Entertainment'Media giants have a responsibility': Anne Frank skit stirs debate

05:57  05 june  2019
05:57  05 june  2019 Source:   smh.com.au

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'Media giants have a responsibility': Anne Frank skit stirs debate© AP Anne Frank died in the Holocaust at age 15.

A show airing on Netflix has drawn the ire of Australian Holocaust survivors after a recent episode made distasteful jokes about Anne Frank and Adolf Hitler.

Historical Roasts, a series by US stand-up comic Jeff Ross, was released last month and is currently available to stream in Australia. In each episode, cast members – mostly comedians – dress up as real-life historical figures such as Abraham Lincoln, Freddie Mercury and Cleopatra, and go on stage to exchange insults with others who are also in character.

One episode, written and performed entirely by Jewish people and featuring actors portraying Anne and Hitler, crosses the line, says a group of Melbourne-based Holocaust survivors.

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The skit includes jokes such as Hitler's character telling Anne's, "Everyone knows you as a hero and best-selling author, but to me, you'll always be little number 825060".

Holocaust survivors Joe De Haan, 97, Irma Hanner, 88, Annetta Able, 95,  and John Chaskiel, 90, said in a joint statement with Anti-Defamation Commission chairman Dvir Abramovich that Netflix should take the episode down.

"Netflix has crossed all lines of moral decency by allowing these Jewish comedians to callously mock the memory of those who perished at the hands of the Nazis," the group said. "There is nothing funny or amusing about a bestial dictator responsible for the extermination of six million Jews or the death of Anne Frank. Media giants have a responsibility to remember the Holocaust appropriately and respectfully, not as material for a crass punchline."

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Anne Frank died at the age of 15 in the Bergen-Belsen Nazi concentration camp just weeks before it was liberated by British armed forces in 1945. The teenager became one of the most well-known victims of the Holocaust thanks to a diary she kept while she was in hiding between 1942 and 1944, which was published posthumously and has gone on to sell over 30 million copies.

A Netflix spokesman said in a statement: "Netflix supports the creative freedom of the artists we work with. Jeff Ross brings his own unique take to cultural issues through comedy."

Mark Baker, an associate professor at Monash University who has written a book on his parent's experience with the Holocaust, said that while he didn't want to defend the quality of the Netflix series, there has been a "long tradition" of Holocaust humour both during and after the genocide.

"It's a tool of survival," he said. "To laugh is to be human and in a situation where the Nazis tried to rob Jews of their humanity, humour resisted their dehumanisation. That's why you'll find an impulse to laugh about atrocity in all cultures."

Dr Baker said there was a "fine line" between subverting Nazi ideology and trivialising genocide and anti-Semitism.

"What matters is intent," he said. "What makes the Anne Frank episode challenging is that the humour is being directed not only at the perpetrators but at the victim – someone who has become a universal symbol of adolescent innocence."

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