Friday 29 September 2023

Famous statue of Anne Frank in Downtown San José has been stolen

For years the statue of Anne Frank stood next to San José's magnificent Metropolitan Cathedral. It was a gift from the people of Holland, a country that suffered greatly from World War II, to the peace-loving country of Costa Rica.

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29 September 2023 - At The Banks - Source: BCCR

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TODAY COSTA RICA – Anne Frank Statue Stolen. The small bronze statue of Anne Frank on a waist-high pedestal was a gift from the people of Holland. It was presented to the citizens of Costa Rica by the Dutch Embassy in 2008.

The statue has stood on Avenida 4, the busy pedestrian walkway that runs along the south side of the Metropolitan Cathedral.

This poignant statue of Anne Frank, the Dutch girl who hid from the Nazis, was stolen.

The statue is one of the most poignant pieces of art in downtown San José, a city full of amazing art. The statue depicts the 15-year-old Jewish girl with her hands tied, looking to the heavens, as she is being led away by the Nazis.

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Police officers making their rounds discovered that the statue of Anne Frank had been removed from its cement pedestal.

The statue disappeared on the night of Tuesday, July 26th. The discovery was made at about 9 p.m. that evening by Municipal Police officers who were walking a regular beat. When they arrived, it was obvious that the bronze statue had been pulled off the cement pedestal.

The officers searched the immediate area, and with an extraordinary bit of luck, they found the statue about 20 minutes later. They found it lying behind a vendor’s stand just a few yards away from the pedestal.

After searching the area, Municipal Police recovered the missing statue. It was found lying on the ground, a sad way to treat such an important piece of art. Photo: Municipal Police

Marcelo Solano, Director of the Municipal Police, said that the theft was reported to the Department of Culture of the Municipality of San José. He explained, “They confirmed that the statue will be reinstalled on the site, with a system to prevent this vandalism from happening again.”

The municipal police surmise that the statue was stolen by street people. The theory is that they took it, thinking that they could get cash for it. However, the thieves quickly abandoned the idea and they hid the statue where the police officers later found it.

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We talked with some police officers familiar with the case. At this time no arrests have been made.

For years the statue of Anne Frank stood next to San José’s magnificent Metropolitan Cathedral. It was a gift from the people of Holland, a country that suffered greatly from World War II, to the peace-loving country of Costa Rica.

Reaction to the theft of this important statue came from many quarters. Christine Pirenne, the Ambassador from The Kingdom of The Netherlands said, “What has happened is a great shame. We regret the unfortunate nature of this illicit act and we thank the authorities of the municipal police and the Fuerza Pública for having found the statue.”

Sources at the Embassy told us that they will be pleased to participate in a rededication of the statue, but it will be up to the city of San José to decide when that will happen.

We visited with the Department of Culture to learn more. Lic. Denia Sánchez Morera, Cultural Promoter for the Department, told us several things: First, the statue of Anne Frank will definitely be remounted. Second, it will be returned to the same location. And third, it may take some time.

The statue depicts the 15 year-old Jewish girl, with her hands bound and her head raised to the heavens, being led away by the Nazis.
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Ms. Sánchez told us that the Department was consulting with an expert who can help them to properly remount the statue on its pedestal. They are also considering adding more security cameras to the area to prevent a theft from happening again. Ms. Sánchez is clearly aware of the importance of the statue of Anne Frank, both for tourists and for Ticos. However, at this time she is not able to give us a definite date when it will be reinstalled.

In our research for this article we learned that another statue of Anne Frank was stolen earlier this year. In March, an Anne Frank statue was stolen in Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina. That statue was also from Holland and it was also quickly found by the police. All the authorities with whom we talked, did not think that there was a connection between these two crimes.

The statue of Anne Frank is the work of Dutch sculptor Joep Coppens. Copies of this statue can be found in several cities around the world. It is a reminder of the horrors of Nazism and a symbol of the words of Anne Frank, “My dream is liberty.”

It is disappointing that we will not be able to see the statue of Anne Frank for an unknown period of time. As one who gives tours of Downtown San José and who speaks to groups about the city, I know that this piece of art evokes a powerful emotional reaction from visitors.

The good news is that the precious statue of Anne Frank is safe and in the hands of the municipality. They have assured us that it will be remounted in its rightful place, on Avenida 4 next to the Metropolitan Cathedral, as soon as it can be safely done.

Michael Miller is the author of the guidebook for Downtown San José titled: The Real San José. He is also the author of the exciting new novel, Tribune Man. You can find his Amazon Author Page by clicking here:


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Michael Miller
Michael Robert Miller, with over forty years of business experience, has travelled extensively in the Far East and Central America. He has been visiting San José, Costa Rica since the 1980's and has made it his mission to discover all that the city has to offer. Mr. Miller has served in the United States Navy and is a Vietnam Veteran. He holds a degree in economics. Mr. Miller currently spends his time in San José, Costa Rica and Naples, Florida.

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