Beyond the pale…
This article by Dr.Gerstenfeld was first published at INN and republished here with the author’s consent.
THE WIDESPREAD ABUSE OF ANNE FRANK’S MEMORY
Anne Frank has probably become the best known Jewish person murdered during the Shoah. Her memory is also one of the most abused. This maltreatment has a long history. New examples emerge frequently. One among many: in January 2018 the Italian first division soccer club Lazio was fined 50 000 Euro after supporters displayed antisemitic Anne Frank stickers before a game in October 2017.1
In the late 1980’s, the then head of the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam did not permit the Dutch filmmaker, Willy Lindwer, to film his movie, The Last Seven Months of Anne Frank, in the house. The documentary dealt with her suffering in the concentration camps and her death in Bergen-Belsen. Lindwer tells that the director said to him, “Anne Frank is a symbol. Symbols should not be shown dying in a concentration camp.”i
The Anne Frank House in Amsterdam has decades ago on many occasions used her name for political purposes which had nothing to do with honoring her memory. Dutch journalist, Elma Verhey, commented on the role of the Anne Frank Foundation in 1995: “Not all Dutchmen find it fitting that the Anne Frank House has developed into one of the most important tourist attractions of Amsterdam. Many Dutch Jews avoid the Anne Frank House because of some of the myths created by her diary. Moreover, there has been concern that the Foundation has in the past paid more attention to a handful of neo-Nazis in Germany, and the plight of the Palestinians, than to the state-sponsored anti-Semitism of the former Soviet Union.2
Other distortions of Anne Frank’s memory have also come out of the Netherlands. In Amsterdam in February 2007, graffiti appeared showing Anne Frank with a keffiya.3 In 2008, the same picture was turned into a commercial postcard.4 That despite the fact that the majority party in the only Palestinian parliamentary elections in 2006 was Hamas, which aims for genocide of the Jews. In 2006 a Belgian-Dutch Muslim Group posted a cartoon of Anne Frank in bed with Hitler.5
The motif of the Palestinian Anne Frank returns regularly. It recently appeared on posters and flyers at Wits University in Johannesburg. It was promoted by the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign during Israel Apartheid Week.6 In 2017 a freelance guide at the Anne Frank Center in Berlin compared the suffering of Jews under the Nazis to that of Palestinians under Israeli control. The center distanced itself from his statement.7
A new play based on Anne Frank by Ilja Pfeiffer is being shown in the Netherlands. The play transforms one of the people in hiding with her, Fritz Pfeffer, from a victim to a perpetrator of violence.8 He was murdered in the Shoah. This play in which a Holocaust victim’s memory is sullied is one more example of the partial degradation of Dutch society whose government will not admit how its Second World War predecessors in exile greatly failed the persecuted Jews.
The “Palestinian” Anne Frank is an inversion of the Holocaust. Another major distortion of the Holocaust is its de-Judaization.9 In 1952, an English translation of the diary was published for the American market. It was titled Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. David Barnouw, a researcher formerly with the Dutch Institute for War Documentation (NIOD), wrote that the foreword was written by Eleanor Roosevelt, widow of the wartime president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In this text, the terms “Jew” or “persecution” of Jews were not mentioned at all.10
Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett wrote a play based on the diary which premiered in 1955 in New York. Barnouw writes, “Of course the adaptation of a book or in this case a diary [to a stage play] cannot be totally true to the original. But the fact that there was a Hitler and national socialism as well as antisemitism and that Anne was persecuted as a Jewish girl has been pushed to the background.”11 An earlier play written by Meyer Levin had a much more Jewish content but was rejected by many producers.12
The historian Tim Cole observes: “The contemporary lesson of tolerance demands that Anne’s words be rewritten to include members of ‘this or that minority’ and yet that makes a mockery of the historical reality.” He adds: “Given its mythical status, the Holocaust risks becoming a popular past used to serve all sorts of present needs. In particular, the needs of contemporary liberalism tend to latch onto a powerful tale in the past and universalize it so as to produce a set of universal lessons.” Cole concludes: “If there is one lesson that can be drawn from the Holocaust it is precisely that the optimism of Anne Frank was woefully misplaced.”13
Steven Goldstein, the director of a small American organization which calls itself the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect regularly attacks Donald Trump.14 He is entitled to his opinion. Doing so on behalf of a center named after Anne Frank however is abuse of the memory of a deceased person who cannot defend herself.
In regard to instrumentalizing the diary as a tool for “universalist” ideals, the role of Anne’s father, Otto Frank, should be mentioned as well. Verhey details this. She also wrote that Anne’s father did nothing to dispel the myth that Anne Frank died “quietly in the notion that nothing serious was happening to her.”15
The above is only a small selection out of a huge distortion complex concerning the famous young Jewish woman murdered in the Shoah. Unfortunately, one can be almost sure that if this article is updated in say a year from now it will include a number of new examples of the abuse of Anne Frank’s memory.
2 Elma Verhey, “Anne Frank and the Dutch Myth,” in Alex Grobman and Joel S. Fishman, Anne Frank in Historical Perspective: A teaching Guide for Secondary Schools (Los Angeles: Martyrs Memorial and Museum of the Holocaust of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, 1995) 23-24.
3 www.cidi.nl/gezamenlijke-verklaring-van-cidi-en-boomerang-over-anne-frank-kaart/; www.historischnieuwsblad.nl/nl/nieuws/12850/historische-helden-op-een-shirt.html
9 http://jcpa.org/book/the-abuse-of-holocaust-memory-distortions-and-responses/ (chapter 5: 79-89)
10 David Barnouw, Anne Frank: voor beginners en gevorderden (Den Haag: Sdu, 1998).
11 Ibid, 30.
12 Ibid, 23-26
13 Tim Cole, Selling the Holocaust (New York: Routledge, 2000), 42.
15 Gerrold van der Stroom (ed.) De Vele Gezichten van Anne Frank, visies op een Fenomeen (Amsterdam: de Prom, 2003)..