I Have a Huge Problem With the Claim that Anne Frank Had “White Privilege”

White privilege is a serious problem, both in the historical sense and in our modern era. The idea that one’s skin tone dictates our opportunities or lack thereof is, unfortunately, in 2022, a problem that we are still wrestling with.

Earlier this week, there was a debate on Twitter as to whether or not Anne Frank had “white privilege“. The person who made this statement is either uneducated about the Holocaust or is deciding to twist the historical facts to fit their own perspective.

Of course, she was white. As were all of the millions of Ashkenazi Jews who were murdered by the Nazis and their co-conspirators. Their skin color meant shit, they were only seen as the other because they were Jewish.

This assertion spits on the memory of Frank and is a harsh reminder of why the Holocaust must not be forgotten.

May Anne’s memory be a blessing and may we truly for once, learn from the past. Z”l.

My Best Friend Anne Frank Review

Outside of your family, no one knows you like your best friend. It is a connection that can hopefully withstand whatever life throws at it.

The new Netflix movie, My Best Friend Anne Frank, premiered last year. It tells the story of Hannah “Hanneli” Goslar (Josephine Arendsen), who was best friends with Anne Frank (Aiko Beemsterboer) before the Nazis tore their world apart. The film flashes back between two different time periods. The first is the semi-carefree normal teenage girl experience that we all can relate to.

The second is a few years later, in Bergen-Belsen. Up to this point, Hannah, her father, and her baby sister have received “special treatment” due to having passports to pre-Independence Day Israel (known then as Palestine). When she hears that Anne is alive and in the camp, Hannah has to make a choice. She can either do nothing or try to help Anne, knowing that she could possibly be killed in the process.

We all know Anne’s story. This is an angle that adds to her humanity and universality. It also points out (which is unfortunately still necessary), that the Jews were top on the list for extermination and reminds the viewer that Anne was killed because of the faith she was born into.

The problem is that the drama is a little slow. I understand the reason for the pace, but it could have been picked up a little. By the time we get to the scene in which Anne and Hannah are reunited, I did not feel what I expected to feel.

Do I recommend it? I am leaning toward yes.

My Best Friend Anne Frank is available for streaming on Netflix.

RFK Jr., Anne Frank, and the More Than Inappropriate use of Holocaust Analogy

For the last few decades, Holocaust education has become a normal part of our overall academic and cultural education. Which is sadly, still needed in 2022. The problem is that some think they can twist the facts and the history to fit their needs.

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day. It should be a day of quiet contemplation and reverence. Instead, it has become another fight to preserve the memories of those murdered. Earlier this week, Kennedy family scion Robert F. Kennedy Jr. apologized for his remarks made at a recent anti-vaxxer rally.

“Even in Hitler’s Germany you could cross the Alps into Switzerland, you could hide in an attic like Anne Frank did,” Kennedy told a crowd of 20,000-30,000. “Today the mechanisms are being put in place to make it so that none of us can run and none of us can hide.”

What he and others who use this terminology conveniently forget is that they have choices that European Jews were denied. Anne Frank and the other inhabitants of the Annex did not go into hiding for shits and giggles. Anyone with half a brain and any basic knowledge of the period knows that the dehumanization, persecution, and murder of six million Jews was systematic and methodical. Their options were at best limited, and at worst, non-existent.

If someone chooses not to vaccinate themselves or their children against Covid-19 or any other virus, that is their decision. I don’t know about anyone else, but I have yet to see police or soldiers banging down doors, demanding to see vaccine cards.

The kicker is that his wife, actress Cheryl Hines, condemned his statement. If nothing else, that speaks volumes.

His analogy is more than inappropriate, it is insensitive. He may have apologized, but apologies mean nothing unless there are actions behind those words.

May the memories of the millions who were killed (including my own relations) forever be a blessing. Z”l.

The Betrayal of Anne Frank: A Cold Case Investigation Book Review

The Diary of Anne Frank has been read by millions of readers since it was published in 1947. The ending is both hopeful and devastating. The one question that still leaves us hanging after 70+ years, is who was responsible for the betrayal of the residents of the Annex?

The Betrayal of Anne Frank: A Cold Case Investigation, by Rosemary Sullivan, was published this month. The book follows the multi-year search led by FBI investigator Vincent Pankoke to answer the question once and for all. Using modern cold case investigative methodologies and working with a team of historians and other experts, no detail is left to the wind. Every clue is followed to the bitter end, leading to a suspect that if proven to be the one, has gone undetected for nearly a century.

I know it is only January, but I can already see this book topping the list of best books of 2022. It is a heart-pounding thriller that kept me hooked until the final page. As we got closer to the end, I wanted to know who was responsible. If nothing else, it is a reminder that getting justice is still possible, even when those directly affected are no longer with us. When it closed for the last time, I knew that there was a light in the darkness. Perhaps history will not repeat itself and we will finally learn the lessons of diversity and respect.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

The Sisters of Auschwitz: The True Story of Two Jewish Sisters’ Resistance in the Heart of Nazi Territory Book Review

When one nation or people invades another, the decision to join the resistance is not one to be taken lightly. Knowing that you are constantly at death’s door, it requires a certain kind of bravery that could also be deemed as foolishness.

The Sisters of Auschwitz: The True Story of Two Jewish Sisters’ Resistance in the Heart of Nazi Territory, by Rox­ane van Iperen, was published in August. The book tells the story of two Dutch Jewish sisters, Janny Brilleslijper and Lien Brilleslijper. Less than a year after the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, the lives of the sisters, their family, and every other Jew in the country begins to change for the worst. They have two options. They can either stay where they are and wait for the other shoe to drop. The other choice is to go into hiding and hope that they will all be alive at the end of the war.

The solution is to go into hiding in the woods. Known as “The High Nest“, the property is a safe house for the family, artists, and other resistance fighters. Just as it seems that the Allies are on the verge of taking back Europe, they are betrayed and sent to Auschwitz. Forced onto the train with them is Anne Frank and her family. As the two sets of siblings try to survive, Janny and Lien connect with Anne and her older sister, Margot. Waiting for liberation will test the sisters in every way possible, forcing them to rely on each other and an inner strength that may be the only thing keeping them alive.

When we talk about resistance, the conversation frequently revolves around men. Women are not given their due or an opportunity to tell the story. Having never heard of Janny and Lien Brilleslijper, it was another reminder of how badass Jewish women are. My problem with the book is that I was not feeling the danger and the tension of the narrative. I should have felt the stress and anxiety of what the characters were going through. Ultimately, I didn’t, which is highly dissapointing.

Do I recommend it? Not really.

People Love Dead Jews: Reports from a Haunted Present Book Review

Anyone with an inkling of knowledge of Jewish history knows that it comes down to one phrase: they tried to kill us, we survived, now lets eat”. Though its a joke, the truth behind it is far from funny. Over the millennia, we have been accused of lies, forced to convert and assimilate to survive, persecuted, and murdered.

Dara Horn‘s new book, People Love Dead Jews: Reports from a Haunted Present, was published last month. A respected novelist and writer whose work has often focused on anything and everything related to Judaism, Horn examines how we look at deceased Jews are looked with starry eyed nostalgia. But yet, when it comes to living members of the faith, antisemitism is still an all too dangerous part of our lives. Using examples such as Anne Frank, Shylock, and the Auschwitz. Not Long Ago, Not Far Away, Horn looks at how modern Jews are experiencing the same bullshit that our ancestors went through.

I loved this book. Pulling no punches, the author knocks the rose colored glasses off the reader’s face. She forces us to take a long and difficult look at the past and how its time to get real. As I see it, we have an opportunity to put to rest the deception that has caused too many generations to suffer for no reason. The question is, are we willing to do so? Or is it easier to just repeat the actions of our predecessors?

Do I recommend it? Yes.

P.S. There is an adjoining podcast, Adventures With Dead Jews that is the perfect complement to the book.

Best Movies of 2020

  1. Soul: Though it is marketed as a kids movie, the subtext of appreciating life feels appropriate and potent this year.
  2. Mulan: The live-action reboot of the 1998 animated film Mulan rises above its predecessor, making it fresh and relevant.
  3. Emma.: Anya Taylor-Joy stars as Jane Austen‘s eponymous heroine, Emma Woodhouse, introduced as clever, rich, and handsome. Directed by Autumn de Wilde, this adaption is entertaining, funny, and a lovely addition to the list of Austen adaptations.
  4. The Trial of the Chicago 7: The film tells. the story of the 7 men accused of being responsible for the 1968 Democratic National Convention protests. Though it is set in the late 1960s and early 1970s, it feels very 2020.
  5. Portrait of a Lady on Fire: This LBGTQ historical romance between a young woman and the female artist hired to paint her portrait is sweet, romantic, and powerful. It proves once more that love is love is love.
  6. Ordinary Love: Joan (Lesley Manville) and Tom (Liam Neeson) are your average middle-aged couple. When she is diagnosed with Breast Cancer, they both must deal with the rough road ahead.
  7. The Assistant: Jane (Julia Garner) is an assistant to a Harvey Weinstein-esque powerful movie producer. She starts to notice things that don’t sit right with her.
  8. I am Greta: This documentary follows teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg as she advocates for the world to pay serious attention to climate change.
  9. Mank: Gary Oldman plays Citizen Kane screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz in a performance that is nothing but Oscar bait.
  10. #AnneFrank-Parallel Lives: Narrated by Helen Mirren, this documentary tells not just Anne’s story. It follows other young women who survived the Holocaust. Parallel to the stories of the past, the viewer is traveling with another young woman as she visits different countries in present-day Europe.

#AnneFrank-Parallel Stories Review

To some, the Holocaust is ancient history. In 2020, we have more pressing problems to occupy our time with. But the Holocaust was only 80 years ago, and the issues from that era are as prevalent now as they were then.

#AnneFrank-Parallel Stories is one of the newest releases on Netflix. With a voice-over by Helen Mirren, this documentary tells the story of Anne Frank while telling the stories of other women who are among the few to have survived. While Mirren reads from Anne’s diary, the audience follows a young woman as she travels across Europe, asking questions that frankly, need to be asked.

I’ve seen many Holocaust films over the years. What makes it different is that it hard-hitting, emotional, and squarely aimed at the younger viewers. If I have walked away from this movie with one message, it is that we have a chance to ensure that the Holocaust in any variation never happens again. That requires asking difficult questions and learning from the mistakes of our predecessors.

I recommend it.

#AnneFrank-Parallel Lives is available for streaming on Netflix.

Anne Frank, George Floyd and Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells: Killed by Hate

I think it is pretty safe to say that in the nearly three weeks since George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis, the world has changed. Across the globe, millions are making their voices heard. George Floyd was one man, but he has come to stand for those who have been killed by hate.

Yesterday would have been Anne Frank‘s 91st birthday. Her diary has been ready by millions of readers over the last 70ish years. Like George Floyd, she has become a symbol of a life cute short by hate.

Among the issues that have been brought to the forefront is that Americans of color who also identify as transgender are being killed at an alarming rate. On June 9th, Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells was murdered in Philadelphia. If this was not enough to make one’s blood boil, you know who has decided to roll back health protections for transgender Americans. Considering that it both Pride month and yesterday was also the 4th anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub Shooting in Orlando, this rollback feels particularly painful.

I keep thinking that if the world had collectively protested in the 1930’s as they do now, would the Holocaust have happened? How many might have survived? Unfortunately, this question can never be answered.

I wish that we lived in a world in which our rights were immediately given to us at birth. I wish that we were not categorized and then based on that category, denied or approved for where we may end up in life. But that is the world we live in. But until that day in which that happens, we must continue to stand up and fight for those rights.

Margot: A Novel Book Review

No one goes through life without asking the “what if” question at least once during their lifetime. This question becomes multiplied when it come to war and the loss of life that comes with war.

In the 2013 author Jillian Cantor asked this question in the book, Margot: A Novel.

It’s 1959 in Philadelphia. Margot Frank survived the war and has started a new life as Margie Franklin, living as a Gentile and working in a law firm as  a secretary.

Her sister’s diary has become the darling of the publishing world. The movie, based on the book, has just been released into theaters. Margot/Margie’s carefully constructed outer shell begins to crack. While juggling PTSD and survivor’s guilt, Margot/Margie’s past come back to her via a case and an unusually strong emotional bond with her boss.

This book is amazing. When it comes to the story of Anne Frank, her elder sister is often pushed out of the spotlight. In giving Margot the spotlight, Ms. Cantor tells the story of Holocaust survivors who for any number of reasons, choose to keep their pasts to themselves. It is also the story of America in the late 50’s when antisemitism was not as obvious, but still existed beneath the thin veneer of respectability.

I recommend it.

 

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