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Israel donates hundreds of Anne Frank books to Tokyo libraries after vandalism

By Sophie Brown and Yoko Wakatsuki, CNN
February 28, 2014 -- Updated 0508 GMT (1308 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • An Israeli embassy official presents 300 Anne Frank books to Tokyo libraries
  • The libraries reported vandalism targeting copies of famous Holocaust account
  • Officials say at least 308 copies of the book have been damaged since January
  • Police are investigating the situation

Tokyo (CNN) -- The Israeli embassy and Jewish community in Japan are donating 300 Anne Frank-related books to public libraries in Tokyo after hundreds of copies of the girl's diary and other publications about the Holocaust were vandalized across the city.

Damage to at least 308 books has been discovered at 38 libraries since January, according to the Tokyo metropolitan government.

Most of them were versions of "Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl." The book, which has been read by millions of people around the world, is a Jewish girl's account of hiding from the Nazis in Amsterdam during World War II.

"The reaction in Israel was of surprise, because our relations with Japan and Japanese people are so warm ... but I think everyone understands that it's a single act that doesn't represent Japanese people," said the embassy's deputy chief of mission, Peleg Lewi Thursday as he presented the first of the books to the mayor of Suginami ward, where much of the vandalism occurred.

Sympathy and goodwill

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The embassy decided to replace the damaged books after receiving an outpouring of sympathy and goodwill from the government and people of Japan -- including "a thousand" calls, mails and e-mails apologizing for the incident, a press officer at the embassy, Ronen Mezini told CNN.

"We are thankful for the thousands of positive and encouraging messages we've received from the Japanese people," Lewi said.

"The diaries of Anne Frank represent a message of tolerance between people, and awareness to the holocaust," he added.

Frank and her family spent 25 months hiding in cramped quarters in the Dutch city, living in fear of discovery by the occupying Nazis. But in August 1944, they were betrayed, arrested and eventually sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Frank and her sister Margot were then transferred to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where they died during a typhus epidemic just weeks before it was liberated in 1945. Their mother, Edith, died at Auschwitz, leaving their father, Otto, as the only surviving member of the family.

Raise awareness

In Suginami, pages were torn from at least 119 books about Frank, including her diary, in 11 public libraries, according to authorities. The first case of damage in the ward was reported on February 6.

Suginami's mayor said Thursday he hoped the situation would help to raise awareness of the Holocaust among Japanese people.

"Through this incident, I believe that people also learned about the horrid facts of history and of racism, and with this knowledge, I hope that our people were given an opportunity to reflect on the preciousness of peace," said Mayor Roy Tanaka.

Police have launched an investigation into the incident.

READ: Anne Frank's marbles to go on display in Rotterdam

READ: Justin Bieber hopes Anne Frank 'would have been a belieber'

CNN's Yoko Wakatsuki reported from Tokyo, and Sophie Brown wrote from Hong Kong.

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