It was a discussion at Parihaka about discrimination against Māori that inspired a Dutchman-turned-Kiwi to have Anne Frank's Diary of a Young Girl translated into te reo.

Boyd Klap, 92, was a teenager in Amsterdam during World War II, and experienced first hand World War II Nazi German occupation, and the brutality inflicted on Dutch Jews like Anne Frank.

"I am not Jewish, but my neighbours were killed, people I knew tortured, and killed."

In 2017 Klap, who moved to New Zealand in the 1950s, was visiting Parihaka to speak about bullying and discrimination, as part of an exhibition touring the country on Anne Frank's diary.

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Te Haumihiata Nelson has translated Anne Frank's diary into te reo Maori. Photo / Te Ipukarea REsearch Institute (AUT)
Te Haumihiata Nelson has translated Anne Frank's diary into te reo Maori. Photo / Te Ipukarea REsearch Institute (AUT)

A woman in the audience, Ngapera Moeahu-Teitinga, posed the question: "Is Anne Frank's Diary of a Young Girl available in te reo Māori?"

It was not, and it set Klap on a journey to obtain the rights, find a publisher, and the funds to translate and print the world-famous diary.

The new book, Te Rātaka a Tētahi Kōhine, will be launched by the Dutch ambassador at Te Papa in Te Whanganui-a-Tara/Wellington tomorrow evening, in the presence of the Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy, marking what would have been Anne Frank's 90th birthday.

Boyd Klap has worked over the past two years to have Anne Frank's Diary of a Young Girl made available in te reo Māori. Photo / Catherine Cattanach Photography
Boyd Klap has worked over the past two years to have Anne Frank's Diary of a Young Girl made available in te reo Māori. Photo / Catherine Cattanach Photography

Klap said he'd always wanted to give back to New Zealand where he'd made a new home and life.

"The Anne Frank story told of how discrimination can happen and grow in a civilised place. It can start at an individual level, become policy and eventually work to try and eliminate an entire race."

He hoped the translation of Anne Frank's diary would lead not only to more people in Aotearoa New Zealand learning te reo Māori, but to a greater awareness of the dangers that lurked in discrimination.

"With what happened in Christchurch it shows just how important it is to share these messages, and especially from a school age."

The book had sold over 30 million copies and been translated into more than 70 languages, and Klap said he was "very fortunate" to have this version translated into te re by noted Te Haumihiata Mason (Ngāi Tūhoe, Ngāti Pango, Te Arawa) of Rotorua.

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In her journey to becoming a kaiwhakamāori (translator) Mason had seen New Zealand's relationship to her native language come full circle - from being beaten for speaking it at school to being employed to write it.

"I grew up in Ruatoki, where the whole community spoke te reo. At the time, with the assimilationist policy in place to get all of the little brown kids to speak English, we were not allowed to speak it. Now it has come full circle."

Mason has spent much of this week in back-to-back interviews about her latest work with journalists from across the globe, including top German news publication Der Spiegel.

"It has all been a bit overwhelming."

Mason said she was attracted to the book by the fact it was written by a 13-14 year old, and written in the 1940s.

"It was describing the world in a different time."

She also saw parallels with some of the discrimination Māori have faced in New Zealand.

"I am 68, so none of that matters now, but I couldn't ignore it as a child. Sending Māori children with limited English, to English-speaking-only schools was probably the catalyst for a lot of the 'dumb Māori' stereotypes."

Now for more than 20 years she has earned a living translating English texts - from Government reports to corporate documents - into her native tongue.

The book is being published by the Holocaust Centre of New Zealand.

Chairman Jeremy Smith said they were honoured to be associated with Boyd in this "marvellous project".

"Combining holocaust education and a human rights message with the delivery of a classic book into the tongue of the mana whenua."