Source: NY Times
A Column by Nicholas Kristof
AMSTERDAM — On April 30, 1941, a Jewish man here in Amsterdam wrote a desperate letter to an American friend, pleading for help emigrating to the United States.
“U.S.A. is the only country we could go to,” he wrote. “It is for the sake of the children mainly.”
“Oh my God,” she said, “this is the Anne Frank file.” Along with the letter were many others by Otto Frank, frantically seeking help to flee Nazi persecution and obtain a visa to America, Britain or Cuba — but getting nowhere because of global indifference to Jewish refugees.
We all know that the Frank children were murdered by the Nazis, but what is less known is the way Anne’s fate was sealed by a callous fear of refugees, among the world’s most desperate people.
President Obama vowed to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees — a tiny number, just one-fifth of 1 percent of the total — and Hillary Clinton suggested taking more. Donald Trump has repeatedly excoriated them for a willingness to welcome Syrians and has called for barring Muslims. Fears of terrorism have left Muslim refugees toxic in the West, and almost no one wants them any more than anyone wanted a German-Dutch teenager named Anne.
“No one takes their family into hiding in the heart of an occupied city unless they are out of options,” notes Mattie J. Bekink, a consultant at the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. “No one takes their child on a flimsy boat to cross the Mediterranean unless they are desperate.”
The son of a World War II refugee myself, I’ve been researching the anti-refugee hysteria of the 1930s and ’40s. As Bekink suggests, the parallels to today are striking.
For the Frank family, a new life in America seemed feasible. Anne had studied English shorthand, and her father spoke English, had lived on West 71st Street in Manhattan, and had been a longtime friend of Nathan Straus Jr., an official in the Franklin Roosevelt administration.