OPINION: The manipulation of Anne Frank’s legacy

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OPINION: The manipulation of Anne Frank’s legacy

The memory of Anne Frank has been transformed from a murdered Jew into a universal symbol, argues Alex Hearn

Anne Frank, photographed in 1942
Anne Frank, photographed in 1942

The rise in antisemitism occurring at the same time as the desecration of Anne Frank’s memory is no coincidence. If you view the Holocaust in its context as the culmination of thousands of years of antisemitic oppression, then it doesn’t feel like an isolated event or a blip. It feels more like an inevitable point along a timeline of anti-Jewish events.

But what if organisations trusted to educate people about the Holocaust removed that context and stripped away its Jewish specificity? This is what the Anne Frank Trust has, in my view, done. Its recruitment advert for young trustees specified its “new strategy” of wanting people with experience of all types of prejudice.

For its “creative storytelling workshop” for young people, it used someone who believed “Zionist scum” should be “thrown down the well”. This wasn’t a one-off. There were other instances of the Trust promoting people who repeatedly used concerning themes.

For the celebration of the 75th anniversary of Anne Frank’s memoirs, the Anne Frank Trust saw fit to commission Michael Rosen, a long-term friend and staunch defender of Jeremy Corbyn, who led the Labour Party into institutional antisemitism. Mr Rosen downplayed the issue.

The memory of Anne Frank has been manipulated and transformed from a murdered Jew into a universal symbol. Anne Frank House even asked one of its employees to stop wearing a kippa on the site on grounds of ‘neutrality’ – forcing another Jew to go into hiding in the very same house. The director of Anne Frank House reportedly said, when refusing permission to film the documentary The Last Seven Months of Anne Frank, that Anne is a symbol and symbols should not be shown dying in concentration camps. But that is the entire point of Anne’s tragic story.

Meanwhile, the BBC recently reported on an investigation which, without evidence, concluded Jews “probably” betrayed Anne Frank. This appeared to be an attempt to build on the familiar narrative where the second most famous Jew, now also a symbol of hope and love, was betrayed by Jews as well. While prominent Dutch historians slammed it as “defamatory nonsense” causing the publisher to eventually pull out, The Anne Frank House Museum was reportedly “impressed”.

It is little wonder that Anne Frank is being recast as both Palestinian and having “white privilege”, when those who should protect her appear to overlook this de-Judaisation and revision. On social media there is a noticeable trend of resentment towards Jews who are seen as hijacking the Holocaust, while others demand the Holocaust message be a context-free “all lives matter”.

Universalising the Holocaust creates a fertile climate for future generations of antisemitic events. How can we expect people to fight against or even just recognise antisemitism when it is being erased from the Holocaust?

The industrial genocide of Jewish people was an attempt by Nazis to wipe every Jew from the face of the earth.

This fact should never be appropriated and should not be used against Jews. If we want to equip people to understand antisemitism, then we need to have organisations in place like the Holocaust Educational Trust, who can do the job effectively.

Using the tragedy of a murdered Jewish girl as a vehicle to relativise the Holocaust and whitewash antisemitism is a betrayal to the community and those murdered in the Holocaust.

  • Alex Hearn runs a brand design consultancy  and is a Director of Labour Against Antisemitism
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