Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Posthumous citizenship

Dutch lawmakers want to make Anne Frank a citizen of the Netherlands so that she can qualify to win the title of 'Greatest Dutch National' in a tv. show. Anne was officially stateless -- born in Germany, her German citizenship was revoked and she never became Dutch.
Leaving aside the questions of whether such a step would be offensive to the thousands of other German refugees in Holland who wouldn't receive such an honor, whether it is legally possible and whether all this fuss is worth it for a television show, the entire idea of giving someone posthumous citizenship is ridiculous. Citizenship is a technical legal term; it has no meaning to someone who is dead. In Anne Frank's case, understanding that she was not in fact born in Holland, and that her family expected to return to Germany, puts everything that happened to her in context. If the Dutch want to call Anne Frank an 'honorary member of the Dutch nation,' or simply regard her as Dutch anyway because that's where she grew up, so be it; making her a posthumous citizen tinkers with and obscures historical realities.
Incidentally, the Pakistan Daily Times has reprinted AP's article on the Frank issue, adding the line, "Probably, she is the only Jewish character that people feel for." It will be interesting to see whether AP is as upset about this as Reuters was about the Canadian National Post adding the word 'terrorist organization' to its reports on Hamas.

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