No, Anne Frank did not have ‘white privilege’

Critical Race Theory cannot cope with the Holocaust so it pretends those killed were oppressors

July 21, 2022 16:02

Top of the list of things I never thought I’d have to do: explain why Anne Frank did not have “white privilege”.

On Twitter, the Holocaust was trending — meaning it was being discussed by thousands of people — because of the contention that Jewish victims were “lucky”. Why? They could hide from the Nazis because they had white skin, apparently. The fact that this was insufficient to save six million souls was ignored.

The latest American academic import, Critical Race Theory, in which everything is viewed through the prism of skin colour, has meant that a growing number of people see things only in terms of black and white, with white skin meaning you are of the oppressor class.

There is no room for Anne or the millions of others who had white skin but were still targeted by a race-based genocide, because it ruins the theory that white people cannot be victims of racism.

A few days before this row about Anne Frank, the JC revealed the antisemitism in our schools, with Jewish children even targeted after Holocaust lessons. I’m not surprised. In my sons’ school newsletter after Holocaust Memorial Day, “antisemitism” wasn’t even mentioned in an article about how all genocides had been remembered.

Anne’s “privilege” meant she never got to fulfil her precocious writing promise. Her diary of her two years in hiding has been translated into 70 languages and sold over 30 million copies worldwide. There have been plays, films, TV adaptations and countless books about her. Anne has become a commodity — the Anne Frank House, which once banned a Jewish member of staff from wearing a kippah, is one of Amsterdam’s biggest tourist attractions, requiring booking at least a month in advance. And while she is a symbol of the Holocaust, it’s a sanitised one.

Ever since Otto Frank first published his daughter’s diary 75 years ago, the key message of Anne’s life and death has had a lot of its Judaism removed. Otto — who had lost his entire family — started it, perhaps acknowledging that even in the aftermath, the world wasn’t prepared to face what it had really done.

He expunged many of Anne’s explicitly Jewish passages about things like Yom Kippur, as well as her terrifying accounts of Germans seizing Jews in Amsterdam. The German edition was even worse; German culpability was smoothed over.

The 1955 play The Diary of Anne Frank further changed things. Anne’s thoughts about her Judaism and her sister Margot’s Zionist aspirations practically disappeared. Her impassioned thoughts about the Jewish race — “through the ages Jews have had to suffer, but through the ages they’ve gone on living, and centuries of suffering have only made them stronger” — was given the “All Lives Matter” treatment: “We are not the only people that have had to suffer. Sometimes one race… sometimes another.”

The positivity of the Anne story, her belief that, “in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart”, is always emphasised. The words that followed these — “there’s a destructive urge in people, the urge to rage, murder and kill” — are never given as much prominence.

Antisemitism killed Anne. Antisemitism and the fear of it meant that Anne’s explicit Judaism was removed from her story to make it a more universal narrative of redemption. And antisemitism now means that learning about the Holocaust is seen as “Jewish privilege”.

A Jewish friend was recently stunned at the depiction of Anne in a show called Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World. The programme showed what happens when the anti-Jewish racism is taken out.

It said: “During World War II, Jewish people were targeted by the Nazis and taken to prison camps.” The explicit racism of the Nazis, which started several years before World War II, is completely missing. Concentration camps are changed to “prison”.

And organisations which should know better are beginning to fall for this idea of our “white privilege”.

The Anne Frank Trust recently said it was recruiting for “a new strategy targeting young people with lived experience of prejudice”, listing almost every form of prejudice but the one that had killed Anne. It emerged this week that the charity had written that it was “excited to welcome” Nasima Begum, a writer who used phrases about wanting to see “Zionist scum” dead or thrown down wells.

The head of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust — who surely should care who is invited to speak by an organisation named after one of the Shoah’s victims — wrote a now-deleted tweet in defence of the decision.

Surely it is not too much to ask that such groups should be thinking about the antisemitism of today as well as that of the past?

Or is that my white Jewish privilege speaking?

July 21, 2022 16:02

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive