by Alison Flood)
More than 200 copies of books about Anne Frank, including the diary which the Jewish teenager wrote in hiding during the second world war, have been deliberately vandalised in libraries across Tokyo.
Ten to 20 pages from Frank's The Diary of a Young Girl, biographies of her and books about Nazi persecution of the Jews were torn out of 39 books from three libraries in Shinjuku ward, leaving them "unusable", archives director Kaori Shiba told the AFP, while 119 books were damaged at 11 of the 13 public libraries in Suginami area, according to their deputy director. "Each and every book, which comes up under the index of Anne Frank, has been damaged at our library," Toshihiro Obayashi told the AFP.
"We have complaints from five of (Tokyo's 23) wards so far but I don't yet know exactly how many libraries are affected," Satomi Murata, the head of Tokyo's public libraries council, told the AFP. "We don't know why this happened or who did it."
Speaking to the press, government minister Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said: "If these cases are confirmed, it cannot be tolerated … This is a shameful act and I am confident that the police authority is making a thorough investigation." Meanwhile the incidents are drawing widespread international condemnation and calls for answers.
"The Anne Frank House is shocked that pages have been torn out of over 200 copies of Anne Frank's Diary in libraries across Tokyo," said executive director of the world-famous museum, Ronald Leopold. "We are very keen to know the reasons why this is happening and what the culprits hope to achieve by such destructive action. In Japan, countless people are interested in the history of Anne Frank and her diary. Every year tens of thousands of Japanese visit the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, the place where Anne Frank was hiding and where she wrote her diary during the second world war."
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, believes "the geographic scope of these incidents strongly suggest an organised effort to denigrate the memory of the most famous of the 1.5 million Jewish children murdered by the Nazis in the second world war Holocaust", he said in a statement.
"I know from my many visits to Japan how much Anne Frank is studied and revered by millions of Japanese. Only people imbued with bigotry and hatred would seek to destroy Anne's historic words of courage, hope and love in the face of impending doom," said Cooper. "We are calling on Japanese authorities to step up efforts to identify and deal with the perpetrators of this hate campaign."
Gillian Walnes, executive director of the Anne Frank Trust, said it was "a very strange and disturbing incident - or series of co-ordinated incidents", adding: "I really hope the Japanese authorities will find who is behind this. Was it someone working alone or something altogether more sinister?"
Anne Frank's diary, which has sold millions of copies in countries around the world, starts in the summer of 1942, as a 13-year-old Anne and her family go into hiding in a warehouse in Amsterdam. "I hope I will be able to confide everything to you, as I have never been able to confide in anyone, and I hope you will be a great source of comfort and support," Anne writes. The diary ends, abruptly, in August 1944, when the family was discovered by the Gestapo secret police and transported to concentration camps. All of them died, except for Anne's father Otto, who went on to publish his daughter's famous diary.