Defacing of Anne Frank diaries stirs public

by Tomohiro Osaki

Staff Writer

The news that hundreds of copies of Anne Frank’s “A Diary of a Young Girl” and books about her had been vandalized in libraries across Tokyo has continued to spur widespread concern, with some people now scrambling to help repair the damage with generous donations.

More than 300 cases of such vandalism had been reported as of Wednesday, including in Suginami, Nakano, Nerima and Shinjuku wards, according to media reports. Pages of “A Diary of a Young Girl” and the other books were ripped out or slashed with a knife.

The police are investigating.

The Israeli Embassy in Tokyo plans to donate more than 300 copies of the book to Suginami Ward, which has seen the most cases.

In collaboration with the group Jewish Community of Japan, representatives from the embassy were planning to bring the books to the ward office Thursday.

The embassy’s chief spokesman, Ronen Medzini, blasted the vandal as an “extremist” unworthy of official comment. He said the embassy has been deluged with calls from the Japanese public apologizing for the vandalism and added he firmly believes the criminal acts do not reflect mainstream opinion.

“We are so moved by all of the support and deep concerns from the Japanese public,” Medzini said. “We only have good feelings toward Japanese people, nothing else.”

He said the embassy is planning to replace every damaged book with a new version after it receives a complete list. Unfortunately, he said, the task has proven more daunting than expected.

“We originally thought it would be just one or two publications, but it turned out there are so many,” he said. ” ‘A Diary of a Young Girl’ has been translated and adapted into Japanese in a dozen different versions, some in cartoon form for kids.

“But then again, this is another example” of how well-respected and popular the book is in Japan, he added.

In a statement released Wednesday, the embassy lauded “A Diary of a Young Girl” for the “humanitarian” role it has played in fostering understanding of the horror of the Holocaust, the massacre of European civilians, especially Jews, perpetrated by the Nazis during World War II.

The diary, written by Frank before she died in a concentration camp, depicts the life of a Jewish family in Amsterdam hiding from the Nazis.

“I just hope Japanese police authorities will find the person in charge (of the vandalism) and bring him to justice,” Medzini said.

Meanwhile, Tokyo Metropolitan Library in Minato Ward, which doubles as the headquarters of the Tokyo Library Association, received more than 100 copies of several Japanese versions of the book and related books from an unidentified individual Monday, according to a staff member who declined to be named.

Media reports say the individual phoned and asked the library, which did not suffer any of the vandalism, to distribute the books to those that did to help rebuild their collections. The employee said the library has lost touch with the caller and has yet to decide how to meet the request.