Friday 13 December 2019

New play about Anne Frank faces legal action over fictitious story line

Visitors queuing. Photo: Massimo Catarinella via Wikimedia Commons

The Switzerland-based Anne Frank Fund is threatening to take legal action against a Dutch theatre production company to stop a play based on Anne’s Second World War diaries, the Volkskrant said on Wednesday.

Producer Arjen Stuurman and writer Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer want to put on a new version of the play Achter het Huis (behind the house) which removes the persecution of the Jews by the nazis to tell a ‘more universal story’, the paper said.

In addition, Pfeijffer has added ‘fictitious story lines’ to beef up the drama. ‘What actually happens in the house, seen through the eyes of a 13-year-old, is a little thin for a play,’ Pfeijffer told the paper.

The Anne Frank Fund, established by Otto Frank in 1963 to protect the diary’s authors’ rights, takes a tough line on the use of Anne Frank’s name and has objected to performances in the past.

In particular, the fund is said to object to the way one of the people hiding in the secret annex with Anne – Fritz Pfeffer – is said to have carried out an act of violence. Pfeijffer says this has been introduced to explain Anne’s dislike of the man and the undercurrent of arguments and irritations.

Holocaust deniers

The fund, however, says this could give ammunition to holocaust deniers who claim the diary is completely made up, Pfeijffer claims he has been told by a lawyer representing the fund. The fund also objects to the vulgar language in some parts of the play and the occasional flash of humour, the Volkskrant said.

Stuurman told the paper that everyone is free to come up with their own interpretation of historical facts. In addition, the diary no longer falls under authors’ rights protection because Anne died over 70 years ago, he told the Volkskrant.

He is pressing ahead with the production despite the legal threat and says the premiere will take place in Haarlem on November 11. The play will then go on national tour. has contacted the Anne Frank Fund in Basel for comment. has been free for 13 years, but now we are asking our readers to help. Your donation will enable us to keep providing you with fair and accurate news and features about all things Dutch.
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