Harvard Magazine Apologizes for Lewd Lampoon of Holocaust Icon Anne Frank

Incident follows sharp rise in anti-Semitic violence in the United States, punctuated by two synagogue shootings in the space of six months

FILE PHOTO: A picture of Anne Frank is displayed in an exhibition at the Museum of Jewish Heritage entitled "Auschwitz. Not long ago. Not far away" in New York City, on May 02, 2019.

BOSTON — Following a social media outcry and protests from students and Jewish officials, The Harvard Lampoon, a campus satirical magazine, apologized Tuesday for printing a doctored photograph mocking one of the most iconic of Holocaust victims, Anne Frank.

The caricatured picture featured a headshot of Frank, who died at 15 at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp after her family’s Amsterdam hideout was divulged to the Nazis, photoshopped atop a buxom, bikini-clad woman. 

A headline above the picture blared: "Gone before her time: Virtual aging technology shows us what Anne Frank would have looked like if she hadn’t died." A caption continued, "Add this to your list of reasons why the Holocaust sucked." 

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Paulette Schuster, a Harvard whose grandfather survived the Holocaust, lashed out at the magazine in a Facebook post. “What a feeling it must be to be part of an organization in which sexualizing a victim of genocide is not surprising,” she wrote.

“I’m appalled that such an unfunny, hateful, ignorant, pedophiliac, and dehumanizing image could be published,” Schuster added.

In a letter to the editors, Rabbi Jonah C. Steinberg, a Harvard chaplain and executive director of the campus Hillel chapter, said their “depiction of Anne Frank’s face grafted to pinup imagery goes far beyond the distastefulness and provocativeness you obviously intend. It is the sexual violation of a child — one who, in life, was subjected to the most hideous of crimes. 

“By producing and spreading such an image, you effectively join yourselves to the obscenity of the Nazis themselves and carry it forward,” Steinberg wrote. 

Robert Trestan, New England regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, tweeted that the gaffe came “at a time of surging global anti-Semitism,” adding that the “line between humor and anti-Semitism has been crossed” and demanding an apology.

The Harvard Lampoon, which dates back to the late 19th century, responded to the criticism a few hours later on its website: “We realize the extent of offense we have inflicted and understand that we must take responsibility for our actions,” they wrote.

“We as individuals and we as an organization would like to apologize for our negligence in allowing this piece to be created for and printed in our latest issue. We are sorry for any harm we have caused. Furthermore, we want to both affirm and emphasize that the Lampoon condemns any and all forms of anti-Semitism.”

The incident follows a sharp rise in anti-Semitic violence in the United States, punctuated by two synagogue shootings in the space of six months. One last month killed a woman and wounded several other people in California, while another gunman shot and killed 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue last October. 

Last month, The New York Times apologized for a cartoon seen by many as anti-Semitic. It depicted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a dog wearing a collar emblazoned with the Star of David, leading a blind President Donald Trump, pictured with a yarmulke atop his head.