(May 30, 2019 / JNS) The new Netflix series “Historical Roasts,” which mocks the young Jewish diarist Anne Frank, finds itself in the midst of a backlash.
One particular episode features actress Rachel Feinstein as Frank, Gilbert Gottfried as Adolf Hitler and Jon Lovitz as U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt. These performers are Jewish.
“Everyone knows you as a hero and a best-selling author, but to me you’ll always be little number 825060,” says Gottfried as Hitler to Anne, adding that, “Of all the accounts that I’ve read, Anne, your book is by far the most flammable.”
Jeff Ross, the host, who is Jewish, dons a yellow Star of David armband and remarks that “genocides continue to take place around the world.”
“If you’re offended by anything you see tonight,” says Ross, “just do what FDR did—and look the other way.”
Frank perished at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945 at the age of 15.
Groups, including the Simon Wiesenthal Center, instantly reacted to the program.
“This is beneath contempt. Irrelevant that Jews are involved,” SWC associate dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper told JNS in an email. “At a time of raging anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial, there is ZERO that is humorous about mocking Anne Frank.”
The Anne Frank House in Amsterdam labeled the show “tasteless satire,” while the Dutch-based Information and Documentation Center on Israel, which monitors anti-Semitism, tweeted that the comedy was “unwelcome.”
“If one mocks someone who has wrongly and innocently experienced horrific pain, it indicates that one supports and applauds that horrific pain,” Zionist Organization of America president Mort Klein told JNS. “In this case, it’s sick and anti-Semitic.”
StandWithUs co-founder and CEO Roz Rothstein told JNS that “Jews cope with the trauma of the Holocaust in many different ways. It is unfortunate that in this case, Jewish comedians chose to deal with it through tasteless, insensitive humor about Anne Frank. As the daughter of Holocaust survivors, I am offended and sincerely hope they will exercise better judgement in the future.”
Netflix referred JNS to comments made by Ross, defending the episode, which he told the Jewish Journal was taped after the Oct. 27 Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha Synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh that resulted in the deaths of 11 Jewish worshippers during Shabbat-morning services—the deadliest attack in American Jewish history.
“As a comedian, you do things that no one’s ever done, and roasting Anne Frank sounds outlandish, it sounds risky, but to me, the riskier move would be to ignore the most provocative and the most emotional stories,” he said. “People always talk about the Holocaust and they say ‘never forget,’ but young people, I’m sorry, they are forgetting. They need to hear these stories, and I use Anne Frank not just as a hero from World War II but as a cautionary tale of today and anti-Semitism.”