The Anne Frank Neighbor Conundrum

Around the time of my bar mitzvah, my parents bought me and recommended I read The Diary of Anne Frank.

I read it in one sitting and cried. As Anne and her family hid in that Amsterdam attic, I sat beside them picturing Nazis on the streets below searching for and rounding up Jews.  And as I read, I wondered,  “If the Nazis had conquered America would any of my Catskill Mountain, Christian neighbors hide me, feed me or risk their lives to save me? Would I do it for them if the shoe was on the other foot? Or would any of them turn me over to the Nazis?

After asking a few of my Jewish neighbors about what I had named the Anne Frank Neighbor Conundrum, I soon learned that American Jews hated those questions. They enjoyed living in the land of denial. They refused to even consider them. Their faces contorted, when I placed this inedible conundrum on their plates. They said, “Don’t worry boychick, that will never happen in America. The Nazis are history. The good guys won. It can’t happen here and if it did, we’ll be able to escape to Israel.”

But I neglected to listen.

I started grading and studying my Christian neighbors for any tell-tale signs of  humanity, compassion or bravery.

Sixty years later, during the Trumpian era, I played the Anne Frank Neighbor Conundrum game but now it’s with my Florida neighbors.

So when I looked out of my Florida room window, I studied one of my Christian neighbors. He manicured his lawn, spending at least one hour a day, cutting, trimming and fertilizing. He loved cutting, clipping and sniping his hedges. His grass looked as immaculate as the lawn surrounding the Wannsee Estate.

You’ve guessed it, he’s a right-wing Republican nut, who dislikes Democrats, loves watching Fox News and votes for Donald Trump.

I watched as he hung the red, white and blue on his yard’s flagpole. He’s a proud American who doesn’t give a shit about America or liberty or freedom or justice.

Next to that flagpole, we used to discuss politics, until I got fed up with his stupidity and asked him:

Who do you think lit the fuse on anti-Semitism in America?

Who invites neo-Nazis and anti-Semites to his home to break bread?

Who uses anti-Semitic memes and tropes in their campaign literature?

Who praises Neo-Nazis torch carriers?

Today, I studied his green lawn and wondered:

Would my neighbor throw books written by Jews into a bonfire? Yup, I think so.

Would he paint signs on the park benches reading: No Jews Allowed To Sit On This Bench? Yup, I think so.

Would he drop canisters filled with Zyklon B pellets into the gas chambers? Most likely not.

“Would he lift a finger or voice a concern to save my life as I was being dragged out of my home?” I doubt it.

My neighbor failed the Anne Frank Neighbor Conundrum test.

And if you have a Trumper living in your neighborhood, I suggest you write in your diary:

Not a good candidate to feed me, hide me or risk their life for me. He might turn me into the Fascist police.


About the Author
Florida's Jewish short-story writer, speaker, film producer and retired attorney. He has authored, "A Hebraic Obsession", "The Hanukkah Bunny" and "The Greatest Gift." He produced an award-winning short film entitled, "The Stairs". Movie can be viewed on my TOI blog. ChatGPT says, Mort is known for his works that often explore themes of love, loss, and the human connection. Laitner has published several books , including “A Hebraic Obsession.” His writing style is characterized by its emotional depth and introspection. Laitner’s works have garnered praise for their heartfelt expression and keen insight into the human experience.
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