debra dolan

Globe and Mail blasted for likening lockdown to Anne Frank hiding from Nazis

Living for months under a heavy-handed lockdown and stay-at-home orders has been undoubtedly taxing on all of us, leading to increased instances of domestic violence, eating disorders and other mental health issues, opioid deaths and suicidal ideation.

But drawing some sort of comparison between current government orders to limit normal activities and stay home as much as possible to historical events where millions of people were persecuted and killed in a genocide is not just tone deaf; but quite shocking.

Shocked would be an understatement if describing the general reaction to a new piece published in the Globe and Mail on Wednesday titled "Lessons in living from Anne Frank," during which Vancouver contributor Debra Dolan reflects on how living in pandemic lockdown reminds her of Anne Frank's The Diary of a Young Girl.

The immediate and fervent backlash was something that perhaps should have been anticipated given the headline and nature of the piece, with social media users appalled that a national outlet of such stature could miss the mark so drastically by letting it see the light of day.

Upon reading, the personal essay really is more about Dolan's lifelong feeling of connection with Frank after reading the girl's diaries in her formative years; about her ability to relate to her as a fellow diarist and writer, and what she's learned from her decades of writing and self-reflection.

"It had been nearly 50 years since I read The Diary of a Young Girl. What a timeless piece of writing; especially during a global pandemic with its restrictions, anxiety and isolation," the piece starts.

"Rereading the book, I was reminded that Anne Frank was contained with seven others in space less than 400 square feet for 761 days. She never went outdoors. 761 days! And… still… there was hope, gratitude, peace, loving interactions, humour and a yearning to write."

Dolan continues on to detail how, amid her COVID fatigue, she has found herself more than ever wondering what Anne would think and do during this difficult time.

But having these fleeting personal thoughts is one thing, sure — publishing them in a piece that appears at first glance to liken the choice to heed lockdown restrictions as a free person in a modern, democratic society to a family of Jews who had to hide in a tiny cupboard to evade capture by Nazis is completely another.

"I have written and lived for 47 years more than Anne. Would Anne have learned similar lessons through her writings as I have done?," Dolan contemplates.

"Knowing how it all ended so tragically for Anne, and those she loved, I have renewed inspiration to recognize my own potential and live fully in whatever life hands out in these unprecedented times."

Though ostensibly not ill-intentioned, the piece has caused understandable outrage for its insensitivity, with the Globe eventually deciding to take the article down as of shortly after 9 a.m. on Thursday.

Editor-in-chief David Walmsley said in an email statement to blogTO that "An essay about Anne Frank and lockdown has been removed because it did not meet our standards. We apologize for this error."

The same brief line was tweeted by the publication at 10:06 a.m.

Lead photo by

Bruce Reeve


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