Google Sanitizing Anne Frank’s Diary
June 25, 1947 was a significant day for Jews. So significant that the 75th Anniversary of that day was highlighted by the Google search engine with Google Doodles “Honoring Anne Frank.” June 25 was the date when The Diary of Anne Frank, the most famous Shoah-related book, was published for the first time. For June 25, 2022, Google Doodles commissioned a presentation of 14 slides, with statements from the Diary of Anne Frank. At the bottom of this posting I put the link to see the slides.
Google often indicates a particular event related to a significant date by embedding a link to a Doodle in the search box, as they did to honor Anne Frank, hy”d.
The problem is that it seems it was not significant enough for Google to mention that Anne was Jewish. The word “Jewish” appears only once in the Google Doodle, in a diary quote. “Our many Jewish friends and acquaintances are being taken away in droves. I feel wicked sleeping in a warm bed while somewhere out there my dearest friends are dropping from exhaustion or being knocked to the ground.”
Writing from her family’s hideout perhaps she didn’t know that Jews were being tortured and murdered. But Google certainly knows Anne Frank did not hide her Jewish identity. I did a check on the googlebooks version of the diary, and Jew appears 41 times. The final slide of the Google doodle tells us that “Anne died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp at the age of 15.” Died? She was tortured and starved to death.
I am particularly interested in The Diary of Anne Frank because I am writing an article about Anne’s best friend in Holland, Hannah Goslar, for a summer issue of Ami Magazine. Hannah Goslar is now a 92-year-old, frum great-grandmother living in Jerusalem. I spoke with her recently and she related how her religious family often invited the Franks for seudot on Shabbat and Yom Tov before WWII began. Hannah Goslar spoke with Anne in Bergen-Belsen through a fence, and threw her some extra food. It wasn’t enough. This friendship is depicted in the Netflix drama “ My best Friend Anne Frank.”
In the first Google Doodle slide there is a trigger warning. “This presentation includes mentions of the Holocaust, which may be sensitive to some viewers.” Well, I am one viewer who is sensitive to NOT mentioning the Holocaust. Aside from the trigger warning, the word Holocaust is not mentioned or described at all. The whole presentation is mild, pareve, and sanitized.
I have watched many programs on the two most famous Holocaust books: Diary of Anne Frank and Elie Wiesel’s memoir, Night. Many presentations on these two books barely relate to the Jewish aspects of the victims or to the Jews tortured and murdered during the Shoah.
The aforementioned date, June 25, this year was also significant because it came out on 26 b’Sivan, the sixth yahrzeit of Elie Wiesel, z”l. Two years ago Elisha Wiesel spoke about his father during a webinar interview sponsored by the Museum of the Jewish Heritage. I made a point during the Q & A to bring up the widespread emphasis on his father’s advocacy for non-Jewish causes. I asked,
“Many adults and youth read some books by your father and get the impression he was an atheist and was not observant. Do you think it is relevant to ask what was your father’s attitude to prayer and such Jewish observances as keeping Shabbat and kashrut?”
Elisha Wiesel answered,
“My father kept Shabbes, my father kept kosher. He davened every day….My father was a devout Jew…. He travelled everywhere, he had a pair of tefillin in his Boston University office… He had tefillin everywhere he went… Everywhere in the world he would try to leave a pair of tefillin there just in case he needed to get to an emergency pair of tefillin… His faith was extremely important to him. Whoever asked the question is on to something which is that the memory of my father is so tilted towards his actions on the world stage and in non-Jewish circles … there is a broad lack of understanding on the world stage today just how critical it [Jewish faith and observance] was… so on the various websites… I try to pull that out and bring it forward… It’s the core of who he was.” This segment is at the end of the interview (minute 48) Transforming Moments with Elisha Wiesel.
In contrast to the presentations of Anne Frank and Elie Wiesel as AnyGirl or AnyMan, sans their Jewish identity, I am encouraged by the fine work by several Holocaust centers who do emphasize the spiritual heroism and specifically Jewish aspects of the Shoah. Among them are: Zachor in the Michlalah Jerusalem, directed by historian Esther Farbstein; Shem Olam Faith and the Holocaust Institute in Kfar HaRoeh; Ganzach Kiddush Hashem in Bnei Brak; and Amud Aish Memorial Museum in Brooklyn. There are other centers as well. May they multiply and have an impact.
I wonder what others think about the Google Doodle, at this link:
Sorry, I don’t see it. There are Magen Davids (yellow ones, but still) and a Chanukah scene in the backgrounds. Even someone who doesn’t realize the times “Jood” is in the depictions it means “Jew” would catch that we are talking about the Nazi Holocaust of Jews.
So, why don’t any of the explicit quotes? Maybe because Marlene Thompson, Maria Munoz and Bih Wu will see themselves in an Any Girl whose Jewishness is ever present in the context of her life than in quotes that talk about being Jewish.
In general, we have to make decisions about how to teach the Holocaust. If we overdo the universalism, we erase the Jewishness of the victims. If we overdo the particularism, we make a lesson others won’t relate to and certainly won’t take to heart. Interestingly, Meir Kahane coined “Never Again” as a call for Jews to arm ourselves and fight back. But it evolved into a Liberal universalist message the Tikkun Olam crowd will invoke about US border detainees. The most productive use would be neither.
“The most productive use would be neither.”
Neither? You don’t see a value in Jews taking a lesson from the Holocaust and engaging in self-defense?
You don’t see a value in Jews taking a lesson from the Holocaust and engaging in self-defense
Where do you see in the Holocaust the likelihood of surviving to the end of the war being increased by engaging in war against a strong evil power. The mitzvah to fight is if one will be more likely better off.
A wonderful telling of a part of Anne Frank I did not know.
And the telling by Elisha Wiesel fo her father Eli.
Peter I Monheit, MD, Denver Colorado
It is well known that the Diary of Anne Frank was “sanitized” to give it a universal as opposed to a particularistic Jewish sense
The newer editions re-insert everything taken out.
I don’t count on Google to get it right. It’s not that important to me either. The main thing is that we Jews understand why it happened to us and work to ensure that it never happens again. I can’t count on the non-Jews for that. They’ve never proven reliable on this matter unfortunately.
We know who was killed, we know why they were killed, we know who killed them, and we know that it can happen again unless we’re very vigilant.
For those interested, https://www.amazon.com/People-Love-Dead-Jews-Reports/dp/0393531562 sets forth why The Diary of Anne Frank has achieved its reputation-the secular and especially the woke worlds only oppose live Jews and their way of life, but view dead Jews as a cultural and social subject worth reading about or seeing in museums
The controversy surrounding the emphasis on the Jewishness or universality Anne Frank’s diary is not a new one. The well known author, Meyer Levin, was the first to adapt the diary for the stage. However, his version was never produced on Broadway. Instead a different version by the husband and wife team of Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich was used for the play and subsequent movie. Levin was very upset by this and and as a result sued Otto Frank, resulting in lengthy litigation. A detailed rendering of these events may be viewed at the following website: https://publishing.cdlib.org/ucpressebooks//viewdocId=ft3779n8qc&doc.view=content&chunk.id=d0e2251&toc.depth=1&anchor.id=0&brand=ucpress.
Levin always felt that his treatment was more Jewish and the Hackett’s more universal . I might just quote two remarks from the reference cited above: 1. “Invited to discuss the interest in his [Levin’s] best-selling Compulsion , he would eventually turn the conversation to an account of how his original adaptation of the Diary was rejected and suppressed by a clique on Broadway who believed it to be too Jewish and not commercial enough.” 2. “But when Frank finally did visit Israel in March, his antagonist published another open letter in the Jerusalem Post , asserting that Frank had recently confessed to a journalist on board ship that there had been nothing dramatically wrong with Levin’s Anne Frank but ‘he had rejected it because he sought a more universal treatment.’ At a press conference at the Ramat Hadassah Youth Aliya Centre, Frank denied he had ever said what Levin had reported. Levin countered by claiming the journalist stuck by his story, and again articles and opinion pieces about the sharp exchanges appeared in the Israeli press. For many observers, the quarrel now turned less on legal questions about the dramatization of the Diary than on the meaning of Anne Frank as a symbol. In public remarks during his stay in Israel, Frank insisted that his daughter had become an important emblem to the youth of the world, transcending her specific interest to the Jewish people, although he had never attempted to belittle the significance of her Jewishness. Levin continued to argue that this was a fundamental misreading of the Diary itself and an interpretation that would lead to a dangerous distortion of the most important meaning of the Holocaust.”
Further to my previous posting, I would highly recommend the article, “Who Owns Anne Frank”, by the distinguished writer, Cynthia Ozick, which appeared in the Oct. 6, 1997 edition of the “New Yorker”. In it, the author pulls no punches in tracing how the diary reached the public eye and the changes that were made in order for it to happen.
Google’s apparent mission , aside from selling data, has been to steer users toward content it likes. Now, it takes the next step of creating skewed content of its own.
Thank you, David Wilk, for your illuminating comments. I was familiar with the arguments that Meyer Levin had with the writers/producers of the pareve dramatization of the Diary of Anne Frank. But I did not know that Cynthia Ozick had entered the fray, on the correct side IMHO. I appreciate the reference to her New Yorker essay. I downloaded and read it thoroughly. It reinforced my view that the “neutering” of the diary in current portayals and discussion by omitting the Jewish aspects is a travesty. I will touch on this in my feature on Hannah Goslar, Anne’s best friend, that will be coming out around Tisha B’av in Ami Magazine.
“I am encouraged by the fine work by several Holocaust centers who do emphasize the spiritual heroism and specifically Jewish aspects of the Shoah.”
Of interest is a 2016 Cross Currents piece by Tzipora Weinberg, a Holocaust educator, who writes of the need to reinforce the concept that the Holocaust was first and foremost a Jewish story:
In an exchange with me in the comment section there, she discusses the approach of Rav Hutner and other Torah figures versus Yad VaShem’s historians, and adds that paradoxically, missing the Jewish aspect can lessen the universal applications:
“It is incumbent upon us to fully appreciate our own history such that we can be truly sensitive to world events as they unfold. If we miss the nuances, the shades of gray if you will, we are bound to dull our sensitivity to the plight of others, rather than heighten it.”
“Postcards from Auschwitz: Holocaust Tourism and the Meaning of Remembrance,” by Prof. Daniel Reynolds, scrutinizes the intersection of tourism and Holocaust remembrance. In “The Revealer” podcast interview from The Center for Religion and Media at NYU(“Holocaust Tourism”, Minute 13), Prof. Reynolds discusses balancing the specificity and uniqueness of Jewish genocide with the universality of the suffering of other groups when planning Holocaust museums. Like Tzipora Weinberg, he says that the more attention is paid to the Jewish specifics, the more lessons can be applied more broadly.