For $25 (plus shipping), “your child can play the role of a World War II hero” on Halloween, it promised.
But the costume portraying Anne Frank, the Jewish teenager whose diary chronicled the horrors of the Nazi regime, was called offensive by numerous critics, including major advocacy groups. So Halloweencostumes.com, an online retailer, removed the item from its website, and its spokesman apologized, saying offending people wasn’t the company’s intention.
Images of the costume began circulating over the weekend on social media.
Critics were disgusted, calling it exploitative — and a misguided way of remembering a Holocaust victim.
“We learn from Anne Frank’s life and death to honor her & prevent future atrocity. We don’t exploit her,” the Anti-Defamation League’s St. Louis branch said on Twitter.
“We should not trivialize her memory as a costume,” the ADL’s regional director in Arizona said.
As the outrage swelled, Ross Walker Smith, spokesman for Halloweencostumes.com, said on Twitter: “We take feedback from our customers very seriously. We have passed along the feedback regarding this costume, and it has been removed from the website at this time.”
Halloweencostumes.com is owned by Fun.com, which began as small family business operating out of Mankato, Minn. The company also operates three retail locations in the state.
“There are more appropriate ways to commemorate the legacy of Anne Frank than through a Halloween costume, which is offensive and trivializes her suffering and the suffering of millions during the Holocaust,” said Alexandra Devitt, a spokeswoman for the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect.
Devitt said in a statement that the organization was pleased that Halloweencostumes.com had stopped selling the product.
But the costume hasn’t completely disappeared from the digital marketplace: As of Tuesday, the outfit remains for sale on some sites under other product names, including “World War II Evacuee Girl” and “Child’s World War II Girl.” Amazon.com, for instance, is offering the alternatively named costumes through third-party sellers. (Amazon.com is owned by Jeffrey P. Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post.)
Halloweencostumes.com marketed the attire as “WW2 Anne Frank Girls Costume,” igniting criticism.
Frank died of typhus in 1945 at age 15 at a concentration camp in Germany.
She and her family were captured the year before, when Nazi investigators discovered them hiding behind a movable bookcase. They had spent more than two years hiding in a secret annex at the back of her father’s store in Amsterdam.
Before World War II was over, seven of the eight hiders were dead, including Frank. Her father, Otto, survived and spent the rest of his life trying to figure out who tipped off the Nazis about their hiding place.
Otto Frank also published his daughter’s diary, which chronicled the rise of anti-Semitism in the Netherlands and has been translated into 67 languages.
Cleve R. Wootson contributed to this report.