Who’s the depraved maniac who’s been ripping up copies of the Diary of Anne Frank around Tokyo public libraries? As of February 24, reports Nikkan Gendai (Feb 27) at least 305 books written by the young Jewish victim of Nazi persecution, her life story or on related topics have been vandalized at public libraries in five of Tokyo’s 23 wards and four municipalities, including Yokohama.
On Feb 24, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department announced it was setting up a special task force that would operate out of the Suginami Police Station, to investigate the destruction of public property.
“While the locations of the damaged books at first might seem scattered, they are situated on a line running westward from Shinjuku along the JR Chuo Line,” says a police source familiar with the investigation. “The MPD is looking at acts by a single perpetrator and has been looking through recordings by library security cameras.”
“We found a total of 40 books that had been vandalized at three libraries in Shinjuku including one in Yotsuya,” says Kotaro Fujimaki, librarian at the Central Shinjuku Library in Okubo 3-chome. “The method in all cases was basically the same: without damaging the front covers of the books the person grabbed several pages and tore downwards from the edges. My impression is that the person must be strongly motivated and planned the crimes carefully.”
“Among the damaged works were not only the diary but other types of books, including illustrated stories, and researched works, some of which didn’t have ‘Anne’ in their titles,” points out Itsuo Tobimatsu, a retired detective on the Hyogo prefectural police, who often appears as a commentator on TV programs and also operates an academy for training private investigators in Kobe.
Tobimatsu added, “I think it’s likely a person who would search out more than 300 titles is strongly obsessed over this topic and yet possesses a high level of sophistication.”
So what kind of perpetrator are we looking at? A dedicated anti-Semite? A neo-Nazi? A Holocaust denier infuriated by the attention lavished on the 15-year-old girl who is probably that tragedy’s most celebrated victim? Or might it possibly be a person moved by some other reason entirely?
“My guess it was carried out by a female who works as a researcher and is hard up financially,” Tobimatsu speculates. “‘The Diary of a Young Girl’ contains passages about Anne’s expectations of love even while she was forced to live in hiding. These days university instructors subsist on low wages and are hassled to engage in research. They have no chance get married, let alone enjoy romance. I think we can’t rule out the possibility that the perpetrator feels envy toward Anne Frank and is defacing the books out of a sense of unjustified resentment.”
While Tokyo’s finest will be sifting through hours of security camera footage in search of clues to the perpetrator, the article points out that to safeguard privacy of library users, most of the security cameras are not aimed to monitor the patrons’ browsing activities. And there’s a good chance whoever defaced the books knew that as well.
Shukan Shincho (March 6), meanwhile, adopted a different approach. Its reporter tracked down a man named Kazunari Yamada, who heads the National Socialist Workers’ Party of Japan (membership: 20), and asked him who he thinks might be the culprit.
“I’ve heard nothing at all from people in my circles,” he tells the magazine, “but it might have something to do with events being planned to observe the upcoming 125th anniversary of Adolf Hitler’s birth. So might not the offender be someone who wants to lash out at Anne, a detested symbol of the tragedy the Jews underwent?”
Sophia University professor emeritus Akira Fukushima, however, believes the vandalism is more likely to have been done by someone in their 40s or 50s acting alone.
“A person from that generation would have read and studied Anne’s diary as a part of their school curricula,” suggests Fukushima. “The perpetrator conducted expanded searches for books based on contents, and not just with ‘Anne’ in the title. There are lots of tenacious males with obsessive-compulsive personalities out there.”