This Cult Classic Indie Rock Album is a Surprising Tribute to Anne Frank


Neutral Milk Hotel is the kind of band that one either fanatically loves or has never heard of.

Their 1998 folk rock magnum opus “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” is a cult classic and continual object of fascination — and not just among bearded flannel-wearing types.

Despite the fact that the band has never confirmed it, the album is also a tribute of sorts to Anne Frank.

In various songs throughout the album, singer Jeff Mangum’s narrator mentions “Anna’s ghost,” someone born in 1929 (the year Frank was born), and a girl killed with hundreds of other families whom he wishes he could save in “some sort of time machine.”

In the song “Holland 1945” (where Frank lived most of her life and the year she died), Mangum sings of a girl who was “buried alive” during “one evening, 1945” just “weeks before the guns/all came and rained on everyone.”

Frank did indeed die in 1945, at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, likely weeks before it was liberated by British troops (with guns raining down on everyone). Commentators have also noted Mangum’s repetition of “white roses” through the song, which could refer to the White Rose anti-Nazi resistance movement.

Probably not exactly the tribute Anne Frank could have imagined for herself—though it’s hard to imagine she wouldn’t have liked it.

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