What’s that? You want to talk about Anne Frank on the internet? Congrats—you’ve opened up the Holocaust’s most tempting can of worms. As a historian and journalist with a lifelong interest in Anne’s brief life and long legacy, I’ve been writing about her and talking about her on the web for years. And whenever I do this, I attract the bottom-feeders of the internet, trolls and Holocaust deniers and misogynists and anti-Semites.
So no, I wasn’t surprised when these mean streaks of online behavior went mainstream last year—I was prepared for all the ugliness.
But perhaps you too want to talk about Anne Frank on the internet? A few (very sarcastic) words of wisdom as you wade in:
Google is your friend
There are plenty of great resources for talking about Anne on the internet! First, try Google Image search. Scroll past the usual images of a normal teenage girl mugging for a photo booth until things get extremely weird. Ah yes, a “photo” of Anne in a bikini and a lurid pose. Weird images of Anne’s face superimposed on dead bodies in a nameless concentration camp. Tasteful memes that feature… Hitler. A smorgasbord of feverish denial at your fingertips! And don’t neglect a good old text-based search, either. Since Google only recently started to tackle Holocaust denial in its search results, a quick search will still bring up some choice “facts” about Anne. Which leads me to my second piece of advice:
Brush up on your ballpoint pens
Focus on what counts: ballpoint pens. Despite impeccable provenance and years’ worth of extensive documentation, including a 719-page-long critical edition featuring extensive footnotes, every page of diary, and a lengthy analysis of everything from the diary’s handwriting to its paper and ink authenticated by the Netherlands State Institute of War Documentation, you’re gonna need to demonstrate “ink expertise” to utter Anne’s name online. You see, for decades, Holocaust deniers have held a bizarre and pervasive theory that the diary was a fake because it supposedly contains corrections in ballpoint pen. It doesn’t, but if you want to talk about Anne Frank on the internet, you’re gonna have to defend her use of fountain pen.
Become an architect
You’ll need at least a master’s in architecture with a specialty in “acoustics” to address conspiracy theorists’s Very Serious Uncertainty about how the heck Anne, her family, and four other Jews managed to hide in an office building in the center of Amsterdam for 25 months during World War II.
Anne’s cult of deniers—none of whom seem to be architects themselves—have lots of arguments about the implausibility of the configuration of the “Secret Annex,” and you’ll need an implausible amount of professional expertise about walls and structures to overcome their grave doubts. And that’s why writers like me need to…
Accept the fact that dudes do it better
Stop deluding yourself. There’s no way a teenage girl could express emotions, write sentences, or craft an enduring narrative that resonates with people of all ages, religions and gender expressions. At some point you’re going have to admit that Anne’s father/uncle/male neighbor/insert random dude here any dude will do wrote the diary (see tweets I received below).
I know it's SO CONFUSING that a teenage girl could write something worth reading..if you don't believe in teenagers, girls, or the Holocaust
— Erin Blakemore (@heroinebook) June 13, 2017
Get ready to meet some men
Speaking of dudes—if you’re into guys with 4chan accounts and words like “cuck” and “ovens” in their Twitter profiles, you’re in luck. Anne attracts trolls like honey attracts an oily, insatiable fly. Mention Anne, especially as a woman, and there’s no shortage of men with an opinion to share! Forget swiping right…Anne is your entree into a world of eligible bachelors like none you’ve ever experienced.
Of course, Anne herself died an inexpressibly lonely, inhumane death long before she could snag a Holocaust denier admirer of her own. But that’s okay. You stand in her place, after all. As a woman on the internet, you’re a generic vagina that serves as a proxy for all women—and as a person who talks about Anne Frank on the internet, you’re in the perfect position to absorb the extreme levels of paranoid doubt a 13-year-old diarist still rouses in the hearts of grown men.
Anne can’t answer for herself. But you can…and if you want to talk about Anne on the internet, you’re going to have to live with the saddest, most bigoted trolls.