We have two NYT pieces for your delectation (?) today. The first concerns something I wrote about the other day—the renaming of an Anne Frank kindergarten in Germany—and there was more discussion than I’d imagined. Click below to read the new NYT piece; if you’re paywalled, you will find it archived here.
Just to review:
A proposal in a small German town to rename a public day care center that is currently named after Anne Frank has become the center of a fraught national debate in the country about antisemitism.
The plan to change the day care center’s name in the town of Tangerhütte, about 75 miles west of Berlin in the state of Saxony-Anhalt, has attracted widespread coverage in the German press and criticism from politicians and Jewish leaders over the past few days.
Over the weekend, a local newspaper, the Volksstimme, published a report that the day care center, which it said had carried Anne Frank’s name since the 1970s, would be renamed “World Explorer.”
And the reasons they wanted the name change, though one reason is conspiculously missing:
According to the report in the Volksstimme, the impetus to change the name had come from parents and day care employees, with the new name thought to be more child friendly. The story of Anne Frank was difficult for children to understand and “parents with a migrant background would often not know what to make of the name,” the newspaper reported, citing school authorities. The director of the school was quoted as saying the school wanted a name “without political background.”
But where is diversity, mentioned in the first paragraph of the original Torygraph report this way?:
A German kindergarten has said it will drop Anne Frank from its name in favour of a “more diverse” alternative, adding fuel to the national debate over anti-Semitism amid the Israel-Hamas war.
. . . . and this was later on in the same piece:
A representative of the local council backed the move, saying that the name change was part of a “conceptual overhaul” that would see that kindergarten put more emphasis on the “self determination and diversity” of the children in its care.
The words “diversity” or “diverse” are not mentioned in the NYT piece.
Why would the NYT leave out the “diversity” angle? Perhaps it’s innocuous, but that was perhaps the most onerous and ridiculous reason given for the suggested name change. You don’t increase diversity by dropping the name of a beleaguered minority—a woman who was killed because she was a Jew—and replacing it with “World Explorer”. It almost makes me laugh to think that anybody would be so stupid as to believe such a reason.
And even in in the Volksstimme (“Voice of the People”) newspaper, the local mayor mentioned diversity as an explanation (translated from the German:
According to Andreas Brohm (independent), mayor of Tangerhütte, the name change is accompanied by a new concept. The daycare center is now more open than before and promotes the children’s self-determination and diversity much more strongly. “It is important to the institution to make this conceptual change visible to the outside world,” says Brohm.
Thus, the Torygraph and Volksstimme both mention a conceptual change to promote “self-determination and diversity,” I don’t see how it can promote either. (We haven’t discussed “self-determination”, but it has no clear relationship to erasing Anne Frank’s name).
And more about the pushback (from the NYT):
Amid the heightened tensions in Germany, the newspaper’s report prompted Jewish leaders and politicians to speak out.
Christoph Heubner, executive vice president of the International Auschwitz Committee, issued an open letter, in which he said the town’s mayor and others responsible for the center were consciously turning their backs on Anne Frank.
And so they walked back the decision, which was always a non-starter:
On Monday, as criticism mounted, the town issued a statement which said that, in fact, nothing had yet been decided about a new name, which had been under consideration for some months.
As early as July 2023, the town said, the topic of new name arose as the day care center considered other changes. “These discussions are still ongoing without a decision being made at the moment,” the town said
The mayor, Andreas Brohm, said in the statement, “We have received many constructive suggestions and proposals, for which we are very grateful.” [JAC: Another lie]
The statement added, “Tangerhütte, with its educational institutions and all its civic engagement, stands for an open-minded Germany that is at the same time as aware of its historical responsibility as it is of its educational mission.”
The future of the proposal now appears uncertain. Wolfgang Schneiß, an official overseeing issues of Jewish life in the state government, said in an interview that he assumed the town would now reject the idea.
I guess so! If they accepted the name change, they’d be forever tarred with being the “anti-Anne Frank Kindergarten.” For even in Germany she’s an iconic figure (you might remember that she was actually born in Germany and moved to the Netherlands when she was not yet five years old).
Why did they really want to rename the kindergarten? The only reasons they gave don’t make sense. There are two remaining: antisemitism and fear. I can’t believe, even given growing antisemitism in Europe, that that form of bigotry would drive a name change; all it could do is make it easier. More likely is that the locals feared that a school with a Jewish name would attract the attention and opprobrium of the growing number of Muslims in Germany. I guess they thought that the “Anne Frank Kindergarten” would be equivalent to “The Charlie Hebdo Kindergarten.”
The remaining mystery is why the NYT left the “diversity” excuse out of its reporting, given that, as reported by the two other sources, increased diversity was an important reason given for expunging “Anne Frank.” If I were really cynical, as I am today, I’d say the NYT wants preserve a positive connotation of the word “diversity”, a connotation that was polluted by the Anne Frank Purgers.