Halloween is all fun and games until someone disregards cultural sensitivity. Two weeks ago, online retailer www.halloweencostumes.com received backlash after releasing an Anne Frank children’s Halloween costume.
The costume featured a beret, navy shirtwaist-style dress with buttons, a felt bag and “felt destination tag sewn to the dress collar” to represent the Jewish teenager who died in a Nazi concentration camp after hiding in a secret annex in Amsterdam for two years during World War II.
For $25, excluding shipping, “your child can play the role of a World War II hero on Halloween,” an ad for the costume said.
The site also described Frank as an “inspiration to us all,” adding, “we can always learn from the struggles of history.” People were furious and shared their opinions on Twitter.
The site later removed the outfit, and Ross Walker Smith, a spokesman for the retailer, apologized for “any offense it may have caused.” He added that the company sells costumes for many uses outside of the Halloween season, such as “school projects and plays.”
The site offers several types of historically accurate costumes “from prominent figures to political figures and television characters,” Smith said. Despite this public apology, the controversy continues to attract attention from organizations such as The Anti-Defamation League, which fights anti-Semitism. Although the Anne Frank Center praised the company’s swift action of removal, the costume is still available through other online vendors, such as Amazon and Walmart, which are marketing the outfit, made by UK-based Smiffys, as a “World War II Evacuee Girl Costume.”
Carlos Galindo Elvira, a regional director for Arizona’s Anti-Defamation League, tweeted that there are “better ways” to commemorate Anne Frank.
“This is not the one,” he said. “We should not trivialize her memory as a costume.”
ADL’s branch in St. Louis, Missouri, added, “We learn from Anne Frank’s life and death to honor her and prevent future atrocity. We don’t exploit her.”
University of Miami students are also commenting on this horrific costume.
“[The costume] takes away from the suffering of Anne Frank,” sophomore Maxi Bonito said. “It almost glamorizes her situation, when really it was quite the opposite.”
In a climate of escalating anti-Semitism worldwide, the Anne Frank costume not only sheds light on historical realities and ongoing social issues but also urges Americans to think about how they celebrate Halloween.