An archive of documents related to Anne Frank and her family must be returned to a foundation in Switzerland, an Amsterdam court ruled on Wednesday, settling a dispute between two institutions with a claim on her name.
The legal battle between the Anne Frank House – the Amsterdam museum dedicated to her memory – and the Anne Frank Fund, the Basel-based foundation set up by her father Otto, centred on where the thousands of photographs, letters and other documents should be kept and displayed.
Those documents did not include the posthumously published diary Anne Frank wrote about her time in hiding from the Nazis during World War Two, which sold millions of copies around the world and turned the Jewish teenager into a symbol of the Holocaust.
The Amsterdam court ordered the return of the documents from the Anne Frank House, which described the legal dispute as "deeply regrettable", to the Anne Frank Fund by January 2014.
"The Anne Frank Fund is the owner of these items and had given them on long-term loan ... for the sake of having a commonly managed archive,” the court said, adding that a breakdown of trust between the two institutions "gave the fund a strong reason to cancel the lending agreement”.
The ruling Wednesday said that six months' time was enough to give back the overwhelming majority of documents, whose ownership is not in dispute.
The archives at the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam contain photos, letters and documents from the Frank family and from the family of Anne's cousin, Buddy Elias.
Buddy Elias is president of the Anne Frank Fund. The decision made by the foundation in 2007 to lend the Frank-Elias archive to the Anne Frank House was made jointly so that the museum could make a full inventory of all documents related to Anne's life.
The archive contains 25,000 letters, documents and photos from several generations. The fund demanded it back in 2010, when plans were made to create a new Frank family museum in Frankfurt. The Anne Frank House had used several of the contested documents in its exhibitions.
The two organisations have a history of strained relations, as the fund has accused the Amsterdam museum of commercialising the memory of the Holocaust victim.
"We have got entirely what we asked for,” said Yves Kugelmann, a spokesman for the foundation, after the court ruling.
"We had not expected anything else: if you lend something you expect to get it back."
"Anne Frank House finds it deeply regrettable that the two organisations stood in opposition to each other in court," said Ronald Leopold, executive director of the Anne Frank House, in a statement.
"We hope that with this court ruling we can now put this period behind us."
The Franks, originally from Germany, moved to Amsterdam before the Second World War. When Germany invaded the Netherlands, they went into hiding in a secret annex behind the canal house where Anne's father had his office.
For two years, Anne, her sister Margot, mother Edith, father Otto and four other Jews lived in the annex, whose entrance was hidden behind a sliding bookcase. They were looked after by Otto's trusted employees, but were eventually betrayed and sent to concentration camps.
Only Otto survived. He later published the diary Anne kept while in hiding. It has become the most widely read document to emerge from the Holocaust.
In the years before his death in 1980, Otto was involved in the creation of the Anne Frank House, which has increasingly become a major destination for tourists. But he granted the rights to publish the diary to the Anne Frank Fund, and made the fund the heir to the family estate.
swissinfo.ch and agencies