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Harvard Lampoon apologizes following condemnation of Anne Frank imagery as anti-Semitic, misogynistic

The Harvard Lampoon Castle at 44 Bow St. in 2008.
The Harvard Lampoon Castle at 44 Bow St. in 2008.(Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff)

The Harvard Lampoon, the student-run humor magazine at the Ivy League university, has apologized after imagery featured in the latest issue was condemned as anti-Semitic and misogynistic.

A recent edition included an image of Anne Frank’s face placed atop the body of a bikini-clad woman. Above was the text, “Gone Before Her Time: Virtual Aging Technology Shows Us What Anne Frank Would Have Looked Like if She Hadn’t Died.” Below the image: “Add this to your list of reasons the Holocaust sucked.”

“They crossed the line from humor into anti-Semitism,” said Robert Trestan, the director of Anti-Defamation League’s New England regional office, during a Tuesday phone interview.

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Frank’s diary is considered to be one of the most powerful Holocaust memoirs. Trestan said the Lampoon’s imagery denigrates her memory.

“They’re using humor as an excuse to trivialize the Holocaust, and it’s deeply offensive,” he said.

In addition to being anti-Semitic, the image used by the Lampoon is also misogynistic, Trestan said.

“They’re creating a sexualized image of someone who died as a child in a concentration camp,” he said.

In a joint Tuesday statement, the Lampoon’s two copresidents and issue editor apologized “for our negligence in allowing this piece to be created for and printed in our latest issue.”

“We are sorry for any harm we have caused,” the statement said.

“Furthermore, we want to both affirm and emphasize that the Lampoon condemns any and all forms of anti-Semitism.”

The statement continued, “Moving forward, we will approach the content of our magazine with greater care. We realize that our publishing process lacks sufficient editorial oversight, so we are going to restructure our review process for issues to prevent the publication of content like this.”

The Lampoon “has heard from many whom we hurt with content from the latest issue of our magazine,” according to the statement.

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“We realize the extent of offense we have inflicted and understand that we must take responsibility for our actions,” it read.

In a letter to the editors of the Lampoon, Rabbi Jonah C. Steinberg, the executive director and chaplain for Harvard Hillel, said that by producing and spreading such an imagery, those behind the publication “effectively join yourselves to the obscenity of the Nazis themselves and carry it forward.”

“Your depiction of Anne Frank’s face grafted to pinup imagery goes far beyond the distastefulness and provocativeness you obviously intend,” he wrote. “It is the sexual violation of a child – one who, in life, was subjected to the most hideous of crimes.”

Since its founding in 1876, the Lampoon has attracted and nurtured an array of literary and comedic talent, including George Santayana, John Updike, and George Plimpton; late night host Conan O’Brien; National Lampoon cofounders Henry Beard and Doug Kenney, of “Animal House” fame; Spy magazine cofounder Kurt Andersen; humorist Patricia Marx, the first woman elected to the Lampoon; and writer-producer Lisa Henson, its first female president, who now oversees the Jim Henson Co.

Messages left with Harvard University were not immediately returned on Tuesday.

The Lampoon confirmed the latest issue was published and distributed to dorms on the Cambridge campus over the weekend.

Of the latest issue, Harvard student Jacob Schwartz, a 22-year-old junior from San Antonio, said, “In terms of Jewish students, this was pretty rattling for us to see.”

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He added, “We want to use this as a call for people going forward to gather knowledge of what the Holocaust is and overcome the ignorance that exists within the greater community, especially during a time when we’ve seen anti-Semitism on the rise for the last three years.”

The Anti-Defamation League’s annual audit of anti-Semitic incidents recorded a total of 1,879 attacks against Jews and Jewish institutions across the country in 2018, the third-highest number of incidents in a year since the organization started tracking such data in the 1970s.

The Lampoon controversy comes weeks after The New York Times apologized for a cartoon that was criticized for being anti-Semitic. The cartoon, which was featured in the opinion section of the paper’s international edition, depicted a blind President Trump, wearing a skullcap, being led by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was drawn as a dog on a leash with a Star of David collar.


Previous Globe coverage and material from The New York Times was used in this report. Danny McDonald can be reached at daniel.mcdonald@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Danny__McDonald.