A German rail company has announced plans to name one of its new high-speed trains after author and Holocaust victim Anne Frank, The New York Times reports, and understandably, many aren’t taking the news very well. Seeing as Frank and her family were deported to concentration camps via trains during World War II, naming a locomotive after her is a tad tasteless.
In September, the rail company Deutsche Bahn asked for the public to suggest historical names for its new line of trains, and a jury consisting of company employees and historians selected 25 possibilities. Out of more than 19,000 original submissions, Anne Frank, who was born in Germany before moving to the Netherlands as a child, was one of the most popular names mentioned. The shortlist included other famous Germans such as Beethoven and Einstein. In response to the news, Amsterdam’s Anne Frank House, where the Jewish teenager hid with family and friends during the war, released a disapproving statement.
“The proposed naming has caused controversy, and we understand that,” the museum team said. “The combination of Anne Frank and a train evokes associations with the persecution of the Jews and the deportations during the Second World War. The combination is painful for the people who experienced these deportations, and causes fresh pain to those who bear the consequences of those times within them.”
While the Anne Frank House recognized that the proposed naming was meant as a symbolic honor, it also made an excellent point about Frank’s name being used in an everyday, contemporary context. “Anne Frank has great symbolic power, and this has led to a multitude of manifestations, such as the naming of streets, schools and parks, but also Halloween costumes and expressions of antisemitism,” the statement said. “This phenomenon is expected to only become stronger…The significance of Anne Frank will increasingly have a contemporary rather than a historical basis.”
In its own statement, Deutsche Bahn essentially confirmed the Anne Frank House’s point of the name selection being an honor. “It was not our intention to disrespect the memory of Anne Frank in any way whatsoever,” it said. “We are very sorry if any feelings were hurt as a result of this decision. All the members of the panels agreed that it was important to honor Anne Frank as an exceptional person…DB of course takes the concerns expressed by the public seriously, and we will address them in internal discussions to follow. Jewish organizations have agreed to provide guidance.”
While the general consensus seems to be that naming a train after Frank is wrong, Deutsche Bahn spokesperson Antje Neubauer told BBC News that Frank represents “peaceful co-existence of different cultures.” Well, that’s one way to look at it.
The new trains are expected to hit rails this December.