By EJ Dickson
Most wise people view the life of Anne Frank, the young Jewess who died in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945, as the tragic story of a courageous woman of unlimited talent and potential whose life was terribly shortened by evil forces.
But the internet is not a sane place. It’s a place where satanic furniture brand conspiracy theories thrive, where people freak out that candy isn’t sexy, and where historical horrors mix with the sentiment and pathos of a My Chemical Romance fan’s online diary entries from 2008 be enriched.
An example of this is the proliferation of Anne Frank videos on TikTok, where Frank’s gruesome story is repackaged and brought to a younger generation. These videos (or “edits”) are designed to look like music videos, with stock photos and footage of Frank and her family. They are linked to scenes from various Anne Frank films, resulting in the diary of a young girl, which is accompanied acoustically by current pop songs.
A video with more than 4.5 million views shows a scene from the 2001 film adaptation “Anne Frank” in which Anne’s head is shaved by a Nazi prison guard, accompanied by the ghost hit “Mary on a Cross” by 2019, a frequently played song on TikTok. The person who made the video posted it on their own site along with slightly racy fan edits of fictional characters like Harry Potter and Xavier from the Wednesday series. (Another, fortunately less popular, video on the same account is even worse. It features a montage of black and white photos of Anne and her sister Margot, who also died in Bergen-Belsen, and is accompanied by the theme song ‘ Linda and Heather’ from Disney Channel’s Liv and Maddie; all with the utterly upbeat caption, ‘pink pink pink pink, girls girls girls/glitter glitter glitter glitter, twirls twirls twirls!’
Not all videos about Anne Frank are highly stylized, music video-like edits, but they all show the same fascination with her biography. Another TikTok video shows an entry for Margot Frank on the Famous Birthdays page of Gen Z Wikipedia (where she is just below 16-year-old Filipino TikTok star @nash_dc and in front of Batman Forever mime Val Kilmer ranked). Another video later juxtaposes film scenes of Anne and Margot in their bedroom in Amsterdam, of Margot dying of typhus in the arms of her sister in Bergen-Belsen. The video is set to Adele’s “Rolling In the Deep”.
@jxdespellman Margot Frank and Ana Frank 📝🕊️ #fouryoupage #fypシ #anafrank #parati #eldiariodeanafrank #movies #for you ♬ sonido original – mrlhigh
Video creator wants to draw attention to the Holocaust, not offend
The 17-year-old producer of this video, Cesar, has an account where he posts similar edits to various films on TikTok. He says that on the one hand he was inspired by Anne Frank after learning about her in history class. So he made the video primarily to draw attention to the horrors of the Holocaust. “I think that’s a kind of stark story and I think knowing what happened in the Holocaust brings people together more when you see what a lot of innocent people suffered,” he told ROLLING STONE.
When asked if he ever considered whether Jewish people or Holocaust survivors might find the edits insensitive or offensive, Cesar said it never occurred to him, but he wasn’t concerned. “I think it would only be fair for the world to know about her story so that it doesn’t repeat itself,” he said.
For many it is strange that there are fan edits of Anne Frank. Because they don’t start from the assumption that the lives of tragically deceased historical figures could undergo the same process of romanticization as, say, fictional wizards or Netflix giants. They find the very idea frightening, even insulting.
Last but not least, this can be a sign of a missing or incomplete understanding of historical facts, or of an ironic distance from their meaning, which is not always clear. In fact, the Anne Frank videos are far from the only instance of creatives on TikTok treating the Holocaust with perhaps a little less sensitivity than the topic deserves. This is also shown in a video of a Holocaust survivor who has to submit to the TikTok trend Magic Bomb. One person on Twitter aptly summed up the insanity of seeing a 99-year-old woman dance while answering questions about her biggest trauma: “Is it just me or is it crazy getting his grandmother to do this for TikTok do?”
Translated from the American, first published on rollingstone.com