Earlier this year, the German railway giant Deutsche Bahn announced a contest to name its new trains after famous people worthy of commemoration. Proposals streamed in, and a jury of experts selected 25 names. These include Ludwig van Beethoven, Marlene Dietrich, and Thomas Mann. They also include Anne Frank.
The state-owned company is a successor of the Deutsche Reichsbahn, which transported millions of Jews to their deaths, so naming a train after a victim of the Nazis struck some as a very bad idea.
“Now DB is naming trains after victims of deportation by train,” tweeted Bild journalist Julian Reichelt, “starting with Anne Frank.”
Die @DB_Bahn benennt Züge jetzt nach Opfern der Deportation durch die Bahn und beginnt mit: Anne Frank. https://t.co/5RD7CVQsn6
— Julian Reichelt (@jreichelt) October 29, 2017
Conservative lawmaker Iris Eberl called the decision “tasteless,” and many other on German social media channels agreed.
Einen Zug “Anne Frank” zu nennen ist pietätlos. @CSU @jreichelt https://t.co/pMmQW9sExu
— Iris Eberl (@IrisEberl) October 29, 2017
But the company defended its decision. Anne Frank, said a spokesperson, Antje Neubauer, was a symbol of “peaceful co-existence of different cultures, which is more important than ever in times such as this.”
Liel Leibovitz is a senior writer for Tablet Magazine and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.