There are quite a few things I’ve been seeing all over my social media feeds ever since the spread of COVID-19 forced everyone to social distance. There are the jokes about no longer wearing a bra; comments about being confused over what day it is; and comparisons to Anne Frank hiding in an attic.
One of these things is not like the other.
The United States government recommending individuals to practice social distancing in order to prevent the spread of a deadly virus is not at all similar to being forced into hiding to avoid the impeding threat of a state sponsored genocide. In fact, to make the comparison is egregiously offensive. So why do I keep seeing people doing just that?
On Twitter, if you search “Anne Frank” right now, you will find an abundance of users tweeting about how they now know exactly how Anne Frank felt after a week in quarantine. Some of these even go as far as to say that Anne Frank had it much better than us right now. And I feel like I am losing my mind.
There are so many things wrong with this; let me count the ways.
First, timing. Anne Frank’s family was in hiding for a total of 25 months before they were discovered by the Gestapo in August of 1944. Most of us are still in our first weeks or month of social distancing. Fourteen days versus 761 days. Yeah, I would not say that is exactly the same.
Another variable is the spaces in which people are stuck in. In the case of the Franks, a total of eight people were stuck inside of a small annex that had around 450 square feet of floor space. Anne herself wrote that it was relatively luxurious compared to where many other Jewish people were forced to hide. The eight people in this annex could not leave it whatsoever, and the only way for them to get food was through a few trusted people who were not Jewish that could sneak things in. They also needed to keep the secret annex dark because light would attract attention, and it was silent because noise would do the same.
Today in the United States, people can still go grocery shopping and do other essential tasks. We can go for walks in non-crowded spaces. We can get some sun, listen to music. And social distancing does not mean that people cannot stay in contact with their friends and family. We have social media, FaceTime, and Zoom calls to help.
Meanwhile, families like Anne Frank’s were forced to practically disappear from the world to avoid being caught and taken to a concentration camp. It pains me to have to say this, but these conditions are not remotely similar to each other.
Of course, it is also important to emphasize just how incredibly differing the circumstances of each event are as well. The only similarity I can draw between the situations is that both are spreading a deadly illness. One is a literal sickness and the other is a figurative one: Nazism. However, that is not the comparison I have seen people making. Instead, they are attempting to compare the isolation aspect. In the first scenario, people across the globe are isolating to avoid spreading COVID-19. In the second scenario, people were hiding to avoid Nazis who wanted to eliminate their entire people.
If I wanted to give people the benefit of the doubt, I could say that some of the tweets I have seen were done out of ignorance. But many are so clearly offensive, there is no questioning that they are intentionally anti-Semitic.
Some of these tweets, like the one above, even imply that Anne Frank was lying. One can claim that this is just a “joke,” but when Holocaust denial is on a steady rise, tweets like these just encourage it.
There is no doubt that tweets like these are damaging to the Jewish and Romani communities, and are downright mocking the Holocaust and the current pandemic.
The murder of over 6 million Jews and 500,000 Romani people is continually minimized with every single tweet being made. With every retweet and like, their genocide continues to be diminished to something no more than a joke.
It is already a hard enough time dealing with the tragedy and consequences of this pandemic. We need to stop worsening it by degrading the memory of Anne Frank to simply the girl in quarantine and stop minimizing the memory of the Holocaust by comparing it to what is currently going on.