Philadelphia Jewish newspaper’s review of play about Anne Frank trivializes the Holocaust

I had the following essay published Thursday, Nov. 3,  in the Philadelphia edition of the online paper, The Examiner

The story of Anne Frank is one of the most morally intuitive tales of our generation: an inquisitive, sensitive, and articulate young girl killed by the Nazis because she was a Jew.

Born in the city of Frankfurt, in Weimar Germany, she lived most of her life in or near Amsterdam, in the Netherlands.

By nationality she was officially considered a German until 1941, when she lost her nationality owing to the antisemitic policies of Nazi Germany.

The Frank family moved from Germany to Amsterdam in 1933, the year the Nazis gained control over Germany but, by the beginning of 1940, they were trapped in Amsterdam by the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands.

As persecutions of the Jewish population increased in July 1942, the family went into hiding in the hidden rooms of Anne’s father Otto Frank’s office building.

After two years, the group was betrayed and transported to concentration camps.

Anne Frank and her sister, Margot, were eventually transferred to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where they both died of typhus in March 1945.

She gained international fame posthumously following the publication of her diary, which documents her experiences hiding during the German occupation of the Netherlands in World War II.

Acknowledged for the quality of its writing, The Diary of Anne Frank is one of the most renowned and discussed books about the Holocaust, and has been the basis for several plays and films.

In “Saving Anne Frank,” a news-section feature about EgoPo Classic Theatre’s current production of The Diary of Anne Frank, at the Prince Music Theatre Cabaret in Philadelphia, Melissa Jacobs, senior editor of Inside magazine. writes the following in an essay in the current, November 3 edition of the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent:

“…there are Annes all around the world. She is the girl hiding from the Taliban, the Sudanese girl fleeing civil war, and the American girl trapped by poverty and insufficient education. Maybe the way to honor Anne Frank is to save those Annes.” [Emphasis mine]

Yes, Melissa Jacobs likened the murder of Anne Frank by a Nazi regime dedicated to the destruction of the Jewish people to low-income Americans with poor schooling.

Scholar Manfred Gerstenfeld, in a book titled “The abuse of Holocaust Memory”, characterized such political parallels as “the trivialization of the Holocaust” and wrote, about such intellectually unserious analogies:

“Holocaust trivialization is a tool for some ideologically or politically motivated activists to metaphorically compare phenomena they oppose with the industrial scale extermination of the Jews in World War II by Germans and their allies. Examples of such comparisons include environmental problems, abortion, the slaughter of animals, the use of tobacco, and human rights abuses. None of these, in their basic characteristics, resemble the man-made genocide of the 1940s.”

The Diary of Anne Frank is not a lesson in the need for liberal social policy.

Frank’s story, quite simply, is a testament to the urgency of combatting antisemitism in all of its manifestations. 

Anne Frank was not “every girl”.  

She was a young girl murdered because her mere existence as a Jew was seen by the Nazis as a threat to the world – an annihilationist ideological antisemitism which, as a brief survey of the politics of the Middle East makes clear, did not disappear after the horrors of the Holocaust were revealed to the world. 

You’d think that a Jewish community paper such as The Exponent would understand this painfully obvious moral truth.

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