Western television reporters rarely get into North Korea, but remarkably they let a Dutch television crew in to see how they're using Holland's most famous book, "The Diary of Anne Frank."
That diary, of her life in hiding during World War II, is now being studied in North Korea's schools. But Anne Frank's plea for peace and freedom got lost in translation.
North Korea is using her diary, not to teach how Anne suffered at the hands of the German Nazis, but to warn the students how they could suffer at the hands of those they call "American Nazis." Correspondent Mike Wallace reports.
"After reading this book, I had a hatred for the American imperialists," says one student.
"That warmonger Bush is just as bad as Hitler. Because of him we will always live in fear of war," says another student.
But Anne Frank did not preach hate. Her diary is an enchanting, if horrific, day-by-day account of the time this Dutch teenager and her Jewish family spent hiding from the Germans who had invaded and occupied Holland.
Anne, her parents and sister hid in a small apartment in an attic in Amsterdam for more than two years. A bookcase concealed their secret stairway, but the Nazis eventually discovered them, and Anne died in a concentration camp when she was only 15.
Now, Anne Frank's house is a shrine to the courage she displayed, and the fear she lived with, under Hitler. Her diary has been translated into more than a 100 languages. Most recently, it was published in North Korea, where it's now part of the curriculum in their junior high schools.
Anne's plea for peace is a curious message for these students, because North Korea is constantly preparing for war. Dictator Kim Jong Il spends the country's meager resources maintaining a powerful military. And it turns out that North Korea is using Anne's diary to tell students they must sacrifice for the military -- because war with America is inevitable.
"The Americans enjoy war. It excites them. It's part of their nature," says one student.
Here, they teach that today's Nazis are the Americans – and that today's Hitler is George W. Bush. And, to hammer that home, whenever North Korean students refer to President Bush, or to other Americans, they're taught to call them "Nazis," or "warmongers."
"As long as the warmonger Bush and the Nazi Americans live, who are worse than Hitler's fascists, world peace will be impossible to achieve," says another student.
But of course, that bellicose message runs counter to what Anne wrote in her diary: "You will understand that here in the attic, the desperate question is often asked: Why, oh why, go to war? Why can't people live in peace and why must we destroy everything?"
Why do the North Korean student think there are still wars in the world? "Because the cruel Americans want war," replies one student.
All this came as a shock to Miriam Bartelsman, the reporter from Dutch television who received rare permission to come to the capital city of Pyongyang to see how North Korea is using Anne's diary.
For her report, she was allowed to talk with students about what they're learning from the book. After returning to Amsterdam, she told us that North Korea is simply turning Anne's message on its head.
"Anne Frank's diary is a big plea or a big cry for freedom, and for peace. But I think in North Korea, the diary is being used to promote war," says Bartelsman.
These students sympathize with Anne, but according to Bartelsman, they do not respect her.
"She didn't win. She was not a hero, and North Korea, they are learning, the children, we all want to be a hero, and we don't want to be killed," says Bartelsman.
'We know that Nazi America is certain to start a war with us, but we will win that war," says one student.
"Our students will fight with a pen in one hand and a weapon in the other until the last American is dead," adds another student.
These youngsters parrot the words of North Korea's deputy minister of education, who uses Anne's diary to teach students that North Korea's top priority is to build a stronger military to defeat the Americans.
And to make sure the students give that same answer, Dutch television caught one teacher whispering to her students, telling them just what to say to the Dutch reporter.
Teacher:: Say that we don't want war, but that that is impossible as long as our enemy lives. So for us war is inevitable. We are not going to beg for peace. Instead, we must crush our enemy without mercy.
Student: You should not beg for peace. As long as the imperialists live, there will be no end to war.
"The most shocking thing is their comparison for President Bush with Hitler. that is absolutely disgusting," says Anne's cousin, Buddy Elias, who was her playmate and her last living direct relative.
Elias was the one who approved giving North Korea the rights to publish her diary, for a symbolic payment of less than $2,000.
"We were not told that it would be misused in schools. That, we had no idea," says Elias, who considers today's Hitler to be Kim Jong-Il, North Korea's supreme leader. Kim insists that whenever anyone mentions his name, they must first call him respected or beloved.
And, in North Korea, teachers don't decide what their students will read. Those instructions come down from the top.
Why do the students think they were asked to read this diary? "According to our respected leader Kim Jung Il, the "Diary of Anne Frank" is one of the great classics of the world," says one student. "That is why we read the diary -- out of great respect for our leader Kim Jung Il."
"Our respected Gen. Kim Jung Il, with his warm and caring love for us students, gives us different foreign literature every year in hope that we can expand our intellectual development," adds another student. "The 'Diary of Anne Frank' is part of that."
In North Korea, all art, all music, all pageants are created to praise Kim Jong Il or his father, Kim Il-Sung, North Korea's first leader.
But while these children of the elite sing of their leader in Pyongyang, youngsters in the countryside are starving, reveal pictures that were smuggled out of North Korea by a German doctor. According to the World Food Program, almost half of North Korea's children, under the
age of 7, suffer from chronic malnutrition. But not the children of the establishment in Pyongyang.
"I'm certain that thanks to our beloved Gen. Kim Jung Il, we will never experience hunger like Anne did," says one boy.
Another student read from the diary: "Why is there hunger when food rots away elsewhere? Why are people so crazy?"
When Bartelsman asked students if they could answer Anne's question, again their teacher told them just what to say: "Why isn't food distributed everywhere? Because the imperialist bourgeoisie take it -- that's why there is nothing left for the proletariat. Just say that."
The student's response: "Food is taken by the imperialist bourgeoisie, which is why there is nothing left for the proletariat."
Apparently, these students don't know that in
their socialist paradise, up to a million people are now held in slave labor camps. But thanks to Anne Frank, they do know a lot about Nazi concentration camps.
Do they think that concentration camps like that still exist?
"Yes, I think such camps still exist. As long as there are American Nazis, there will be secret places where innocent people are murdered," says one student. "Places like that exist in America. The prisons in America are comparable to concentration camps."
And apparently, these students have learned what they were supposed to learn from Anne Frank's diary: When war with America comes, don't be a loser like her.
Could they live in hiding the way that Anne and her family did? "No," says one student. "I would go and fight, instead of living like a beggar as Anne did."
"For world peace, America will have to be destroyed," adds another student. "Only then, will Anne's wonderful dream of peace come true."