Archive for the ‘History’ Category

By David Galenson of the Huffington Post

To say that Roeland Kramer knows Dutch tiles is a bit like saying that Tiger Woods knows golf.

Roeland and his brother Sebastiaan own Kramer Kunst & Antiek, a large antique store at the corner of Nieuwe Spiegelstraat (Amsterdam’s Antiques Row) and the Prinsengracht Canal, that specializes in Delftware and tiles. The shop has been in Roeland’s family since the 1970s, when his grandfather bought it; Roeland began working there in 1990, when he was 10 years old, and he has never left. In addition to working at the shop, Roeland recently completed a master’s degree at Amsterdam University. His thesis was a study of the tile collection at Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum. On a recent afternoon, Roeland helped me climb a steep staircase to a balcony overlooking his shop, where we sat for an hour while he gave me a primer on Dutch antique tiles.

Kramer Kunst & Antiek, Amsterdam. All images courtesy Roeland Kramer.

Dutch pottery manufacturers began to make tiles in the 16th century, first influenced by Italian, and later Chinese manufacturers (the famous Dutch blue actually began as an imitation of Chinese porcelain). The Dutch initially used tiles for practical purposes – for safety in the fireplaces of their wooden houses, and in their kitchens. Over time they also began to use tiles for decoration, as the wealthy could show their affluence and taste by displaying more elegant and intricate designs. In the Golden Age of the seventeenth century, there were more than 400 tile factories in Holland; their numbers dwindled over time, and there are only two today.

2013-09-26-deftbluefeats1700.jpg 2013-09-26-delftbluemakewater1675.jpg
Delft blue tile depicting a child
performing feats (ca. 1700).
Delft blue tile depicting a child
“making water” (ca. 1675).

Antique tiles exist in large numbers. Kramer Kunst & Antiek sells about 3,000 a year, from an inventory of 10,000 in the store, but the store has a staggering total of about 500,000 antique tiles at a warehouse outside the city, probably the largest collection of antique tiles in the world. Roeland has traveled all over Holland, removing old tiles from houses that are being renovated. And his experience with tiles lets him read them as if they were written texts.

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Delft blue tile depicting
a perch (ca. 1650).
Delft blue tile depicting
a game of hoops (ca. 1675).

One of the most fascinating things about Dutch tiles is how precisely they can be dated. Among the key variables in determining when and where a tile was made are the kind of clay used, the thickness, the design, the glaze, and the subject. Antique tiles vary greatly in price. Kramer sells beautiful seventeenth-century tiles for as little as €30; these show simple images of common subjects. The rarer the subject, the higher the price. A rare subject in excellent condition can have great value to collectors: Roeland sold one extremely rare tile, a sea creature made in Rotterdam in 1610, for €25,000. Most tiles were made by artisans whose names are not known, but a few individuals have been identified. Pytter Grauda, a painter who worked in Harlingen in the late 17th century, is known for his scenes of chivalry; Kramer has a number of his tiles, which they sell for €300-600.

2013-10-03-delftbluegrauda1625.jpg 2013-10-03-delftbluegrauda1675.jpg
Delft blue tile by Pytter Grauda (ca. 1625). Delft blue tile by Pytter Grauda (ca. 1675).

Dutch tiles continue to be an area of scholarly research. The Rijksmuseum’s collection had not been studied in recent decades, until Roeland spent six months looking through the museum’s 20,000 tiles for his thesis. As a result of his work, some of the museum’s outstanding tiles are currently on display.

2013-09-26-delftbluearmadillo1675.jpg 2013-09-26-delftblueelephant1700.jpg
Delft blue tile depicting
an armadillo (ca. 1675).
Delft blue tile depicting
an elephant (ca. 1700).

Next time you’re in Amsterdam, I strongly recommend including a tour of the Rijksmuseum’s spectacular collection of Delftware, in Special Collections. Afterwards, walk a few blocks north from the museum to see Kramer’s wonderful collection of antique tiles. Roeland Kramer is both knowledgeable and patient in sharing his expertise for Dutch tiles, and after a session with him you might wind up with a beautiful historical souvenir, and perhaps a new hobby.

2013-09-26-deftblue1650.jpg 2013-09-26-delftblue1900.jpg
Delft blue tile depicting
a house (ca. 1650).
Delft blue tile depicting
a house (ca. 1900).

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1921 painting "Odalisque" by Henri Matisse from Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam


Posted on Nov 1 2013 – 11:00am by Randy Gener

In a shocking revelation, Dutch museums say that about 139 major works of art, including dozens of paintings by Henri Matisse, Paul Klee and Vassily Kandinsky, all presently hanging in their buildings may have been Nazi loot, all of it likely having been taken forcibly from Jewish owners.


The revelation is the result of a major in-house investigations of Dutch art acquisitions since 1933, a review that focused explicitly on pieces for which there was any gap in their ownership record during the years that Germany’s Nazi regime was appropriating works from Jews, either by forced sale or outright seizure.


Critics are wondering why it has taken the museums nearly 70 years to examine their collections in a systematic way after World War II.


“These objects are either thought or known to have been looted, confiscated or sold under duress,” said Siebe Weide, director of the Netherlands Museums Association. He said returning them is “both a moral obligation and one that we have taken upon ourselves.”


The tainted art involved 69 paintings, including French artist Henri Matisse’s 1921 “Odalisque” painting of a half-nude reclining woman, which hangs at Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum, one of the country’s top tourist draws.


All Dutch museums that hold art from before the war participated in the review. They have identified names of 20 definite looting victims and linked them with 61 of the works. The museums said they are in the process of contacting or seeking the heirs, including those of Jewish art dealer Albert Stern, the deceased owner of the Matisse.


The museum had purchased the Matisse painting from Lieuwe Bangma, Stern’s Dutch representative, in 1941. But Stern was its owner before the war and the Bangma family is known to have given aid to his granddaughters during the war.


The Dutch are not the first to undertake such a review in the wake of a 1998 international conference on looted art in Washington, D.C. that found previous attempts to return looted art didn’t go far enough. Attendees from 44 nations proclaimed the Washington Principles, declaring that “every effort should be made to publicize art that is found to have been confiscated by the Nazis” and have it returned.


Many American and British museums have already conducted thorough investigations that have led to the return of looted art, though nothing has been done on a nationwide basis. In Germany, a government-led, nationwide investigation is underway.


The main association of Dutch museums is also launching a website to help explain the existence of art of dubious provenance in their collections and assisting heirs in claims. Visit the website on the Internet here.

Click here for riginal article.

By RUSSELL SHORTO in the New York Times

It only recently occurred to me that one very fine if not exactly intentional purpose for historic preservation is to keep dead people alive. Having spent the past several years living in Amsterdam and researching a book about its history, I now find that virtually anywhere I walk in this city, whose center has been so tenderly and smartly maintained, I am jostled by ghosts.

Some of the ghosts never actually lived in Amsterdam but rather are perennially passing through, eternally re-enacting a moment they spent here.

Every time I cycle down the medieval Oudezijds Voorburgwal canal, for example, and turn to look through the stone gate that leads into the courtyard of the Grand Hotel, I get a glimpse of the reassuringly stolid figure of Winston Churchill, decked out in top hat and overcoat, beaming, tapping his cane on the pavement.

The building that the hotel occupies was a convent in the 16th century, and many other things after that; for much of the last century it served as City Hall, and after World War II, in which the Dutch suffered so much and which the British prime minister helped lead with his special intensity, he made a celebratory appearance here.

Whenever I’m heading west on the Haarlemmerdijk, meanwhile, I encounter a crowd of 19th-century proletariat types coming the other way, eagerly and nervously surrounding a serious man with a wiry mass of gray hair and beard: Karl Marx, who arrived in 1872 to urge workers to unite.

The train station used to be at the other end of this street; the leader of the Communist movement disembarked and headed this way, and lodged in my mind are the reports of the policemen who were assigned to follow his movements.

Not all the ghosts who populate my travels in Amsterdam are famous ones, though most seem to have done fairly consequential things in life. Walking down a narrow, dark alley called the Nes, which extends from the harbor toward the city center, can be a vacant experience — there are some interesting restaurants and bars but few tourist sites, and almost nothing seems of historical note.

But when I’m on the Nes I feel I’m about to run into a tall, handsome, wily man who in his day favored lace collars and a twisty little mustache. His name was Dirck van Os, and, while history has forgotten him, his house on this street (which, alas, no longer exists) could be considered the birthplace of capitalism.

Dirck van Os (Antwerpen 13 maart 1556 – Amsterdam 20 mei 1615) was een Amsterdams koopman.

For four months in 1602, Amsterdammers streamed into his parlor to buy pieces of a new kind of corporation, one that allowed backers to sell their portion at a later date, at a higher (or lower) value. The Dutch East India Company transformed the world, and it made Amsterdam, briefly and improbably, the most powerful city in the world.

But its biggest contribution to history may be in the fact that in this little alley van Os and his merchant colleagues gave birth to the concept of “shares of stock.” A few years later, a little farther down the street, came the first stock exchange. Things would never be the same.

Some ghosts are not attached to a particular street or neighborhood but are coaxed into being by a mood that settles over the city. In the 1870s a mercurial 24-year-old Dutchman from the southern part of the country spent a year here.

He came intending to train for the ministry, but discovered that he wasn’t suited for it. Instead, he roamed Amsterdam’s quays and harborfront, seething, fuming, confused, occasionally erupting with joy at things he observed: “these old, narrow, rather somber streets,” “a canal lined with elm trees,” “a stormy sky with big clouds reflecting in puddles on the ground,” “gnarled undergrowth and the trees with their strange shapes.”

He didn’t realize it, but Vincent van Gogh, though not yet an artist, was already painting, with words. For me, today, a heavy cloud reflected in a canal or a set of twisted tree trunks will summon, if not the artist himself, a manic flash akin to his.

Another vanished van Gogh, meanwhile, retains a spectral presence over the Linnaeusstraat, a broad avenue that runs along the Oosterpark. Vincent wrote the above observations to his brother, Theo, his closest confidante. A descendant of Theo’s, also Theo van Gogh, was a famous, and in many ways infamous, Amsterdam filmmaker and societal gadfly of recent memory. He was murdered here, on the street in front of his house, in 2004, in reaction to an anti-Islamic film he made. The event shocked the city and touched off waves of angst in Europe over immigration, which have yet to settle.

Of all the ghosts of Amsterdam, though, two stand far above the rest. I encounter one or the other almost daily. Somehow, their lives were lived in this city with such an intensity that they seem to have become part of it.

In the heart of Amsterdam a little iron drawbridge crosses the Kloveniersburgwal canal. Standing in the middle of it gives a panorama of views: up and down the canal, through a tiny cafe-cluttered street, down yet another street, through an ancient gateway into a courtyard, and to a place where the waters that flow through and around the city execute a complicated branching maneuver. As Gary Schwartz, an American-born Rembrandt scholar, once pointed out to me, from this spot you take in the Amsterdam that the greatest-ever Dutch master experienced.

Rembrandt van Rijn was born in Leiden, 30 miles away, but came to Amsterdam in his 20s, drawn by the city’s rapid rise and the many upwardly mobile merchants who would be likely customers. And once he arrived, he seems not only never to have left, but by and large to have restricted himself to this little zone. Virtually everything important Rembrandt did he did within a few minutes’ walk of this bridge.

Rembrandt figures so thoroughly in Amsterdam, I think, because he is intimately associated with the city’s greatest achievement. Amsterdam in his era pioneered many of the concepts embedded in the term “liberal,” which I mean not in the sex-and-drugs permissive sense (though that would come too) but, more deeply and broadly, as a philosophy based on the individual and individual freedom: the essence of what makes us modern.

Amsterdam led the rest of Europe away from the dogma that all authority came from monarch and church; rather, this new philosophy held, truth was based on reason — in the words of the Frenchman René Descartes, who also lived in Amsterdam — on “the mind and its good sense.” Central to this was a new awareness of oneself as an individual distinct from the group. And an outgrowth of this awareness was a sudden fascination with the human face — with portraits.

Rembrandt fed the portrait craze. We remember him for his dizzying output and his dexterity with so many styles of painting.

But his fame among his contemporaries came from his way with faces: his ability not just to paint what people looked like on the outside, but also to give a sense, which was shockingly and exhilaratingly new at the time, of the person within. In one two-year period, he churned out 42 portraits, many of people who lived in the houses in this neighborhood.

Rembrandt was a man on the rise, and he felt it appropriate that he live in this same area. He married Saskia van Uylenburgh, the cousin of his art dealer, and the two moved into a rental house just around the corner from the little iron bridge. The site of their house is now a big, modern airy cafe called De Jaren, where I spent a good portion of time writing my history of the city, and it was impossible, while doing such work in this spot, not to imagine the ambitious, arrogant artist barreling in and out of the place.

From his house it was a moment’s walk around the corner and over the bridge to a building on the left side of the street that housed, of all things, the board responsible for maintaining quality control on textiles that the city shipped out. Not a very exciting occupation, but even these men wanted their likenesses captured, and Rembrandt managed to give these seemingly quashingly bland officials an air of brooding mystery. “The Staalmeesters” (“staal” being Dutch for “sample”), while considered a masterpiece, eventually achieved a second kind of immortality when it was adopted as the logo for Dutch Masters cigars.

Just behind the bridge, meanwhile, a corner building (now a hotel) was the headquarters of one of the civic guard companies that were given the task of patrolling the city streets. They too were mad for images of themselves; they commissioned Rembrandt to paint their group portrait, and, love it or hate it, the result, “The Night Watch,” is considered one of the world’s great art treasures.

The ghosts of Rembrandt’s friends populate this neighborhood as well, and they too have associations with the city’s liberal heritage. The focus on the individual and the secular put Amsterdam at the cutting edge of science.

The square called the Nieuwmarkt, a short distance away from the bridge, is dominated by a squat medieval building called de Waag, or Weigh House, which has had many functions through the centuries.

Today its ground floor accommodates a restaurant; in the 17th century its upper chamber was the city’s anatomical theater. Dr. Nicolaes Tulp, the city’s chief physician and one of its most revered residents, performed public dissections here, and in the winter of 1631-2 (dissections took place in winter because the cold kept the stench down), the young Rembrandt tramped up here to make studies for what would be his first great painting. “The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp,” in highlighting science, the human body and the distinctive personality of the physician, is a kind of trifecta of Dutch liberalism.

As Rembrandt reached the height of his fame, he bought a house a few streets away (the building is now the Rembrandt House Museum) that cost more than he could afford. That, plus the arrogance that eventually caused his patrons to flee, set off his slide into eventual bankruptcy.

In this house his wife died in childbirth. Here, too, he began a tempestuous affair with Geertje Dircx, the nurse he hired to care for the child. He tried to end the affair, but Geertje refused to be cast aside. He solved the problem by using his influence to have her committed to a workhouse.

For all the world-historic insight into humanity that his portraits show, he revealed himself, at the sad end of his life, to be adept at quite inhuman behavior.

Two years ago, my daughter and I took a walk together across Amsterdam, following in the footsteps of the historical figure who has become, so to speak, the city’s most famous export. Eva was 14 at the time, the same age as Anne Frank when she set out on her much more somber walk.

Probably every visitor to the city knows the Anne Frank House, where the girl and her family, along with a few other people, hid from the Nazis, and where Anne wrote her diary. That building, on the Prinsengracht, one of the grand central canals, was not the family’s normal residence but her father’s place of business.

They lived in the Rivierenbuurt, then a newly built area to the south of the central canal zone. In her diary Anne describes the day she, her father and her mother left their apartment for good, and walked to her father’s company, where a secret space had been built to house them. (Her sister, Margot, went separately, by bicycle.) Anne didn’t give the exact route they took, so Eva and I made a guess.

We started at Merwedeplein, the little plein, or square, that the Franks’ apartment looked out on. The apartment is today owned by the city, which honors the memory of its former inhabitants by making it available to foreign writers who have fled persecution.

We sat on a bench in the square and (at my urging) Eva read aloud the passage about the family’s departure: how they wore layers of clothing because carrying suitcases would tip off the Nazis that they were going into hiding. Then we set off. The neighborhood, which used to be the heart of Jewish Amsterdam, is a peaceful one. The buildings, dating from the period just before the Franks moved in, are surprisingly modern-looking.

Crossing a canal, we entered De Pijp, and things livened up. De Pijp is a ragged, busy neighborhood of falafel stands, artists’ lofts, yoga studios, Surinamese restaurants and coffee shops with reggae and pot smoke coming out their windows. It was a warm spring day and the sun gave the city an uncharacteristically drowsy feel.

The city the Franks walked through had been surprisingly calm for a time after the Nazi invasion. But then came the gray-and-green military vehicles of the occupiers. The razzias, roundups of Jews, began. The Franks were on foot that morning because Jews had been barred from public transportation (and from parks, libraries and restaurants). The great gift of the age of Rembrandt — the ennobling of the individual human being — was about to be ruthlessly stripped away.

Worse still, Amsterdammers themselves assisted in this violent betrayal of their liberal tradition. The city’s efficient administrators made it easier for Nazis to identify and remove Jews. As a result, a much greater percentage of Jews were murdered during the war than those of any other country. Amsterdam before the Holocaust had 80,000 Jews; today there are about 15,000.

Anne and her parents made it safely to the placid district of the central canals, the main tourist zone today, which had been built in the city’s Golden Age heyday. They slipped into the building where Otto Frank, Anne’s father, worked, and remained there until, two years later, they were caught and shipped off to concentration camps.

Eva and I walked past the Anne Frank House (which we’d visited several times before), and found a canalside cafe. Of course, our walk had been in part a typical parental ploy to instill something meaningful in a child. I asked Eva what she thought about it. She answered by saying, “Have you read Oliver Sacks? He’s amazing.”

I instantly recognized the non sequitur as a classic teenage gambit to thwart parental pedagogy, but it still worked. I was disoriented: surely it hadn’t been that long ago that she was enthralled by “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.” Since when had she grown up to become a reader of neuroscientific case studies? Who was this person?

Then I recalled something that Otto Frank had written. He was the only member of the family to survive the war. He’d been stunned when he read the diary that his teenage daughter had left behind, and said it made him feel that he had never really known her.

What surprised him, was, I think, the very thing that made the diary an international sensation. It vividly displays both what Amsterdam’s history has always been about and what the Nazi occupation so vibrantly threatened: the mysterious complexity that is the individual human being.

This girl who would soon have the life crushed out of her represents not just the others who died without leaving words behind, but all of us. She showed us what human individuality is. And she did it, surprisingly enough, in the same way Rembrandt did: by painting a portrait.

As her father was shocked, and embarrassed, to discover, her diary reveals a full, deep, complicated person, who insists on continuing with her adolescent’s journey of self-discovery even as the swastikas paraded by outside: “It’s funny, but I can sometimes see myself as others see me. I take a leisurely look at the person called ‘Anne Frank’ and browse through the pages of her life as though she were a stranger.”

If ghosts who represent stages in the rise of individual freedom still haunt the streets of Amsterdam, making the city itself far greater than the sum of its museums and tourist sites, for me the spirit of this girl stands out above all the others because, in addition, she showed how fragile that freedom is.

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What to see and do in Amsterdam this autumn, including suggestions from our expert on where to stay.
Amsterdam attractions: what to see and do in autumn

Autumn in Amsterdam is for bracing walks along the canals Photo: AP

9:53AM BST 25 Sep 2013 

Why go?

Amsterdam somehow manages to have it all. It has the buzz of a metropolis, with few big-city drawbacks. It’s small enough to walk or cycle almost anywhere you want, yet is rarely dull. Dinky gabled buildings, pretty bridges and quiet canals give it village-like charm, yet you’ll also find top-ranking art museums and one of the best orchestras in the world. Most of all, Amsterdam combines its glittering past with a wry, rough, rebellious contemporary edginess.

Any season in Amsterdam has its allure, and autumn for bracing walks along the canals.

On the downside, expect rain or Tupperware-grey skies any time of year – but then there’s more than enough on the museum front to keep you entertained indoors, and at the slightest hint of good weather the chairs and tables go out at pavement cafés.

Autumn foliage

Trees line Amsterdam’s famous canals, meaning autumn is a great time for strolling around the city, and soaking up the colours. Wander the main 17th-century canals – Herengracht, Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht – but check out the picture-postcard Brouwersgracht, and the patch around Reguliersgracht, too.

Vondelpark, to the southwest of the city centre, is another decent bet for leaf-peeping. Other green spaces include Beatrixpark, Sarphatipark, and Oosterpark.

New exhibitions

Hermitage Amsterdam
Gaugin, Bonnard, Denis: A Russian Taste for French Art (until February 2014)

Set in a former almshouse for the aged, built in the 1680s, Hermitage Amsterdam shows off treasures on loan from the Hermitage palace in St Petersburg, in different themed exhibitions.

Its current exhibition highlights the works of three French artists from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Documenting the Netherlands: Our Daily Bread (until January 7, 2014)

The Dutch national treasure-house of art has at last re-opened after a decade-long renovation. Golden Age masterpieces by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Frans Hals and so many more are on show alongside centuries’ worth of fine furniture, Delftware, costume and jewellery. There’s a superb Asian collection, and new aquisitions which bring the display up to the present day.

The new exhibition features images from photographer Henk Wildschut that aim to depict the reality behind the production of fruit, vegetables, meat, milk, fish and eggs in the Netherlands.

Expert hotel pick
Hotel Bellington is a modest option in Amsterdam’s flashiest quarter.

Van Gogh Museum
Van Gogh at Work (until January 12, 2014)

More of the tortured artist’s paintings and drawings are collected here than anywhere in the world, and the temporary exhibitions of associated works are usually inspired and engrossing.

The current exhibition is a revealing look at the formative ten years that shaped his craft, showcasing over 200 pieces including paintings, works on paper, letters, original sketchbooks and his only surviving palette.

The Van Gogh Museum

Other attractions

Anne Frank House
The attic rooms where the Frank family hid out during the Second World War, reached through a door behind a hinged bookcase, are bare of furniture yet almost unbearably poignant, with magazine pictures pasted on the walls by Anne still in situ.

Expert hotel pick
Hotel Van Onna is a simple, well-run and clean hotel situated on a pretty canal. What more does one need?

Museum Van Loon
A peek indoors at the home of an Amsterdam patrician family. The 17th-century canalside mansion, one of the grandest in town, has been magnificently restored, to the last tinkling chandelier and lick of gilding.

Autumn events

Amsterdam Dance Event
October 16-20
The electronic music extravaganza is dubbed as the biggest music festival and conference in the world, featuring 2,000 artists and 450 events across 100 venues in the

Bokbier Festival
October 25-27
This annual beer festival takes place in the historic Beurs van Berlage building in the heart of the city, where visitors can sample over 50 varieties of bock beer accompanied by music from a live band.

Expert hotel pick
The Exchange Hotel is an affotable option on a hectic street between Centraal Station and the Dam, a heartbeat from the red-light district.

London Calling
November 1-2
This annaul music showcase features new bands from Britain and the US. Florence and the Machine, Bloc Party and Franz Ferdinand are among the artists who made their Dutch debut at the Paradisco stage where it all takes place.

Museum Night
November 2
Fifty museums across the city are open late into the night, presenting a variety of art, music, fashion and film activities and events, alongside their regular exhibitions.

The Rijksmuseum

Expert hotel pick
The Seven One Seven is a sumptuous canal-house hotel with the ambience of an (admittedly very grand) private home.

International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA)
November 20-December 1
Filmmakers from around the globe descend on Amsterdam for the 250 or so screenings that make up the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, with energetic public debates and discussions on the go, too.

Additional research by Soo Kim

Click here to read the original article.

Research experts reject claim in biography that artist was murdered by 16-year-old schoolboy

The mystery surrounding Vincent van Gogh’s death has taken another twist after two experts disputed a recent biography that suggested he did not commit suicide but instead was killed by an acquaintance.

The Dutch painter was widely believed to have shot himself at the age of 37, even confessing it on his deathbed. Yet Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith made the shock claim that he had been shot, possibly accidentally, by a 16-year-old schoolboy.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning authors made the claim in Van Gogh: The Life, a 960-page biography released in October 2011. At the time of publication, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam said the theory was “dramatic” and “intriguing” but added that “plenty of questions remained unanswered.”

Two research experts from the museum were set on the trail of exploring the claims, however, and have no published their findings that the shocking theory of manslaughter, or even murder, simply does not add up.

In an article in the Burlington Magazine, Louis van Tilborgh and Teio Meendendorp said the train of events suggesting suicide “is eminently defensible, both psychologically and historically”.

They pointed to the nature of the bullet wound, relations with his brother Theo, as well as a letter found in his pocket – which the biography failed to cover – as helping prove his suicide. They also added that it was plausible Van Gogh wanted to commit suicide, which the biographers dispute.

They wrote: “Seen from the perspective that is neglected in this biography, namely Van Gogh’s own view of his life, suicide is so much more plausible than the chance squabble with fatal consequences.”

Van Gogh died in 1890 in Auvers-sur-Oise where he was painting the wheat fields. He sustained a gunshot injury to his abdomen while out in those fields before dying in an inn two days later. On his death bed he revealed he had shot himself.

Van Gogh The Life

Van Gogh The Life

The biography was compiled after 10 years of study by its authors and aired a startling theory. Mr Naifeh said: “The accepted understanding of what happened in Auvers among the people who knew him was that he was killed accidentally by a couple of boys and he decided to protect them by accepting the blame.” American academic John Rewald had talked of hearing local rumours about such a theory in the 1930s.

The biographers pointed to Gaston and Rene Secretan, students at a Paris lycee, as responsible. Renee was interviewed in 1957 about the artist and revealed that he owned a pistol that Van Gogh may have taken. The authors of the recent article said the interview, which the biography relied on heavily, did not substantiate the claims “in the slightest”.

The experts from the Van Gogh Museum said: “Truly nothing substantiates their argument for the train of events they construe, apart from a twentieth-century rumour arising from an authentic story of a trigger-happy brat in 1890, who merely claimed that Van Gogh probably stole the gun from him. And we do not doubt that for a moment.”

Read the original story by clicking here.

As the Dutch celebrate Queen’s Day and the coronation of a new monarch, readers share their view of the celebrations

queens day netherlands
Dutch Queen Beatrix in Zeewolde, Netherlands, on the occasion of Queen’s Day, the celebration of her birthday. Queen Beatrix announced on 28 January 2013, in a previously recorded speech, that she will give the throne to Crown Prince Willem-Alexander on 30 April 2013. Share your pictures from Queen’s Day and the coronation with us. Photograph: VINCENT JANNINK/EPA

Tying in with her 75th birthday, the abdication and coronation in Amsterdam’s central square will be cause for celebration and ceremony across the Netherlands with the Dutch throwing street parties and parades.

We’re keen to see your images and videos of the celebrations – whether in Holland or beyond – from national costumes to impromptu spates of orange-clad dancing to document what is likely to be one of the biggest celebrations of all things Dutch this century.

On the 28 January our Queen Beatrix announced her abdication. I watched her speech together with my grandparents and felt slightly shocked. She had been our queen for 33 years and – though I hadn’t expected it – knowing that we had to say goodbye to her now, made me feel quite emotional.

Yet after my emotions settled down, I realised 2013 was going to be a very special year for the Netherlands and I have barely been able to contain my excitement over the past few months. A coronation – though technically in Holland it’s an inauguration – of a new king is something that happens only once, twice or, if you’re lucky, three times in your lifetime. It’s an event of great historical importance and everyone in the Netherlands seems to realise that.

Most of the Dutch people – as various polls have shown – support our king-to-be Willem-Alexander and are genuinely excited for 30 April. This is illustrated by the “orange madness” that has taken over our newspapers, television shows, shops and minds. Most of us can’t wait for the 30 April to arrive, because if there is one thing the Dutch know, it’s how to throw a good party! Especially if we’re allowed to dress up in orange!

From the moment Queen Beatrix announced her abdication in January, the Netherlands slowly turned orange. It’s inescapable: advertising becomes openly royalist, papers produce countless coronation specials, television starts favoring the new king over reports on violence in Syria.

The constitutional monarchy in the 21st century is an odd beast. Succession is fundamentally undemocratic. Exit the right womb and – in the case of the new Dutch king – you receive 850.000 euros per annum. That’s over two Obama’s. We also constitutionally prevent you paying taxes on them.

With the final Koninginnedag or Queen’s Day upon us this Tuesday, I should confess I do go out with friends on that day. The party often starts the night before, because it’s no secret Koninginnenacht is even better.

The Netherlands lacks a strong nationalist tradition. During the year, it’s rare to see the Dutch flag in everyday life. Municipal buildings only carry a flag on some – not all – national holidays. Nobody flags daily out of national pride. Of course there are occasional flourishes of orange when our national soccer team progresses – and ultimately fails – in European and international tournaments.

Even as a softcore republican I recognise some benefits of our monarchy. Koninginnedag especially is an inclusive, uniquely carefree orange-hued celebration of ‘Dutchness’, without dark undercurrents of nationalism. It naturally centers around the pampered head that wears a crown, but for most people it’s just a day to enjoy with friends, sell attic trash on the vrijmarkt and get drunk. As nationalism goes, you could do worse.

Looking back, Beatrix as a symbol probably helped maintain this healthy form of nationalism, in a way a president possibly couldn’t. But I wouldn’t be a real Dutchman if I didn’t grumble about the cost.

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Eva Schloss talks movingly about surviving Auschwitz, the constant presence of her stepsister’s ghost – and why she knows Anne Frank would have loved Justin Bieber

Anne Frank at the age of 12 years, sitting at her desk at the Montessori school in Amsterdam in 1940

Anne Frank at the age of 12 years, sitting at her desk at the Montessori school in Amsterdam in 1940 Photo: GETTY

Auschwitz endowed Eva Schloss with an abiding sense of proportion. The stepsister of Anne Frank greets with bemusement the latest outbreak of synthetic outrage on the internet, this time over a comment made by the singer and teen idol Justin Bieber in the guest book of the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam.

Following his visit to the museum, created from the house in which Anne hid from the Nazis, Bieber dared to express the hope that in another life the young diarist might have been one of his fans. A clumsy comment, perhaps, but hardly the end of the world – and Eva Schloss understands more than most what the end of the world feels like.

“It’s so childish,” she says, sitting in her home in London’s Maida Vale. “She probably would have been a fan. Why not? He’s a young man and she was a young girl, and she liked film stars and music. They make a lot of fuss about everything that is connected with Anne Frank.”

The ghost of Anne has accompanied Eva throughout her life. The two were not stepsisters in life, not even particularly close friends during their time together as German-Jewish refugees in pre-war Amsterdam, but 68 years after her death in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp at the age of 15, Anne Frank continues to exert a powerful and not always welcome hold over Eva Schloss. That influence, positive and negative, is described in Eva’s newly published autobiography, After Auschwitz.

The pair’s association stems from the marriage of Anne’s father, Otto, to Eva’s mother, Fritzi, in 1953. Otto had lost his wife and two daughters in the Holocaust, while Fritzi had lost her husband and son. Each was a source of solace to the other.

“We both have suffered so much,” Fritzi once explained to Eva, “and we understand each other perfectly.”

Otto was determined to immortalise Anne’s memory through the medium of her diary, and promoting it became the governing preoccupation of his life. Eva, 83, who for 40 years refused even to speak of the horrors she had endured during the Second World War, was often marginalised as her mother joined her stepfather on promotional tours and in his battles to protect Anne’s legacy.

“It was a wonderful marriage. My mother and Otto loved each other dearly,” says Eva. “Otto would talk continuously about Anne, and I got to know her. It was his obsession, the reason for existence. If a father loses a child that is the worst thing, and it gave him a task: to convey Anne’s message to the world.

“But it was a burden. My three daughters, they wanted a grandfather, and whatever they did it was always ‘Anne would have done it this way’ – and you know, they didn’t know Anne, so there was always this ghost living with us, like a shadow.

“I loved my mother – we had a wonderful relationship – but it soured my feeling a little bit. Once, my mother and Otto were in Denmark, and I had a miscarriage. My husband was in Israel and I had the three kids all on my own. I telephoned my mother to come, I was in hospital, and she said, ‘Well, we have still got three days here in Denmark and then I will come’. I was very upset about that. I needed her, and she opted to stay with Otto to do the Anne Frank business.”

Eva Schloss was born Eva Geiringer in Vienna in May 1929, the second child, after her brother Heinz, of Erich and Fritzi Geiringer, her “Pappy” and “Mutti”. Following the Anschluss, the annexation of Austria by Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich, the family fled to the Netherlands. The Franks, who came from Frankfurt, had already arrived in Holland, setting up home in Amsterdam.

The Anne Frank Eva knew was always surrounded by friends attracted by her stories and witty observations, often related over ice cream sundaes.

“We used to play together, skipping and sitting on the steps together by our apartments,” remembers Eva. “Anne was very lively but I was more shy. I was good in sports but she was more intellectually developed, quite interested in clothes and boys.”

On May 10 1940, the relative calm enjoyed by the Geiringers and Franks ended abruptly with the sound of air-raid sirens. In just one week, German forces overwhelmed the Netherlands and the two families again found themselves living under the Nazi yoke. Life did not change immediately – the girls saw each other regularly until July 1942 – but as the persecution of Holland’s Jewish community intensified, both families took the decision to disappear.

“When my father said that we were going to go into hiding, I was like, ‘Hiding – what do you mean, hiding?’ I was an outdoors child and it was a shock. No one would take a family of four, so we had to split up. ‘You will go with your mother and your brother will go with me,’ said my father. I said: ‘No, I want to stay together.’

“It was very difficult. I was cooped up day-in-day-out with my mother. We got on very well but nevertheless – what can you talk about when nothing is happening? We thought: ‘England is powerful, America is in the war now, and it can’t last long. It will be over by Christmas 1942, or maybe a month after that. You live day by day, week by week.”

Refuge followed refuge, long periods of boredom interspersed with the terror of a sudden raid. On one occasion, Eva and her mother were saved by a secret compartment completed in the bathroom of a safe house only two hours before a raid. But luck is a finite commodity, and it duly ran out on Eva’s 15th birthday. She and her mother were betrayed by the Dutch nurse who had taken them in. A Gestapo agent, she received a mere four-year prison sentence for collaboration after the war. Erich and Heinz were betrayed by other members of the same Nazi spy ring, and the family was reunited on a train heading for Auschwitz.

“We thought: ‘That’s it’,” remembers Eva. “We knew about the gassing by then through the BBC.”

Again, mother and daughter were parted from father and son. At 15, she was about to learn a lot about human nature. She was tattooed with a number on her left arm just below the elbow: A-5222. The next day it was changed to A-5272, the seven being placed above the offending two. It is still there, faint but legible, a living reminder.

“People were really for themselves,” says Eva. “There was very little compassion – you didn’t have the time or strength. You had to use all your energy for staying alive. I ate carrot ends from the rubbish heap for extra vitamins. Sometimes I wonder: how could we survive like this? We were like skeletons.”

To starvation was added brutality.

“The female guards were actually more cruel than the men. They beat you more, they screamed at you more, they made you suffer more. The men were more sarcastic. Men never beat me, but women did.”

Eva would never see Heinz again but she met her father on a few precious occasions. The final meeting lingers in her mind.

“It was very emotional; it gave me hope,” she says. “I thought my mother had been selected (for gassing). It was winter and I had frostbite on my feet. I was at a very low point, starving. My father came and I told him that my mother had died. I felt very bad about that. I think sometimes that if he had known she was alive, he would not have died. He gave up.”

Eva moved to London after the war and met her husband, Zvi Schloss, another Jewish refugee from Germany who had escaped to Palestine before the war. The marriage produced three daughters, Caroline, Jacqueline and Sylvia. Eva imagined that she had returned to normality but her girls knew all was not well.

“My youngest daughter said: ‘You weren’t always mentally there for us.’ I was still having dreams and thinking about things.”

She was strict, insisting that her children eat up and go to school even when they were suffering with colds. When they came to her in the night, she insisted they return to their beds.

“I certainly did not spoil them and I think they resented that,” she says. “Someone once called me a hard-faced cow. Perhaps they were right; perhaps I have not enough sympathy for smaller suffering.”

She hopes that her book will help her daughters to understand, and forgive.

“It was really too painful but now I think we will have a better understanding. We will be able to talk more openly about why I could not be a normal mother.”

After Auschwitz: My Memories of Otto and Anne Frank’ by Eva Schloss (Hodder) is available from Telegraph Books for £18 plus £1.35 p&p. Call 0871 871 1514 or visit

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The Netherlands is about to have its first King since 1890. Queen Beatrix last week announced she would step aside for her son Willem-Alexander after more than 30 years on the throne. The Prince has worked hard to bolster his image in the past 15 years, swapping his reputation as a beer-guzzling party animal for the trappings of a family man. The Royal correspondent, Marc van der Linden, says the decision to abdicate came as no surprise to the Dutch.

Crown Prince Willem-Alexander

MARC VAN DER LINDEN: We’ve got a history of monarchs that abdicate in favour of the heir to the throne at certain points. We had three kings and three Queens and four of them altogether abdicated. So the system we use, we are used to it. We like the system, we like the fact that at a certain age the monarch is stepping down and we get a younger generation as King and as Queen. And that’s happening now.

ASHLEY HALL: What was the reaction like?

MARC VAN DER LINDEN: Well Beatrix is extremely loved, people respect her. She is a very – she’s been a very good Queen. There’s hardly any discussion about that. So people were very grateful for what she’s done for the country, emotional because it comes at a time that the Queen has a difficult period, a difficult time in her life. Her son had a very tragic accident last year, he’s in a coma since.

But most people also, you know, wish her some nice years, some peace, some rest, time for her hobbies, time to travel, time to enjoy grandchildren. So, you know, it’s a double feeling.

ASHLEY HALL: So she stands aside to hand over the reins to her son Willem-Alexander. What sort of indications are there about what kind of King he will be?

MARC VAN DER LINDEN: Well he said that he liked the way his grandmother was a Queen; close to the people, down to earth, extrovert, very open. His mother had a more business like style, she was (inaudible) there was always a little distance, but in the last years, especially since her husband died, her parents died, the accident of her son, the attitudes changed and Queen Beatrix became more open and more emotional in public sometimes.

And that, you know, that formed a very strong bond between her and her people.

ASHLEY HALL: Willem-Alexander did have a reputation as a bit of a party animal for – in his earlier years; has he managed to put that behind him?

MARC VAN DER LINDEN: Yes. He was, like all young men, enjoying his beers, he had some girlfriend, and when he married a lot of things changed. He became more serious, but he also became more open. We saw him as a father; he’s a very, you know, happy father, very loved by his – very much loved by his daughters. And we saw a lot of footage of him in his role as a father. And he’s given a lot of interviews, he’s very open to the press, he’s got a good relationship with the press at the moment.

So, compared to his mother, that’s completely different. And his mother never gave quotes on TV, never gave quotes for radio. When she was talking to the press we were not allowed to use her quotes as a quote. We could just, you know, paraphrase it but not quote her. And he’s very, very easy with that.

So, it’s going to be different, but it’s going to be good. He’s going to be a 21st Century monarch.

ASHLEY HALL: Give me an insight, Marc, into reporting on royalty in The Netherlands. Most of the royal reporting that we see in Australia relates to the British Royal family, contrast that a little for me or give me some insight into how you go about your work there.

MARC VAN DER LINDEN: The good thing for the Royal family in England is that the whole world is watching them. That’s also the downside for them. That puts on a lot of pressure, that makes the media always a little bit of a circus; it’s very hard to get very close to the Royals.

I’ve been travelling with the Queen and the Crown Prince and Princess Maxima last week to Brunei and Singapore and it’s really very easy to get close to them, to speak to them. We’re invited to the parties, we’re invited to see the same concerts, we are invited to eat the same food as they do.

So it’s different, it’s very close towards the family. Of course there’s always a distance because we are the media. They are, you know, writing a lot in Germany about the Dutch Royal family. The Belgians envy our Royal family, their own king and their royal family are not very popular, and they’re always saying ‘look at them, look at how they’re doing it.’

ASHLEY HALL: Marc van der Linden is a Royal biographer and one of the anchors of the daily news show RTL Boulevard. He spoke to me from Amsterdam.

The original story:

Amsterdamsel Tours leads WWII and Jewish Amsterdam tours, exploring the historic Jewish quarter, its monuments, and old Jewish orphanages and schools. 

Dutch capital earns international notice for efforts to rebuild a presence almost entirely wiped out during the Holocaust

Built in the 17th century by refugees from the Inquisition, Amsterdam's Portuguese Synagogue withstood the Nazi occupation to remain a center of Jewish life. (Matt Lebovic)

Dutch Crown Prince Willem-Alexander officiated at the Jewish Cultural Quarter’s designation ceremony in October. Wearing a blue yarmulke, the prince unveiled artwork titled “The Fragmented Talit,” by Israeli-Dutch artist Joseph Semah.

Speaking in the restored Portuguese Synagogue, the prince acknowledged the Quarter’s history and major sites, including Europe’s oldest Jewish library and theHollandsche Schouwburg, or Dutch Theater, used by the Nazis as a detention center for captured Jews.

For decades, a trickle of tourists made its way to Amsterdam’s former Jodenhoek, or Jewish Corner, adjacent to the canal-filled city’s historic center. Most visitors toured the stately Portuguese Synagogue or Jewish Historical Museum, close to where many of Amsterdam’s 80,000 Jews lived on the eve of World War II.

Though home to most of the decimated community’s institutions and residences, the Quarter plays second fiddle to Amsterdam’s most visited “Jewish” site – the Anne Frank House across town, which draws more than a million tourists annually.

The Portuguese Synagogue complex, which includes the so-called winter synagogue, received the Europa Nostra prize last year from European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. (Matt Lebovic)

An hour’s walk from Anne Frank’s “Secret Annex,” the Jewish Quarter once boasted a patchwork of Jews from northern Africa and throughout Europe. The bustling Jewish flea market filled a square until Nazis converted it as a gathering place for roundup victims in 1941. A defiant-looking “Dockworker” statue commemorates the firstmajor Dutch strike following these deportations.

With its blend of red-brick 17th century synagogues and sites connected to the Holocaust, the Quarter speaks to both centuries of Jewish life upended and the desire of today’s Jewish community to achieve a sense of continuity. The synagogues and theater have each been renovated in recent years, with the Portuguese Synagogue winning the European Union’s Europa Nostra prize for conservation work in 2012.

Built in 1675 by Jews who fled the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions, the Portuguese Synagogue – or “Esnoga” in Ladino – was modeled after the Jerusalem Temple. The complex includes a courtyard, winter synagogue, archives, mortuary, and the famous Etz Hayim library.

The sanctuary’s high rectangular interior retains original wooden benches and – in the Dutch tradition – a floor covered with fine sand to absorb moisture from shoes and soften their noise. Here, in 1656, from the synagogue’s east-facing holy ark, Amsterdam rabbis excommunicated freethinker Baruch Spinoza for “abominable heresies” at the age of 23.

A less eventful visit to the Portuguese Synagogue was recently made by European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, who told Jewish leaders that European Jews represent the best of “cultural integration.”

The imposing Hollandsche Schouwburg, or Dutch Theater, served as a gathering point during the Nazi roundup of Amsterdam's Jews. (Matt Lebovic)

“[The Jewish Cultural Quarter] is part of the work of keeping alive this great tradition, the Jewish tradition, which is a part of our European Union,” Barroso said during a Jan. 8 visit. He added that Jews around the world were “at the front line of the fight against extremism.”

Several of Amsterdam’s 15,000 Jews have risen to the top of Dutch politics in recent years.

Former Amsterdam Mayor Job Cohen’s paternal grandparents were murdered in the Holocaust. Cohen led the city for almost a decade, and was runner-up for World Mayor in 2006. Half-Jewish politician Lodewijk Asscher is currently the Netherlands’ deputy prime minister, with a vision to make Holland “fairer and stronger.”

Both Cohen and Asscher have advocated “cleaning up” Amsterdam’s notorious Red Light District, home to legalized prostitution and just a wooden shoe’s throw from the Jewish Cultural Quarter. Halfway between the brothels and the Quarter’s center, Rembrandt van Rijn lived and worked in a mansion close to the Jews he occasionally painted.

The Quarter’s homes were demolished during 1945’s “Hunger Winter,” when abandoned Jewish buildings were razed for firewood to sustain a starving and frozen city. More recent years have seen the almost total redevelopment of the area, with office buildings and transportation infrastructure making it one of Amsterdam’s least charming districts.

More than 275,000 tourists visited the square-kilometer-sized Jewish Quarter last year, according to the Jewish Historical Museum, celebrating its 80th anniversary. As the first stop for many Quarter visitors, the museum houses more than 50,000 objects in galleries created within adjacent synagogues.

Other Jewish artifacts are literally tucked away in corners throughout the neighborhood, including the Portuguese Synagogue’s underground “Treasure Rooms,” which feature 800 rare ceremonial objects. Near the Artis Royal Zoo, where some Jews hid among the animals, a memorial to Auschwitz deportees fills the corner of a dog park.

Traditional Dutch and Jewish items remain on sale at Amsterdam's former Jewish flea market. (Matt Lebovic)

Though the Netherlands deported a larger share of Jews to Nazi death camps than any other Western European country, no official Dutch Holocaust museum or memorial exists. Since 1993, the Hollandsche Schouwburg has informally filled the role by displaying Holocaust-era artifacts and archiving victims’ names.

The Schouwburg is currently raising funds to convert itself into a “fully fledged” museum of the Holocaust in the Netherlands, according to its strategic plan. In addition to memorializing 104,000 Dutch Jews killed during the war, the organization aims to enhance its presentation of testimonies from Holocaust-era bystanders, rescuers, resistance fighters and persecutors.

In the meantime, the Jewish Historical Museum maintains a “digital monument” to the Jewish community, recording the names of Dutch Holocaust victims and digitally archiving their documents. Based on “register lists” created by the Nazis in 1941, the monument allows online visitors to learn about victims in specific neighborhoods and families.

Though the Quarter includes just four major sites, the neighboring Dutch Resistance Museum promotes a “Persecution and Resistance” walking tour between its building — itself a former synagogue — and the Anne Frank House across town. A guidebook explains the significance of sites associated with Nazi crimes and Dutch resistance, many of which would otherwise go unnoticed.

Find the original story here.

By Georg Diez

Anne Frank is a figure of hope whose diary has been read by millions of people around the world. Two new books, an upcoming film and a soon to open museum seek to create a contemporary, complicated — and more Jewish — image of the Holocaust victim.

More than 30 million copies of the "Diary of Anne Frank" have been sold around the world, but do we really know her?
DPA / Anne Frank Fonds Basel

More than 30 million copies of the “Diary of Anne Frank” have been sold around the world, but do we really know her?

For Buddy Elias, she was the girl with the smile, the girl with whom he played hide and seek, the girl who was determined to go ice skating with him; and she was his cousin, who he is still trying to protect to this day.

In her diary, she even drew a picture of the dress she would like to wear if she were to go ice skating with him.Elias beams when he talks about her, but his eyes reveal a sense of sadness. For years, Elias has been talking about his favorite cousin Anne, speaking to schoolchildren who are amazed that he exists and that Anne Frank was even a real person. Of course, they know she existed, because they’ve read her diary. The book has transported them to the back house, or Secret Annex. Her words have spoken to them and they have perhaps even trembled as she once did as they read her story. Some people even claim to have seen her, in Manila or Buenos Aires, and they are convinced that Anne Frank survived.

Anne Frank is the face of the Holocaust.

In her room at Prinsengracht 263 in Amsterdam, where she hid with her parents, her sister Margot, the Van Pels family and Fritz Pfeffer, a dentist, from July 6, 1942 to Aug. 4, 1944, she had a photo of Greta Garbo pinned to the wall. Like most teenagers, she dreamed about Hollywood.

Buddy Elias, who is 87 today, went on to become a star in the “Holiday on Ice” review. He was an actor in the theater and on television, and he lived Anne’s dream. To this day, it seems to inspire him, although it isn’t clear whether he wasn’t in fact running away, during all those years spent on tour in Egypt and America, before he assumed the public persona that would be his most significant: Anne Frank’s cousin. It’s the role of his life.

In the last entry in her diary, written on Aug. 1, 1944 — three days before she was betrayed and taken first to the Westerbork transit camp in the Netherlands, then to Auschwitz and later to Bergen-Belsen — Frank described herself as a “bundle of contradictions”.

Even today, the rest of the world is still asking who, exactly, was she?

Anne Frank was, of course, a victim who represented the 6 million Jews murdered by the Nazis. Her story became one, as is often stated, that keeps us from forgetting.

In the countless depictions of her that have carried on this legacy of remembrance, Anne Frank was the friend, the strong one, the difficult one, the girl in love, the girl who fought with her mother and discovered her budding sexuality, and the girl who, despite her death, tells a story of hope.

She was the saint of the Holocaust and its teenage star. But there is one thing she rarely was: herself.

A New Focus on Anne Frank

If the producers and the screenwriter of what is, surprising as it may be, the first German film about Anne Frank, have their way, that could soon change. The film, which is scheduled for cinematic release in 2014, seeks to tell the story of both her life and death. It offers viewers the whole Anne Frank, more than just the girl who lived in an annex in Amsterdam — the story of both her childhood and her life in a concentration camp.

The Frank Family Center now being built in Frankfurt may also help to change our perceptions of Anne Frank. Scheduled to be opened in 2016, it will tell the story of the deep-seated, 400-year relationship between the Frank family and the city of Frankfurt, a story that long predates the Holocaust.

Finally, the work of the Anne Frank Fund in Basel, which is currently embroiled in a lawsuit with the Anne Frank Foundation in Amsterdam, could also change the way we view her.

The organizations worked in parallel for a long time, the Basel fund, with its Jewish affiliation, and the Amsterdam foundation, which repeatedly stresses that it operates in the way Otto Frank would have wanted — even though letters from the 1960s and 70s reveal Otto Frank’s suspicions about the foundation.

The dispute between the two organizations is symptomatic, reflecting all the things that have been said about Anne Frank and all the things she has been turned into.

She has been used to preach humanism, and she has been transformed into a universalistic icon, a cautionary tale of what humans do to humans, one meant to keep us alert so that we won’t turn our backs on contemporary atrocities like the genocides in Bosnia and Rwanda. At times, the cost of this is that the specifically Jewish part of Anne Frank’s life, her suffering and her thoughts are minimized or suppressed.

She has been used to explain the Holocaust, even though it isn’t mentioned in her diary and its horrors only play a marginal role in her story from the annex in Amsterdam. But perhaps this is what made her story such a success, because it was the story of the crime of the century without actually focusing on that crime, the tale of a dark fate without the mention of death, but with the constant belief in survival, one that persisted, contrary to all reason.

Frank Talk About Anne

The contradictions that Anne Frank discovered in herself shape her story. “What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank” is not only the perpetual question that pops into the mind when thinking about her legacy, but also the title of a volume of short stories by Nathan Englander, one of two recent works of fiction by American Jews now coming out in German on the subject of Anne Frank, works that are funny, political, bitter and brilliant, two books that show what a vital part of post-Holocaust Jewish identity Anne Frank has become.

Englander’s stories are clear-sighted and humorous, full of fear and violence, revenge and dogmatism. His characters include settlers and their tragedy, a top lawyer at a peepshow, two Auschwitz survivors and schoolchildren in a summer camp.

Englander is constantly redefining morality. An eternal question — Who am I? — addresses how this is done, and how moral decisions shape an identity. In Englander’s Jewish world, the question is constantly connected to another one: Who was I?

“The entire book is about the question of who owns identity, who owns history and what memory is,” says Englander, 42, on a morning in Berlin, where he is on a book tour. He likes Berlin. In fact, the book took shape at the American Academy on Wannsee lake, the very site where the Nazis discussed the “final solution of the Jewish question.” Englander sat there, expressing his surprise over how obsessed he was with the Holocaust. It made him feel uncomfortable, he says. “I didn’t know why I am the way I am,” he says.

As a child growing up in New York, he was convinced that there would be a second Holocaust. “It was pathological and ridiculous. America is the best country the Jews have ever had. On the other, things have never ended well for the Jews, have they?”

As a child, he and his sister invented a game, one that revolved around an outrageous, dangerous morality: Who would hide us, and who would betray us if there were another Holocaust? Would it be a neighbor, a son or a husband who turned us in?Englander describes this game in the central story of his latest book. “We Jews talk about ourselves, about our fear and about this very Jewish feeling,” he says, “that nothing in the world is safe.” “For many people, the Holocaust is Anne Frank. What do you see when you think about the Holocaust: A mountain of dead bodies or this girl?”

In his book, Englander describes how memory becomes policy and how policy influences our memory of the individual. It’s also a reflection on the role and importance of the Holocaust today in discussing the question of identity, including the identity of nations. In a Germany that is powerful once again — this question arises with each new film about Hitler or Rommel. In Israel, on the other hand, the question is posed very differently: Was this country born out of the Zionist dream or the nightmare of the Holocaust?

Part 2: A Literary Event

It’s a question that Shalom Auslander, 42, finds amusing. “Israel?” he asks. “Just bomb the place. I hated it. Everyone’s in a bad mood. Everyone’s afraid. The whole time I was there I felt like my father was at the back of my neck. When I returned to New York after a year-and-a-half, I treated myself to a cheeseburger and a blowjob.”

Auslander’s a punk. He’s drinking his second glass of red wine at Joshua’s Café, as a storm rages outside. It’s lunchtime in Woodstock, two hours north of New York, the setting of his novel “Hope: A Tragedy,” to be published in German in late February. He shreds many of the certainties people thought they had about the Holocaust in general and Anne Frank in particular. Optimism is the enemy, says Auslander, hope is a lie and identity doesn’t arise from destruction, that is, the Holocaust. In other words, identity that arises from destruction, according to Auslander, deserves to be destroyed.

“I’m often asked whether I’m a self-hating Jew,” says Auslander, “and my answer is: I’m a person who hates himself. In that sense, I’m like Anne Frank. We liked self-loathing people. Self-loathing is the way forward. Anne Frank was someone my mother most certainly wouldn’t have liked.”

It’s this tone, this tempo and this furor that propels Auslander’s novel forward. The protagonist, Solomon Kugel, has three problems: How does he fix his marriage, how does he get his mother out of his house, and what is Anne Frank doing in his attic? Is it even her, that cursing, ill-tempered, unkempt fury who sends him out to buy matzo bread?

“I don’t know who you are,” says Kugel, “or how you got up here. But I’ll tell you what I do know: I know Anne Frank died in Auschwitz. And I know that she died along with many others, some of whom were my relatives. And I know that making light of that, by claiming to be Anne Frank, not only is not funny and abhorrent but it also insults the memory of millions of victims of Nazi brutality.”

“It was Bergen-Belsen, jackass,” Anne Frank replies. “And as for the relatives you lost in the Holocaust?” she continues. “Blow me.” Auslander laughs heartily at the obscenity of his character’s words. “I had worked on the book for three years and was stuck. Then that sentence occurred to me: ‘Blow me, said Anne Frank.’ First I called my wife and said: I’ve got it. Then I called my psychiatrist.”

The obscenity that informs this book is Auslander’s response to the obscenity of the Holocaust. He unfolds an entire panorama of Holocaust entanglements and confusion. There is the mother who blames her troubles with the world on the fact that she was in a concentration camp, even though she wasn’t born until after the war. There is the publisher who wants nothing to do with Anne Frank when she pays him a visit after the war, because only a dead Anne Frank guarantees him success in publishing her diary. And then there is Anne Frank herself, who has been sitting in the attic for years, working on her novel, and is now under immense pressure. “Thirty-two million,” she keeps saying. “Do you think it’s easy? Thirty-two million copies, Mr. Kugel. And what do I get from you for it? Elie Wiesel. Oprah Winfrey!”

A dark, humorous energy emanates from Auslander, an energy that enables him to write dark, humorous books that one could easily characterize as brilliant, if only Auslander didn’t see that characterization as ridiculous. For him, writing is self-defense. “I grew up with the certainty that I would be brutally murdered one day. For my parents, the Holocaust was a sort of disciplinary measure: We’re safe as long as we’re afraid.”

Auslander isn’t the first writer to allow Anne Frank to survive. Philip Roth did it in “The Ghost Writer.” But what makes Auslander’s “Hope” a literary event is the way the culture of mourning is condensed into punch lines that are so much cleverer and truer and more painful than much of what happens on the annual Nov. 9 mourning that takes place at St. Paul’s Church in Frankfurt remembering the Kristallnacht pogroms against Jews; the way Anne Frank complains about being “the suffering one,” “the dead girl,” “Miss Holocaust, 1945” and “the Jewish Jesus”; and how Auslander tries to liberate Anne Frank from the role of victim and give her a life, a character and a personality.

“Anne Frank was everywhere when I was growing up,” says Auslander. “I always asked myself what I would do, where I would flee to and who would hide me. That is, after all, the function Israel fulfills for the Jews. I don’t know what the Holocaust means for non-Jews; I just know what it means for Jews. And I know that Anne Frank, if she had survived, would have been angry about what we’ve turned her into.”

A Cousin’s Outrage

Buddy Elias can only shake his head and look extremely sad. He is somewhat outraged over both books. He is proud of what he says “my cousin achieved.” In his mind, there is something just as calculating about a writer publishing a book with the name Anne Frank in the title as a company using the name in a jeans label. He grows suspicious when he sees people profiting off her fate.

And there is certainly a lot of money at stake. The “Diary of Anne Frank” has been translated into about 60 languages, and more than 30 million copies have been sold worldwide. The girl Anne, the photos, puberty, being in love, self-doubt, strength, and everything set against the background of the ultimate crime — it’s so perfect that old and young Nazis alike hit upon the idea that the diary must be a fake.

It’s an ugly discussion. All it takes is to read a few pages of the diary, to experience the tone, directness and language, to recognize that this searching text, sometimes self-confident and sometimes doubting, is beautiful and great, and that it is precisely because of its literary quality that the diary is so open and accessible for young people, as it has been for so many years and in so many countries.

The sentences Anne Frank writes are clear, like her thoughts, and they reveal the literary quality of the Frank family’s letter-writing tradition. “I see the eight of us with our ‘Secret Annex’ as if we were a little piece of blue heaven, surrounded by heavy black rain clouds,” she writes in November 1943. “We all look down below, where people are fighting each other, we look above, where it is quiet and beautiful, and meanwhile we are cut off by the great dark mass, which will not let us go upwards, but which stands before us as an impenetrable wall.”

This first diary had a red-and-white checkered cover and a brass clasp. Elias has a copy in his house, a facsimile. He flips through it gingerly, as if being careful not to hurt Anne. Miep Gies, one of the Dutch citizens who hid Anne, rescued the diary from the annex. There were two versions, because Anne had planned to publish it after the war and was editing the first version. Her father Otto created a third version, one that was more innocent sexually and in which the conflict with her mother was toned down. In a later German translation, anti-German passages were also toned down.

This revised version was published in Dutch in 1947, in German in 1950 and in English in 1952. Many publishing houses had turned down the book, which eventually found its way to the United States through France. But it was only the success of the theater version on Broadway that turned Anne Frank into what she is today: an icon, a beacon of hope and a source of courage.

Part 3: Politicized in Amsterdam

Writer and journalist Meyer Levin was originally supposed to write the stage adaptation of the diary, but when two Hollywood writers were hired instead, Levin was convinced it was a conspiracy, because his version had been deemed “too Jewish,” too dark and too depressing.

The message of the Broadway adaptation, on the other hand, was clear: “I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.” It was with that sentence by Anne Frank that the 1955 Broadway play ended, as did the 1959 Hollywood film.

The poster for the film billed it as a “song to life,” promising viewers a glimpse of her “first kiss” and the sound of “her wonderful laugh.” But the Anne Frank of the diary is a different person. “There’s in people simply an urge to destroy,” she writes, “an urge to kill, to murder and rage, and until all mankind, without exception, undergoes a great change, wars will be waged, everything that has been built up, cultivated, and grown will be destroyed and disfigured, after which mankind will have to begin all over again.”

That wasn’t the Anne Frank people wanted to see in the 1950s. Youth culture was coming into its own, pop music had been born, and this puberty drama in the deep night of our civilization seemed to fit perfectly.

A Dispute Over Frank’s Legacy

Anne Frank’s fame has endured until today, and so has the dispute surrounding it.

One of the driving forces behind that dispute is Yves Kugelmann, 41, a member of the board of the Anne Frank Fund in Basel, who has harsh words for the Anne Frank Foundation in Amsterdam: “The Fund is the universal heir appointed by Otto Frank,” he says. “It was always opposed to a pilgrimage site. It was opposed to someone making money off of Anne Frank. Now there is a museum in Amsterdam that largely de-contextualizes and de-Judaizes the Frank family. Anne Frank was first politicized in Amsterdam and then made the figure of a universalistic message.”

Long lines form every morning outside the house at Prinsengracht 263, lines filled with young, expectant, uncertain faces. The house gets more than a million visitors a year, making it a historical pilgrimage site for globalized youth. They climb the narrow stairs, they stand in the empty living room, they admire the postcards in Anne Frank’s room and they walk around a house that has been emptied, of both furnishings and significance.

This, says Ronald Leopold, is the way it should be. Leopold, 52, a quiet, thoughtful man, has been the director of the Anne Frank Foundation for the last two years. His predecessor held the position for more than 25 years. Leopold says that he wants to give Anne Frank her story back.

The house is a hybrid, a place of residence, the scene of a crime and a memorial, all rolled into one, which makes it unique. But it is also possible to leave it without a deeper understanding of the Holocaust. There is some talk of Hitler at the beginning, the residents of the house die at the end, and in between an aura of reverence prevails. But who were the Franks, where did they come from, what was the situation in the Netherlands during the war, how many Jews were there before and after the war and — a question that isn’t entirely unimportant — were the Dutch also perpetrators? Why was the percentage of Jews deported from the Netherlands higher than in other Western European countries?

It’s because this question still hasn’t been answered satisfactorily, and because the country found it difficult to describe its role during the German occupation, that such a sober and auratic exhibition, one that is expanded into generalities, seems almost transfiguring.

“One victim is better than many perpetrators,” says Kugelmann. “Anne Frank is a Holocaust Tamagotchi.”

The dispute between the fund and the foundation is marked by skepticism toward the historico-political position. There is talk of the foundation’s pro-Palestinian positions in earlier years, and there are documents that show how dissatisfied Otto Frank was with the foundation in Amsterdam. But the issues being addressed in court are more specific.

Legal Disputes

A trial in Hamburg revolves around a graphic novel of Anne Frank. The fund is suing the publisher, claiming it neglected to obtain the rights. The foundation says it “regrets” the legal dispute and speaks of a “change of course” at the fund.

Another trial, this one in Amsterdam, has to do with letters, documents and objects that were lent to the foundation and that the fund now wants back. “The ownership is defined in the will,” says Kugelmann, who describes what has happened as a “second expropriation of the Frank family.”

In 2011, the Anne Frank Foundation used the €14.3 million ($18.9 million) in revenues from tickets and merchandising to pay for its staff and activities worldwide, including exhibitions from Berlin to Buenos Aires, brochures against racism and extremism and educational materials.

“No one earns any money at the Anne Frank Fund,” says Kugelmann. “That was what Otto Frank wanted. It was what he decided when he didn’t have any money himself. The family was to receive nothing, and all the money was to go into the fund and the projects.”

Those projects include a girls’ dormitory in Nepal, a project for the disabled in Switzerland and the Leo Baeck Education Center in Israel. Under copyright law, the diary will soon become part of the public domain, which is why some projects are being pushed through at the moment. A collective edition of the works of Anne Frank is planned for 2013, and then the filming for the fund’s most important current project will commence: the first German film version of this very German material.

Anne Frank ‘Belongs To Everyone’

The screenplay, by Fred Breinersdorfer, has just been completed. Breinersdorfer, 66, who also wrote the screenplay for the film “Sophie Scholl: The Final Days,” takes the matter personally. “I had Nazi parents,” he says. “My father was appalled when he saw ‘Sophie Scholl.’ These people, he said, plunged daggers into our backs at the front.”

Who will his Anne Frank be? A victim, a saint, a figure of hope?

“Anne Frank isn’t a German character,” says Breinersdorfer. “And she isn’t an exclusively Jewish character, either. She is the prototype of a human being who becomes the victim of a brutal system and, despite it all, creates her own freedom and develops herself with optimism. She is an enlightened, emotional border crosser. She belongs to everyone.”

He will have her die of typhus in the death camp, two days after her sister Margot. “It’s also a question of how it can be presented,” says Breinersdorfer.

For the period in the annex, he will remain true to Anne Frank’s text, a part he characterizes as an “extraordinary coming-of-age story.” The life of the Frank family before it was persecuted will also play an important role, and this is where the film intersects with the plans of the Frank Family Center.

They were a German family, the Franks, one with strong women. Buddy Elias has decided to turn over his rich legacy to the new Frankfurt center. He proudly brings out the good porcelain from a gleaming old cabinet. Hanging on the wall next to it is a picture of his grandmother Alice, who was also Anne’s grandmother. “She was pure culture,” he says, and he’s referring to German culture.

Most of the material is still in Basel, in the house where Buddy grew up and where Otto Frank lived after the war. There is a cabinet there with a photograph on it, the photograph Elias likes so much, of Anne Frank holding a pen and looking into the camera. And then there are the hats in the attic, the clothes and all the other valuable objects, and the documents and letters describing what Jewish life was like, the life the Nazis destroyed.

Next to Elias is a small wooden chair that looks almost like a miniature throne. “Anne always liked to sit there,” he says, chuckling like a little boy. When children come to visit him in his house and hear about his cousin, he lets them sit on the chair. Otherwise it remains empty.

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

Original Spiegel article can be found here.