HalloweenCostumes.com was under fire on social media last week for selling an Anne Frank Halloween costume.
The controversy lead to the removal of the costume from the website, though versions of it are still being sold on websites such as Amazon, under the title “Girls Child’s 1940S Wartime WW2 WW1 Evacuee Refugee.”
Frank was a 15-year-old Jewish girl who lived in Amsterdam during the Holocaust. She and her family lived in a hidden, cramped annex in her father’s firm’s office for a majority of the war, until they were betrayed and sent to a labor camp in Auschwitz.
Frank and her sister were then transported to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where Frank died from typhus months before WWII ended.
Frank is well-known because of the diary she kept throughout her time in hiding, which was published by her father when the war ended under the title The Diary of a Young Girl.
Frank is a household name around the world and she represents optimism and courage. Critics from the Anti-Defamation League in St. Louis say the controversial costume trivializes her memory and tragic death, while glorifying genocide and anti-Semitism.
The costume includes a beret, a navy shirtwaist-style dress, a felt bag and a felt destination tag sewn to the dress collar. The original description of the costume was “Now your child can play the role of a World War II hero.”
The costume is accurate to what a girl would have worn during the time period. The girl pictured next to the description looks happy, something that does not usually come to mind when most people think of a young person in Frank’s position.
The owners of the website that originally sold the costume apologized for their insensitivity and explained that some of their costumes are meant for purposes other than Halloween, such as school projects and plays, and that this costume falls into that category.
The Anne Frank costume, however, was advertised under the Twitter handle @funcostumes, the name of the company that owns the webiste, and is still being sold on other websites, including Amazon, as a costume “perfect for carnivals, theme parties and Halloween.”
Holocaust survivors and memorial groups were particularly offended by the costume.
This is not the first scandal involving costumes of poor taste and appropriation. A few weeks ago, an Oscar Pistorius “Blade Gunner” costume, including a fake gun, was pulled from Amazon for being offensive as well.
Other examples of costumes inducing outrage include an Israeli army uniform costume sold at Walmart in 2015, sold at a time of escalating violence between Israelis and Palestinians, and an Ebola virus costume sold in 2014, which seemed to be poking fun at the tragic health epidemic in West Africa.
It seems that costume companies have trouble differentiating between what events should be re-created in costume form, and what should be kept in the past.