A German kindergarten’s longstanding discussion around changing its name from “Anne Frank” to “World Explorer” was criticized by Jewish community members and local politicians in recent days amid the backdrop of the Israel-Hamas war.
The discussion has been ongoing “long before the current discussions and events,” the press release from Tangerhütte, where the kindergarten is based, clarified on Monday. “The discussion arose at the beginning of 2023 to make this fundamental change in concept visible to the outside world by giving the institution a different name in order to visibly mark this fundamental new beginning,” the release said.
The months-long discussions suddenly sparked a storm over the weekend as Germany grapples with both a resurgence of antisemitism and issues of anti-Muslim sentiment as the fallout of the war between Israel and Hamas plays out across Europe.
Anne Frank — a young girl who kept a diary while hiding in Amsterdam from Adolf Hitler’s forces in the 1940s — was one of the most prominent victims of the Holocaust carried out by the Nazis in World War II, during which around six million Jewish people were killed.
According to television outlet n-tv, the city council said that some parents and employees requested to the change the name. The daycare center manager Linda Schichor said that children struggle to understand the name, while parents with a migration background often don’t relate to Anne Frank, German media Volksstimme first reported over the weekend. “We wanted something without a political background,” Schichor said.
Andreas Brohm, the mayor of Tangerhütte in the state of Saxony-Anhalt, said the name change was in discussion but there was no concrete decision yet. “That wasn’t even up for debate, that’s the crazy thing. It wasn’t up for decision before Saturday, it’s a discussion process that’s ongoing” Brohm told POLITICO on Monday.
The plan was to find something “that has a more positive connotation, not because Anne Frank has a negative connotation, but because people associate what they associate with it and with the day-care center concept,” Brohm said.
POLITICO reached out to the head of the daycare for clarification on how the discussion originated and did not receive an immediate reply Monday evening.
Saxony-Anhalt’s Jewish group and senior politicians were outraged by the proposal.
“With all due respect to the conceptual changes of the institution and the fact that the story (not a fairy tale, but a true story) of the Jewish girl is difficult to grasp for small children (it was just as difficult to grasp a year ago and 50 years ago), this name change creates an unpleasant aftertaste right now,” Max Privorozki, chairman of the State Association of Jewish Communities in Saxony-Anhalt, told POLITICO in an emailed statement.
Economy minister of Saxony-Anhalt, Sven Schulze, said that his party, the center-right CDU, “will of course not agree to the renaming of the Anne Frank daycare centre. I hope all the other councillors won’t either. Not only in this day and age, but in general, such a proposal is completely absurd, instinctive and small-minded.”
Hamas, the political party that has governed Gaza since 2007, and which has an armed wing, attacked Israel on October 7, killing more than 1,400 Israelis and taking more than 200 hostages to Gaza. Israel retaliated with a “complete siege” of Gaza, and daily airstrikes which, according to the Hamas-controlled health authorities in Gaza, killed more than 10,000 Palestinians in one month.
Local politicians also have reacted, promising to stop a possible name change. “On Wednesday, the town council will unanimously position itself against the proposal to rename the daycare center,” Werner Jacob (CDU), chairman of the town council, told German news outlet WELT.
“The reference to parents with a migration background, who often can’t relate to Anne Frank’s name, is the best argument against the name change in particular,” Privorozki said.
Instead of changing the kindergarten’s name, Privorozki invited parents to read Anne Frank’s diaries.