German court sentences Anne Frank diary burners

By Reuters

Haaretz

Adar 19, 2007

BERLIN - A German court gave five far-right supporters in eastern Germany nine-month suspended sentences on Thursday for ceremonially burning a copy of the diary of Holocaust victim Anne Frank.

The five men, aged between 24 and 29, were found guilty of incitement and desecration of the dead by a court in the eastern town of Schoenebeck. Two other defendants were acquitted for lack of evidence.

The incident took place in February of last year during a summer solstice celebration in the eastern German village of Pretzien near Magdeburg.

According to news reports, one of the men cast the diary into the flames and said: "I commit Anne Frank to the fire," borrowing words used by the Nazis in 1933. They also burned an American flag.

The gathering, which is estimated to have been attended by more than a hundred people, was organized by the Heimat Bund Ostelbien - a group that grew out of an earlier right-wing group in the area, according to the interior ministry of the eastern state of Saxony Anhalt.

One defendant admitted having thrown the book into the fire, saying he had acted alone. The man argued that he had not intended to trivialize Anne Frank's death but rather wanted to get rid of an "evil chapter" of German history.

Known in English as "Anne Frank: the Diary of a Young Girl," the journal chronicles the Jewish girl's two-year period in hiding in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands.

The secret annex she lived in with her family was raided in 1944, after which she was taken to Germany's Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where she died at the age of 15. The diary became one of the world's most widely read books after it was published in 1947.

Jewish groups in Germany have warned in recent weeks of an increase in anti-Semitic violence.

On March 1, right-wingers threw a burning object through the window of a Jewish nursery school in Berlin and defaced the building with anti-Semitic graffiti, drawing condemnation from German Chancellor Angela Merkel.