’s west end, a well-to-do neighbourhood. Contrary to what this German man has told me, one could say that the Franks lived in Frankfurt for a  long time. A very long long time. After an extensive search on the internet I learned that  the correct address of the home in which she was born was Marbachweg 307. I found this on an Israeli website, since there is no German website I could  find that seems to have it. It is as if it never existed. 

Now you tell me, has Germany really come to terms with its past?

Postscript: A couple days later I am in Israel and I meet a German Jew who immigrated to Israel many years ago who tells me he is from Frankfurt originally. I ask him if he knows that Anne Frank is from Frankfurt. "What?" he says. “Who told you that. I did not know that," he says looking awfully surprised. I explain to him how I found out and think to myself that Frankfurt has been so successful at eliminating its association with Anne Frank that even the Jews do not know this anymore.


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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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