UPDATED: May 15, 2019 at 2:29 a.m.
More than 250 Harvard College students signed a petition denouncing the Harvard Lampoon, an undergraduate humor magazine, for its decision to publish an anti-Semitic Photoshopped image depicting Holocaust victim Anne Frank.
Students circulated the petition, titled “Demand Public Accountability from the Harvard Lampoon,” over Facebook starting Sunday evening. Separately, Executive Director of Harvard Hillel Rabbi Jonah C. Steinberg emailed editors of the Lampoon comparing the publication of the image “to the obscenity of the Nazis.”
The image depicts a cut-out of Frank’s face superimposed on an image of a woman in a bikini. It also includes a caption reading, “Gone Before Her Time: Virtual Aging Technology Shows Us What Anne Frank Would Have Looked Like if She Hadn’t Died.”
“Add this to your list of reasons the Holocaust sucked,” the caption continues.
Frank — a Holocaust victim who died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp at age 15 — became famous after her death when her father published her account of hiding from Nazi troops, “The Diary of a Young Girl.”
Current Lampoon co-presidents Nicholas S. Grundlingh ’20 and Jack G. Stovitz ’20, along with former president Liana A. Spiro ’19, apologized for the publication of the image in an emailed statement to The Crimson.
“In the past few days, the Lampoon has heard from many whom we hurt with content from the latest issue of our magazine, specifically a Photoshopped image of Anne Frank. We realize the extent of offense we have inflicted and understand that we must take responsibility for our actions,” the statement reads.
“We as individuals and we as an organization would like to apologize 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. Furthermore, we want to both affirm and emphasize that the Lampoon condemns any and all forms of anti-Semitism,” they added.
Spiro, who served as the Lampoon’s president last year, edited the issue in which the image appeared. The image bears the initials “CdLLdR,” in reference to Lampoon contributor Cristóbal de Losada López de Romaña ’21, who did not respond to a request for comment.
The issue was distributed around campus over the weekend. Sunday evening, several undergraduates began to criticize the image on Facebook and Twitter. That same evening, Danu A.K. Mudannayake ’20, a Crimson design editor, started the petition calling for the College to disaffiliate from the Lampoon. Days later, the petition was amended early Wednesday morning to include allegations detailing broader issues with the organization's culture, The revised petition featured additional demands including calls for public apologies from Losada, Spiro, Grundlingh, and Stovitz, and the release of a report on how the photo was published.
Mudannayake said in an interview that she hopes to organize more around the issue in the fall. As of early Wednesday morning, 287 people had signed the petition.
College spokesperson Aaron M. Goldman declined to comment on whether the College has responded to concerns about the Lampoon.
Asked about the image, Steinberg pointed to the email he wrote to the Lampoon’s editors. He wrote that the image is offensive both because it sexualized a child and because it parodied Frank’s death in the Holocaust.
“Your depiction of Anne Frank’s face grafted to pinup imagery goes far beyond the distastefulness and provocativeness you obviously intend. It is the sexual violation of a child – one who, in life, was subjected to the most hideous of crimes,” Steinberg wrote.
Steinberg added in the email that he believed the image recalled Nazi propaganda.
“It is an image one can imagine Julius Streicher, publisher of Der Stürmer, producing and celebrating – in the ‘lewd and disgusting’ vein to which the judgment against him at the [Nuremberg] tribunal refers,” he wrote.
Gregory E. Lipson ’20, who commented on a Facebook post about the image, wrote in an email that he thinks both the College and the Lampoon should respond to the backlash and investigate why the magazine published the photo.
“Perhaps Harvard could start an investigation into the organization and its culture, and only recognize the group after it demonstrates real institutional change,” Lipson wrote. “The Lampoon should apologize for the image. Then it should figure out how an image so obviously offensive could be published and make real steps towards institutional or cultural change.”
The Lampoon also posted the apology letter on their website and wrote that they plan to publicize organizational changes aimed at “improving the publication” this summer, including changes to their editing process. They wrote that the changes are based on conversations with the organization’s graduate board, other undergraduates, and the Office of Diversity Education and Support.
“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 statement reads.